Develop North Adams has transformed into the North Adams Chamber of Commerce as a way to better support the city's small-business sector and promote it.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A local business group has taken "a bold step" in resurrecting the North Adams Chamber of Commerce to fulfill a perceived need for small-business support.
The board of Develop North Adams, founded 2 1/2 years ago, voted at its September meeting to incorporate as a chamber of commerce to better develop its ability to promote and support local business. The formation of the chamber was announced on Friday.
"A little under a year ago, we started looking at strategic planning for the future of the organization," said Brian Miksic, owner of Axiom Multimedia Development who headed DNA and is now president of the new chamber. "One of the things we came to the realization of, it was fairly obvious, that it just became to difficult to run our operation like this with a volunteer force indefinitely."
Mayor Richard Alcombright was a booster for DNA and the city provided some of the seed money to get it off the ground. He said on Friday that the group had worked hard to get to this point.
"I think it's a bold step, I think it's a good step for the community," said the mayor. "They're going to continue to focus on small business."
DNA has been able to raise about $30,000 to $40,000 a year through grants and donations to help with visible programs — local events, group advertising (such as the Hometown Holidays), aiding local businesses with permitting and planning, and enhancing and increasing the city's green space with pocket parks and benches. Miksic said the group was also proud of establishing and enhancing relationships with other city organizations, such as working together with MCLA to grow the annual Community Day of Service, supporting the Hoosac River Revival, providing assistance to the Windsor Lake Commission and building ties between many other groups working to improve city.
But the subcommittee researching financial models came to the conclusion that relying on donations wasn't enough to expand those efforts; membership, it found, would be the most stable and efficient model to provide funding for professional staff.
Miksic said membership had the added benefit of pulling businesses together to work for common goals, something that was difficult for the nonprofit DNA to do in terms of speaking for and to the business community.
"If you're a member of the organization, you're keeping it up with it," he said. "Our hope is that it brings everyone together.
"Most people know what a local chamber is and what it does."
The chamber is beginning its membership drive by having the new board members speak directly with local businesses. Miksic thought it would know by January whether it was feasible to begin the serach for a director.
Miksic is joined on the board of directors by Eric Rudd, Veronica Bosley, Keith Bona, Blair Benjamin,
Glenn Maloney, Ryley Gaudreau, Tom Bernard, Gail Sellers, Jana St.Germain, Paul Hopkins, David Carver,
John DeRosa, Stephen Green, Jonathan Secor, Dave Atwell, Mike Bedford and Bill St.Pierre.
In a way, the chamber's come full circle. The first North Adams Chamber of Commerce was established in 1919 as part of a merger with the North Adams Businessmen's Association, whose president, Jesse Hadfield, became the first chamber president. The organization's goals set at its first meeting on Sept. 11, 1919, were similar, too, with a mission of promoting housing and business, recreational spaces, a better looking downtown and expansion of parks and planting of trees "to add beauty to the city."
The city's chamber morphed into the Northern Berkshire Chamber of Commerce in 1961 to promote larger regional initiatives and industries; in 2001, it merged with the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, a decision that wasn't popular with some business leaders.
Both Miksic and Alcombright were quick to say the North Adams chamber won't be replacing the regional chamber. Rather, the new chamber will provide a coordinated voice for North Adams businesses in representation to the county chamber and support for its economic development initiatives. Berkshire Chamber President Michael Supranowicz had been a founding member of the DNA but will not sit on the new chamber's board.
"My thoughts were that we have to maintain a strong relationship with the Berkshire Chamber," Alcombright said. "By their scope and size, they can speak to the larger developments and at a higher level."
Miksic agreed, saying the Berkshire Chamber, and 1Berkshire, was better positioned to take on larger-ticket efforts, such as group health insurance, for the region.
"Our mission's really don't overlap in any way whatsoever," he said. "They are a regional chamber. They focus on regional matters."
The Berkshire Chamber would continue to coordinate the Northern Berkshire Fall Foliage Parade but the North Adams Chamber will now be better positioned to work with the city's Tourism and Events Office, especially picking up in areas that don't really fall under that office's purview. Miksic said he has also spoken with the director of the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce. While the North Adams Chamber is willing to work with other local chambers and communities on events or initiatives, he said, the primary focus is the city.
"We are hyperfocused on North Adams," said Miksic. "We are looking specifically at the borders of North Adams and what we can do here."
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