"Berkshire Blueprint" outlines strategy for creative growth

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A dynamic new vision, strategy and implementation plan for future economic development in the Berkshires – Berkshire Blueprint – was touted this week by Tyler Fairbank, the president of the Berkshire Economic Development Corporation. The Berkshire Blueprint consists of two projects, explained Fairbank. The Berkshire Strategy Project will evaluate the entire regional economy, as well as select industry clusters; the Creative Economy Strategy Project will focus on the “creative cluster” comprised of non-profit institutions, individual artists and commercial businesses that produce and distribute creative products and services. The two projects, conducted as separate efforts, will intersect and be linked together throughout the process. The conclusions will be woven together into one comprehensive regional economic strategy: the Berkshire Blueprint. “This approach will provide the Berkshires with the best of traditional regional economic development methodology while also integrating a new ‘creative economy’ thrust,” said Michael Daly, president of Berkshire Bank and chair of the Berkshire Economic Development Corporation Executive Committee. “Most importantly, the Berkshire Blueprint is not simply a study, but rather leads to an implementation plan for economic growth. This is the result of having collaboration from one end of the county to the other.” Monitor Group, an international consulting firm, will provide the professional services for the Berkshire Strategy Project. J. Williar Dunlaevy, president of Legacy Banks, is chairing the Berkshire Strategy Project with the Steering Committee being chaired by Gene Dellea, Berkshire Health Systems; Rich Vinette, Lee Community Development Corporation; and John DeRosa, Freedman, DeRosa and Rondeau. Mt. Auburn Associates, a leading consulting company in the “creative economy” arena, will provide the professional services for the Creative Economy Strategy Project. Michael Conforti, Executive Director of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, is chairing the Creative Economy Project with the Steering Committee being chaired by Laurie Norton Moffatt, Norman Rockwell Museum and Ellen Spear, Hancock Shaker Village. The region will benefit from more than $1 million in planning, organizing and implementation activities for the Berkshire Blueprint project. The John Adams Innovation Institute, the economic development arm of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, has invested $300,000 in grant money. About $450,000 is being provided by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration. The remainder will be provided through in-kind contributions and private and public regional resources. “Our investment in Berkshire Blueprint has leveraged about $450,000 in federal funds,” said Patrick Larkin, the director of the John Adams Innovation Institute. “It has also united the work of two of the nation’s top economic research groups -- Monitor Group and Mt. Auburn -- to create a collaborative, unified economic development strategy for the entire Berkshire region.” Both projects will simultaneously collect qualitative and quantitative data using the steering committees as a regional interface. As the project materials emerge, they will be available on the Berkshire Economic Development Corporation’s web site. The projects will formulate a new vision, strategies, and an implementation plan for future growth. The target delivery date is October 31, 2006. “The Berkshire Blueprint Project will fill the need for a regional economic development strategic plan,” Fairbank commented. “The Berkshires must change and grow with the economy of the 21st century. I want to emphasize that this is not another study. We have been saturated with studies in the past. This is an implementation plan, through the Berkshire Blueprint project, for our future, and the Berkshire Economic Development Corporation is in place to facilitate and execute the plan.” Created through the collaboration of several key partners, the Berkshire Economic Development Corp. is the lead business development organization for Berkshire County and services the economic development needs of the entire region. The BEDC accomplishes this by facilitating, coordinating and leading countywide development efforts to attract and retain high quality employers and employees, to strengthen the economy of the Berkshires, and act as a catalyst for new endeavors.

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