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Is anyone else feeling this way?

Allen Jezouit, @BerkshireCountyBusiness

There was an article in the Times-Union yesterday entitled, "Economy looking up in the Berkshires" (Eric Anderson, Business Editor). Mr. Anderson cites "blockbuster events, warm, dry weather, and a recovering economy" as being the reasons for the boost in tourist activity here this summer which has helped the local economy. He specifically cited the Wilco event at Mass MoCA, Tanglewood's strong summer season, and a "40% rise in ticket sales" at the Williamstown Theatre Festival as being some of the reasons behind the stronger than expected season.

Yet, for those of us who live here full-time who aren't involved in the tourist industry or cultural venues, the economy in the Berkshires isn't all roses.

  • I recently spoke to a realtor who told me that over 105 homes were on the market just in Williamstown. That was MLS listings alone and didn't include FSBO and Assist2Sell homes. A more typical number of homes on the market for Williamstown would be in the 40-60 units range.

  • A recent article in the Berkshire Eagle ("Vacancies, dearth of visitors plague mall", Tony Dobrowolski, 8/29/2010) spoke to the struggles of the Berkshire Mall in Lanesboro. Mr. Dobrowolski cited 17 dark storefronts out of 74 in the mall, which is a 23% vacancy rate.

  • The hospitals in North Adams and Pittsfield are both in deep fiscal distress.

My feeling is that it is incumbent upon those of us who live and work here to take a deep look at how we got to where we are in terms of our local economy. There is all kinds of data available that speaks to the fragility of economies who rely solely on consumptive industries like tourism, retail, and culture. We need our elected leadership and appointed personnel to work with local businesses and institutions on formulating a strategy that will bring real jobs here over the next 10 years.

Sustainability isn't just about the environment. Continuing down the same path we are on is not the answer.

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Tags: Berkshire County, economy      
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