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State Unemployement Rate Drops Slightly
On: 11:44AM / Tuesday December 24, 2013

BOSTON – The state's unemployment rate trended slightly downward for November, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But for the first time in some years, it's shifted above the national unemployment rate.

The seasonally adjusted statewide November unemployment rate, released on Dec. 19, was 7.1 percent, down 0.1 of a percentage point over the month and up 0.4 of a percentage point over the year. The statewide seasonally adjusted jobs estimate showed a 6,500-job gain in November following a revised gain of 9,400 jobs in October.

The preliminary estimates put the unadjusted unemployment rate at 6.6 percent, down 0.2 of a percentage point over the month. Over the year, the statewide unadjusted rate was up 0.4 of a percentage point from the November 2012 rate of 6.2 percent.

Pittsfield's unadjusted rate was 7.7 percent, with more than 1,700 of the city's 22,664-member labor force out of work; North Adams' stood at 8.7, with 592 out of 6,822 out of work. For the Pittsfield Metropolitan area, including surrounding towns from Cheshire to Windsor to Washington, the jobless rate was slightly lower at 7.2 but still above last year's November rate of 6.6.

The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported on Tuesday that seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates for November were down in 15 areas, up in five areas, and unchanged in two areas.

 

More labor information here.



     
Ocean State Job Lot, Tractor Supply to Open in North Adams
By Tammy Daniels On: 12:08PM / Wednesday May 22, 2013
An Ocean State Job Lot is expected to move into the former Walmart store along with two other tenants.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Closeout retailer Ocean State Job Lot has signed a purchase and sales agreement for the old Walmart building on Curran Highway.

The chain expects to hire for 30 to 40 jobs and will sublet a section of the building to Tractor Supply Inc., with both operations opening in the fall, pending permitting.

The location will be the 46th in Massachusetts for the North Kingstown, R.I.-based chain, which has several stores in the Springfield area. It has 109 stores total with 4,000 employees in New England and New York, and annual sales of more than $540 million.

Tractor Supply, a farm and ranch retailer, operates more than 1,000 stores nationwide with the closest in Pittsfield's Allendale section and in Bennington, Vt.

Walmart constructed the 94,000-square-foot building at 830 Curran Highway 20 years ago at the site of the former Coury's Drive-In. It relocated two weeks ago to a new 160,000 square foot "super center" a mile or so south.

Ocean State will take up 40,000 square feet of the building for operations and storage; Tractor Supply will occupy 27,000. The plans will go before the Planning Board for permitting on June 10.

Ocean State's head of marketing, David Sarlitto, said the area was a good fit for the chain, which looks for right-priced, retail-based real estate that can be readily repurposed in good shopping locations. Walmart, too, has been aggressive in selling off vacant locations to other businesses.

"Massachusetts has done pretty well for us," he said, adding that Ocean State had been aware of the Walmart building's upcoming vacancy. "We've been talking to them for quite a while for their plans, and the price was right."

Ocean State's store size varies from about 19,000 square feet to mid-50,000s, said Sarlitto. The new North Adams location is about right in the middle. "I think this one is right in the sweet spot."

There are still some elements to be worked out with the city and the agreement but the number of inquiries the store was getting about a possible opening led to Tuesday's announcement.

There also is the likelihood of a third operation going into that location, since some 27,000 square feet would still be available, but Sarlitto said there was nothing he could specifically say at this point.

According to the retailer, Ocean State sells brand-name, first-quality merchandise at closeout prices, including household goods, apparel, pet supplies, seasonal products (gardening, pool supply, outdoor), and kitchen pantry staples. The chain buys overstocks and discontinued items.

Sarlitto said the store carries everything from $2,000 pellet stoves to 39 cent Pez dispensers, and if they could sell a 747, they'd carry that, too.

As one example, the chain recently bought all the excess cleaning equipment from the BP oil spill in the Gulf.  "We now own more hazmat suits than any store in North America," said Sarlitto.

The company plans two donations to area organizations to coincide with its North Adams store opening through its Charitable Foundation: a tractor-trailer load of food to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts with distributions to local food pantries, and the sponsorship of Honor Flight New England, which flies Massachusetts-based World War II veterans to visit the WWII Memorial dedicated to their service in Washington, D.C.

Mayor Richard Alcombright called the opening good news for the city.

"I think these are two national, regional retailers that are both strong within their markets," said Alcombright, who figured that once the building was fully occupied, it would mean 70 to 80 full and part-time jobs. "I think it's a good fit for the area, the price points are there for the people to shop.

 "They create another bit of an anchor and destination post with Walmart."

The addition of Ocean State and Tractor Supply, just down the road from the Walmart Super Center, adds to the idea of creating a "shopping destination" along the Curran Highway corridor that officials hope will continue to draw more anchor stores and spill over to the smaller unique stores and restaurants in the downtown. 

In a statement, the mayor had said, "We are a city that's committed to being business friendly and are focused on the positive economic development and goodwill initiatives that Ocean State Job Lot can bring to our community."

Sarlitto said the goal was to open by October, sooner if possible.

"We're hoping step it up as fast as we can," he said. "I think it will work out well."

Updated at 3:25 p.m. to add mayor's comments.



     
Telemarketer Signs Lease On Historic Pittsfield Building
Staff Reports On: 07:21PM / Monday April 08, 2013

Updated: April 9, 2013 at 1:27 with information from Premium Marketing Enterprises founder Mike Eitelberg.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A business-to-business telemarketing company is leasing the historic Wollison-Shipton building on North Street and bringing at least a half-dozen new jobs.

Premium Marketing Enterprises Corp. signed a least last week to occupy office space in the 125-year-old building. The company, established in 1998, connects businesses in the technical, software and insurance fields by generating leads. The company already works with agencies such as Travelers Insurance and Nationwide.

"It's direct contact marketing. We're not calling people at their home. We're connecting business to business," founder Mike Eitelberg said on Tuesday.

The company was formerly headquartered in Kingston, N.Y., but Eitelberg recently moved to the Berkshires full time and is bringing the business with him. There will still be a presence in Kingston but "we're leaning more with an emphasis on Pittsfield."

With a new office that can fit 12 employees, the company has already hired four people to staff its North Street location and is looking to bring on a few more in the next few months. Eitelberg said he seeing the business growing as it delves more into the technical fields.

Eitelberg said the jobs are "median" income in a "professional work environment" with the opportunity for upward momentum.

"It is significantly above the minimum wage job around here," he said.

He chose Pittsfield in part because the office space, which is being leased by Financial Firebird Corp., has controlled costs and the city has the potential work force he needs to grow the company. The city offers a lower "cost of doing business" with the rental space.

Eitelberg said the company opened a small office in the building initially just to get a few workers in and on Friday, they will be moving into the larger space.

The Shipton building was opened in 1888.


Original story published on April 8, 2013 at 7:21 p.m.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A telemarketing company is leasing the historic Wollison-Shipton building on North Street.

Premium Marketing Enterprises Corp. has signed a lease to occupy the 125-year-old building. The company, established in 1998, provides "business-to-business telemarketing" for commercial insurance agencies such as Travelers and Nationwide.
 
The company has recently grown by "providing prospecting services and lead generation campaigns to the technology and software industry." 
 
It is unclear what the company will do in the newly leased space and a phone call was not immediately returned.
 
The building is being leased by Financial Firebird Corp., the building's leasing agent. The Shipton building opened in 1888.
 
To read the full release click here.


     
North Adams City Hall Seeking Part-Time Planner
Staff Reports On: 05:40PM / Wednesday March 13, 2013

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city is looking for a part-time planner to help with the completion of the master plan and in implementing it.

Mayor Richard Alcombright had stated his intention last month to fill the post as soon as possible. He said a planner will be essential to bringing the city's zoning and ordinances into alignment with the master plan and in researching and writing grants.

The city hasn't had a master plan in some 40 years. The mayor has said he wants to put economic and community development in the forefront, and putting more support into the community development office will be necessary to achieve the master plan's goals.

The city hopes to use the comprehensive plan to access state and federal grant funding for projects. The position itself will be funded in part by Community Block Grant Funding. The salary is negotiable, according to the posting.

The job is listed as being 20 hours at first, with the likelihood of growing into a permanent full-time position with the next year. The individual will work with Community Development Director Michael Nuvallie.

According to job posting on BerkshireJobs.com, the planner will be expected to coordinate with the city's Planning and Zoning boards and take on addditional responsibility of projects including "neighborhood revitalization strategies, economic development planning, and bike path planning."

The candidate needs a master's degree in planning or five years in a relevant profession, and preferrably experience with a wide range projects, from enerty efficiency to trail planning to GIS mapping. Deadline to apply is April 5.



     
North Adams Walmart Hiring for New Supercenter
On: 11:55AM / Friday March 01, 2013

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Walmart is holding a job fair on Wednesday, March 6, to hire for the new Walmart Supercenter being constructed on Curran Highway.

The company is expected to hire some 85 associates. According to store manager Alexis Bartos, the openings will be for both full- and part-time associates.

Previous reports put the total number of workers needed for the new 160,000 square foot structure at about 300. The more than 170 employees at the current store, also on Curran Highway, were to move to the new location without having to reapply for their jobs.

"We are excited that relocating our store will bring additional jobs with great career opportunities to the area," said Bartos.

The new Supercenter is twice the size of the current Walmart and includes a grocery, deli, bakery, expanded electronics section, garden center, pharmacy and vision center.

The hiring event will take place Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the existing store located at 830 Curran Highway.

Walmart said it provides a benefits program to eligible full- and part-time associates, including a variety of health and well-being benefits. Walmart also offers eligible associates matching 401(k) contributions of up to 6 percent of pay, discounts on general merchandise, an Associate Stock Purchase Program and company-paid life insurance. Additionally, eligible associates receive a quarterly incentive based on store performance.

The majority of new associates will begin work in April to help prepare the store for its grand opening.



     
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News Headlines
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New Cafe Space Available In North Adams Library
MassDevelopment Backing $9M Redo of Pittsfield Housing Project
Legislature Overrides Cultural Council, Kindergarten Cuts
New England Holocaust Institute Open In Adams
Berkshire Botanical Garden, Project Native Move Toward Merger
MCLA Welcomes New Vice President of Student Affairs
Dalton CRA Registering for Fall Sports
Images Cinema Launches a 'LEGO Drive' to Benefit UNO Community Center

 


Bill Schmick separates the bull from the bears in his weekly columns on investing and market wrap-ups.



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