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Powder Shield Looking for Business

Staff Reports

An example of Powder Shield's work.

ADAMS, Mass. — Reports of Powder Shield Technologies' closure are a bit exaggerated, says Joseph White, operations manager.

An assertion had been made at the North Adams City Council meeting Tuesday night that the shop had closed and tossed 25 people out of work.

White, who answered the phone on Wednesday with the buzz of equipment in the background, said that wasn't exactly true. "We didn't close," he said. "We kept one part of the shop open."

The 25-year-old company uses an electrostatic process to lay a powder, rather than liquid, coating over metal products. It also does pretreating, custom work, sandblasting and related work. It was one of the largest operation of its kind in New England.

When business was good, some 35 people were employed at the Howland Avenue facility. But, like so many other small businesses in the region, it's been undercut by cheaper work out of China and has seen orders drop off. White estimates about 75 percent of the company's regular customers have defected to China.

It most recently employed about a dozen people and there was talk of shutting down the operation. White's trying to persevere with some part-time help until things look up.

"I'm trying to build the business along with [owner] R.J. Scullin," said White. "We still have the production line, we still have the ovens. We're trying to find the right direction."

That includes an energy audit to help cut down on costs and more aggressive marketing to build a base of loyal, local customers. But he's been running into a problem.

"I've been really marketing for two weeks and people say to me, 'I thought you were closed,'" said the Adams native. "We're still here, we still exist."

Learn more about Powder Shield's capabilities by contacting White at 413-743-0022 or joe@powdershield.com.


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Berkshire CountyJobless Rate Drops

Staff Reports

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Berkshire County is doing slightly better than the statewide average in keeping people working, according to May statistics released by the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.

May's jobless rate for the county was 8.6 percent (not seasonally adjusted), compared to the statewide 9.2 percent and full percentage point below the national rate.

The Pittsfield Metropolitan area added 200 jobs in the past month, from 34,900 in April to 35,100 in May. The metropolitan area had a jobless rate of 8.9 percent, down from 9.3 percent in April. It had a 7.8 percent rate in May 2009.

Separately, Pittsfield's jobless rate is 9.7, nearly 5 points higher than the state rate. Of the city's labor force of 23,075, some 2,246 are receiving unemployment benefits.

Tiny Florida continued with the highest jobless rate of 11.7 percent; the lowest was Mount Washington with 2.1.

North Adams' jobless rate remains high at 10.4 percent, representing some 758 people out of work. Adams was higher at 11.2 percent, or about 500 out of work. The Great Barrington Labor Market Area, covering much of South County, had a jobless rate of 6.8 percent in May, down from 7.6 percent in April; a year ago, the rate was 6.1 percent.

Still, the unemployment rate for Berkshire County has dropped significantly since March's 9.6 percent and the state has added jobs for four consecutive months. The jobless rate dropped in 11 of the state's 22 labor market areas.

The June 2010 unemployment rate, labor force data and jobs estimates for Massachusetts will be released on July 15, 2010; local unemployment statistics will be released on July 20, 2010. Detailed labor market information is available at www.mass.gov/lmi.

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State Adds Jobs for Fourth Straight Month

Staff Reports

BOSTON — Massachusetts has added jobs for the fourth straight month, a sign that it may be recovering from financial downturn

The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported Thursday that preliminary job estimates for May count 3,182,400 jobs in Massachusetts with 15,800 jobs added this month – including 7,000 in the private sector. The state unemployment rate remained at 9.2 percent, below the national rate of 9.7 percent.

Local statistics will be available June 22.

The private sector added 7,000 jobs mainly in the Leisure and Hospitality, Education and Health Services and Construction (4,800 since March) sectors. Leisure and Hospitality added 4,700 jobs (plus-1.6 percent) in May with job gains in Accommodation and Food Services more than offsetting the losses in Arts, Entertainment and Recreation (500 jobs). It's the second time in three months jobs have been added to Leisure and Hospitality.

Over-the-year, Education and Health Services added 18,300 jobs (plus-2.8 percent) with job growth in both Educational Services and Health Care and Social Assistance.

Government added 8,800 jobs mostly because of the federal government's temporary hiring for the Census. The May job growth follows on a revised 18,700 (previously reported as 19,100) jobs gain in April, of which 15,800 were private sector jobs.

Even with this latest revision, last month's jobs gain remains the highest jobs growth figure in 17 years. The March to April 2010 private sector gain was 15,800 jobs, the largest over the month private sector jobs gain in 11 years.

Since December 2009, the state has added 44,800 jobs with 34,500 or 77 percent of these jobs gains occurring in the private sector. Jobs growth has occurred in seven of the nine private sectors year-to-date. Education and Health Services added the most jobs, Professional, Scientific and Business Services recording the largest percentage gain in jobs, and the Construction sector and the Retail and Wholesale Trade industries gained jobs.

The May estimates show 3,165,900 Massachusetts residents were employed and 320,400 were unemployed, for a total labor force of 3,486,400. The labor force is 11,400 above last year's level, with 23,100 fewer residents employed and 34,300 more residents' unemployed than one year ago. Totals may not add exactly due to rounding.

Year-to-date, job growth has extended into most sectors. Trends for jobs, the unemployment rate and unemployment insurance claims figures are encouraging signs of economic improvement for the state.

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Jiminy Peak Group Buys NH Resort

Staff Reports

HANCOCK, Mass. — Jiminy Peak's owners are extending their lofty Berkshire Hills holdings into the White Mountains with the purchase of Cranmore Mountain Resort.

In a statement on Wednesday, Jiminy principals Brian Fairbank, Joseph O'Donnell and Tyler Fairbank, said they purchased the assets of the 72-year-old North Conway, N.H., resort from California resort group Booth Creek Resorts.

The deal includes the assumption of debt, for a total price tag of $8.8 million and an expansion loan from CNL Lifestyle Properties for $7 million.

"Cranmore is a popular family ski area, with a great history and has tremendous potential for the near future," said Brian Fairbank, chief executive officer of Jiminy Peak Ski Resort, in the statement. "With our team's experience in the resort industry, the investment and support from CNL Lifestyle Properties, and the continued leadership of Cranmore General Manager Ben Wilcox and his outstanding management team, Cranmore will be able to fulfill its unrealized potential."

Jiminy Peak entered a partnership with CNL last year, in which the real estate investment group bought the mountain for $27 million and leased it back to the Jiminy group for 40 years.

Jiminy Peak, Booth Creek and CNL Lifestyle Properties have been in discussions for a year regarding the potential sale and amenity expansion. The three companies all have experience working with one another at resorts in New England and across the country.

The Fairbanks and O'Donnell purchased the assets and will make major upgrades and improvements at Cranmore with CNL, which also has a relationship with Booth Creek, providing capital for the acquisition and planned improvements.

Booth Creek will continue to operate the Northstar-at-Tahoe and Sierra-at-Tahoe Resorts located in Lake Tahoe, Calif., under long-term lease arrangements with CNL Lifestyle. Booth Creek retains its ownership and management of Waterville Valley Ski area in New Hampshire as well.

"Our team is pleased to make this investment," said Byron Carlock, president and CEO of CNL Lifestyle Properties. "Brian, Joseph and Tyler are talented resort managers, and we believe that with their experience and vision and our capital, Cranmore will be able to become a better resort, a more vibrant business and continue to provide great experiences for New England skiers."

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Pink Flamingos Available at Brilliant Graphics

Staff Reports

PITTSFIELD, Mass — Brilliant Graphics Group has come up with a novel way to raise money for a good cause.

To raise money for Girls Incorporated of the Berkshires, the digital graphics company will be selling custom-created, oversized pink flamingos – printed, not live, of course.

According to the company's Marketing Manager, Rob Kestyn, the company came up with the idea after a visitor admired a flamingo display piece in Brilliant's offices. The birds go for $20 apiece; Brilliant Graphics will be selling them at a booth during the city's 3rd Thursday event this week, or may be purchased by contacting Kestyn at rkestyn@sampco.com. They will be available now through October.

Girls Incorporated of the Berkshires is a program of the Gladys Allen Brigham Community Center, and an affiliate of the national organization Girls Incorporated, which aims to inspire girls to be "strong, smart and bold." More information can be found here.




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