PITTSFIELD, Mass — The region's major economic agents formed 1Berkshire last spring to coordinate efforts. Now they're looking for a leader to turn paper goals into action.
The organization, a unified head for the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, the Berkshire Economic Development Corporation, the Berkshire Creative Economy Council and the Berkshire Visitors Bureau, has finished its fundraising and laying out its goals. Now to start making real impacts it needs someone to take the helm.
"This is going to be the leadership position for development and growth in the Berkshires," Paul Haklisch, current chief executive officer, said on Wednesday. "We're looking for a highly qualified executive."
Haklisch has led the organization's establishment as a volunteer. To finish the job, he needs to find his replacement. The coalition was announced in April and has been in the organizational phase for much of that time.
"My job is to help them take initiatives from paper and put them to action," Haklisch said.
Haklisch said he is not interested in taking it on full time.
The group has a list of projects to embark on, including advocating for low-impact cleanup of the Housatonic River, he said. Local officials, communities, environmental groups and agencies and GE are debating the best way to clean the river of PCBs dumped there by GE decades ago.
"Just because we haven't assumed a public profile, doesn't mean we haven't been doing anything," Haklisch said. "One of the big things we're doing is taking on a principal advocacy role for the Rest of the River Project."
The job posting on Berkshirejobs.com lists the position's responsibilities, which include facilitating the collaboration of the four major economic forces with federal, state and local public officials, serving as spokesman, executing fundraising efforts and general oversight of the group.
The nonprofit has set its objective to promote economic growth in the county while developing "the Berkshires" brand and is funded by both public and private sources.
In April, the group announced that it would be a one-stop point to answer questions for prospective businesses and hoped to have a toll-free telephone number and website. So far, they have a minimal website presence.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The state's Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs on Friday cleared the way for the Walmart Supercenter to move forward.
New Secretary of Energy Richard K. Sullivan signed off on the project's environmental impact report, saying it "adequately ad properly complies" with the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act.
The 157,000 square-foot store will be built on the city's old gravel bank at the intersection of Hodges Cross Road and Curran Memorial Highway. The property is in an industrial zone and consists of 26.7 acres. It will include two points of access, including a reconfiguration of the current jug handle at the Route 8 intersection.
The project will alter 21 acres, creating 12.2 acres of "impervious surface" and 701 parking spots.
The store has received its permits from both the city Planning Board and Conservation Commission; it still needs a federal permit for pollutant discharge from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It's expected to discharge more than 10,000 gallons of waste water a day into Adams waste-water treatment plant to the south.
The developers have been grading the site and addressing prior wetlands violations and waste dumping on the property.
In his decision, posted below, Sullivan urged the company to further invest in clean technology.
"While I am pleased with the progress and impact it will have on the energy use and GHG emissions at the proposed North Adams store, I continue to urge Walmart to make a significant commitment to sustainability and the burgeoning solar industry in Massachusetts by incorporating solar PV into new buildings such as this one."
Construction is expected to take from 15 to 18 months, putting the store's opening sometime in the late summer of fall of 2012.
Here's a short roundup of some interesting business news from last month.
Bus Company Putting Brakes on Tours Dufour Tours is getting out of the tour business. The Berkshire Eagle reported last week that owners William and Barbara Dufour are seeking to sell the 40-year-old motor coach business before they retire. The Dufours, who also operate a regional school bus fleet of nearly 200, have four 2007 Prevost Co. motor coaches. The vehicles run around $450,000.
That's down from a dozen or so back in the 1990s. The company was started by William Dufour's father and uncle in Connecticut and made inroads into the Berkshires after buying Yellow Bus Lines in the 1960s. It now manages most of the school bus routes in Western Mass. and Southern Vermont.
Dufour Tours over the years have included multiday trips to Pennsylvania Dutch Country, DisneyWorld and Canada. Their one-day trips bring people to Boston for historic tours, to Fall River for shopping and New York City for Broadway productions.
William Dufour told The Eagle that several bus lines were interested in buying the tour business; if not sold, the division would likely be shut down.
Walmart on Track
The $17 million Walmart SuperCenter planned for the city's former gravel yard is expected to break ground this spring and be built within the next year or so. That's pretty much on schedule according to a rough time line offered the Planning Board last spring.
The North Adams Transcript reported last month that remediation work at the site, specifically for asbestos, has been completed and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has agreed to a reconfigured intersection at Hodges Cross Road that will eliminate the current jug handle. More cleanup at the site has to be completed before the land, owned by developer Ceruzzi Properties, is sold to Walmart and construction can begin.
Walmart is estimated to generate some $594,000 in revenue for the city, and bring nearly a $1 million in wages annually. The supercenter will be 157,000 square feet and include a 38,000-square-foot grocery.
BJ's Wholesale Club may have a buyer. The East Coast chain put itself up for auction in November; analysts say if a private investment firm purchased it, the company would be better positioned to move into markets dominated by its competitors Costco and Sam's Club.
The chain is currently building a new store in Pittsfield off Hubbard Avenue that's expected to create more than 100 jobs.
The wholesale club first operated by the Zayre Corp. is being eyed by Leonard Green & Partners. The equity firm just bought out Jo-Ann's Stores (which also has a location in Pittsfield) and may launch a hostile takeover if the previously announced auction isn't set.
Update, Jan. 5, 2011, 8:44 a.m.: The Boston Globe reports that the company will close five stores and layoff 500, including 114 from its Natick headquarters.
Defense Spending Benefits State
Two Berkshire County companies — Draper Laboratories Inc. and General Dynamics — are about to reap the rewards of military spending but they're not alone. A column in MassLive.com cites a new study by the University of Massachusetts that shows federal military spending has increased 146 percent in the Bay State in less than 10 years.
The Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security has pumped $146.2 million in conctracts to 237 Western Massachusetts companies just in 2009. The study states "The value of federal defense contracts awarded to Massachusetts firms has increased by nearly 200 percent from $5.5 billion in 2001 to $15.6 billion in 2009" and supported more than 115,000 jobs.
"Even as the overall economy has struggled in the face of two recessions and fundamental industry shifts, defense has surged ahead," writes Allan Blair, president of the Economic Development Council of Western Mass., and Richard Lord, president of Associated Industries of Massachusetts.
The study can also be found at our scribd.com account here.
Editor: In general, we do not provide links to articles from the local papers because they are archived behind a paywall within two weeks of publication. We apologize for any inconvenience.
McCain, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee had opposed a plan crafted in part by Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and the Navy to double the purchase of coastal defense ship from 10 to 20. That would allow for contracts to two teams, one of which included General Dynamics. The company said the contract would mean 500 positions in Pittsfield for work on the ship's computerized systems. McCain decried the contracts as wasteful.
The tipping point appears to have been General Dynamics' team leader Austal USA, which would reportedly bring 1,800 jobs its Mobile shipyard building facility.
The funding was part of a $1.1 trillion omnibus bill that ran into trouble last week. On Tuesday, a budget extension measure passed, towing along the Navy appropriation. Al.com reports the Senate approved it 79-16 and the House 193-165, with Rep. Jo Bonner of Mobile the only Republican voting in favor.
Original post: 12-14-2010 06:05PM
Pittsfield is holding its breath in hopes Congress will OK expenditures for 10 more Navy coastal ships — a move that could mean 500 jobs for the city.
"We're anxiously waiting for it," Mayor James Ruberto told the Boston Globe on Monday. "It would be just an incredible Christmas present for Pittsfield and the Berkshires."
The Navy is seeking $1 billion to double the number of close-shore combat ships it wants but critics say the first four ships built for the Littoral Combat Ship program haven't justified the need for more.
The House has approved a $1.1 trillion spending bill that includes the ship authorization but Senate has balked; Sen. John Kerry is pushing for approval before an extended deadline expires — along with this Congress — at the end of the month.
General Dynamics is partnered with Austal Ltd. on one of two teams that would be selected to each build 10 ships, a plan backed by both Kerry and the Navy. General Dynamics said that guarantee means 500 jobs for work on the computer systems at its Advanced Information Systems plant in Pittsfield. Lockheed Martin, working with Marinette Marine Corp., are the second team.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona, leading Republican on the committee, took Navy officials to task for letting program costs run rampant. McCain has been a vocal critic of the program, using a recent report by the Congressional Budget Office to make his point. Navy officials said the design to buy double the number of ships would help contain costs, saving nearly $3 billion and getting 20 ships for the cost of 19.
Update, Thursday, Dec. 16, 2010, 10:34 p.m.: The Democratic leadership has pulled the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill that includes funding for the LCS program from the Senate floor. It is unclear if the bill will passed before its Saturday deadline.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — More than a year after announcing the construction of a BJ's Wholesale Club on Hubbard Avenue, the Braintree developer secured a $9.2 million construction loan for the project this weekend.
Reported on Monday by Waltham-based Bostonsf.com, Cape Breton Corporation and Saxon Partners worked with real estate intermediary Holliday Fenoglio Fowler, L.P. to get the loan through Sovereign Santander Bank.
The developers plan to build a 85,188-square-foot freestanding building and fueling station behind Berkshire Crossings.
The project was announced in October of 2009 when Robert MacPherson, president of Cape Breton, said the group will begin the formal permitting process aiming to break ground in 2010. It will be the county's first BJ's club and City Hall said it would create about 120 new jobs. The closest BJ's clubs to Berkshire County are in Greenfield, Springfield and Albany, N.Y.
BJ's Wholesale Club Inc. is a leading operator of membership warehouse clubs in the East. The company, now in its 25th year, currently employees more than 20,000 team members and operates 180 clubs in 15 states from Maine to Florida.
Formed in 1998, Saxon Partners is a retail and residential developer focused on the New England region and Cape Breton Corporation is a real estate development company specializing in the site acquisition and local permitting of retail buildings and shopping centers.