Berkshire Chamber's Michael Supranowicz, right, with Brian Fairbank at the first Buy in the Berkshires event. Supranowicz is leaving the chamber after seven years as president.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Michael Supranowicz is in a position to see plenty of jobs pass over his desk.
But a particular one for Hillcrest Educational Centers, he said, "struck a chord with me."
Enough of a chord that the president and chief executive officer of the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce decided it was time for a change.
Supranowicz will leave the chamber after nearly 15 years at the end of January to work on workforce development for Hillcrest.
"I had no plans and was not seeking employment outside the chamber," he said on Friday afternoon. "What had happened was an opportunity crossed my desk from one of our members who was trying to fill a position."
Supranowicz, 58, said digging into his specialties of workforce development and education was "something I'd like to spend the next five or six years on." Something, he said, he could leave a "Mike Supranowicz mark on."
He informed staff and his board members of his decision Thursday. He will stay on with the organization until the end of January to aid the transition team being put in place to find his replacement and to complete some current chamber efforts.
"I've got an enormous amount of work here to finish up by year's end," said Supranowicz, including presenting a budget, next week's monthly chamber breakfast and North Adams mayoral debate, nominating committees for board members, among others. "One thing I promised my current board is I would leave this place in good shape."
Chamber leaders say finding a replacement won't be easy, both because of the numerous initiatives he's taken on and his complex responsibilities as vice president and chief operating officer of 1Berkshire, the umbrella organization created to coordinate the county's economic development and marketing strategies.
"He bleeds chamber blood," said chamber Chairman Peter Stasiowski. The nitty gritty details of economic development that "can make another person's eyes glaze over ... that's what really gets his motor running."
Stasiowski said he had spoken with 1Berkshire Chairman Reggie Cooper and that the group's leaders will meet next week to determine the next steps in replacing Supranowicz. A transition team will be named to oversee a search committee, and a job description will have to be developed.
They could look for someone with the same experience or it could be a chance to look for someone with a different skill set, he said. "I think by a week from now, we'll have a better description."
Cooper said the next chamber president "will have to be someone who can think bigger than just the chamber ... to really see how the pieces fit together. "
"Mike does amazing work for every organization he's been a part of ... he's very unique," he said. And since Supranowicz will still be working on similar projects here, "I thought great, we're going to have Mike's talents around for another decade so I think that's fortunate. ...
"I'll miss Mike's ability to see all the parts of the picture."
Supranowicz credited his boards and staff as being integral to the initiatives he's taken in the last few years, from gaining intervenor status to provide testimony on energy rate hearings and being on the ISO New England Consumer Relations Group to working with the Berkshire Compact and developing the Youth Leadership Program.
He also pointed to the safety improvements at Pittsfield Municipal Airport, which the chamber had strongly backed, working with the business community to raise $1.2 million for the Berkshire Wireless Learning Initiative, a program that gave laptops to students in Pittsfield and North Adams. And the development of a Berkshire business locator that "really put us in the ballgame in an attraction-of-business standpoint."
The implementation of membership software allowed the chamber to deliver relevant programming. And the chamber has "a staff here that's the envy of chambers across the state of Massachusetts."
"Without the dedication of the board, without their volunteer efforts, we wouldn't have the strategies in place to move some of the projects we've moved forward," Supranowicz said.
Cutting the ribbon last January with Mayor Daniel Bianchi at the new Berkshire Bank branch.
He began his career with Adams Supermarkets and its successor, D'Amours Big Y. He became involved with the former Adams Chamber of Commerce, eventually becoming its volunteer president, and continued his activity with the group when it merged with the North Adams to become the Northern Berkshire Chamber of Commerce.
Supranowicz becames its executive director in 1998 and then vice president and chief operating officer of the newly merged Berkshire Chamber of Commerce in 2001, and then president in 2005.
It was a tough decision to leave, he said, but much of what he'd done over the past 14 years revolved around workforce development and education — and working with politicians, business and educational leaders, non-profits and the communities.
"It's everything I've been doing for everyone else ... now I will just be doing it for one company."
An important element of Hillcrest is its recognition that medical care, particularly the dental care it's pioneered here in the Berkshires, has in educational development, he said.
"People feel better about their lives, which means they feel better about school, which means they learn better, which means they become more productive students, which means they become less incumbent on remedial work to get into college and we end up with a better work force," said Supranowicz.
"I really thought about the impact I could have as a person on a community of less fortunate people," he said. "This is something I could do. For me to be able to give something back seems the right thing to do."
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