Adams-Anthony Center Discusses Economic Prospects

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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Town Administrator Tony Mazzucco addresses Tuesday's economic forum at the Adams Free Library.

ADAMS, Mass. — The Adams-Anthony Center for Political, Economic & Social Discourse held its first meeting focusing on economic prospects for the town of Adams.

Adams native and president of the center William Kolis told the full GAR Memorial Hall on Tuesday that he hopes the free speech forum can grow to be a premier forum in the state and perhaps country and can instill some forward momentum in Adams.

"We have some incredible problems we need to fix here in Adams and it is going to take some-out-of-the-box thinking, creativity, and the follow through of the people to fix them," Kolis said.

Developer Stephen Stenson spoke first about demographics and declining population in Berkshire County and in Adams.

He said Berkshire County and surrounding counties benefited from slow growth during the 1800s, however since the 1960s, surrounding counties have been able to stay level while Berkshire County has been declining.

He said compared to other communities in North County, Adams and North Adams have seen a steady decline while Williamstown has maintained a steady population level.

"This is a problem that has been going on for 100 years and it has been accelerated in the last 50 years," Stenson said. "Williamstown has been able to buck the trend in Berkshire County but Adams and North Adams have seen a similar reduction."

According to a study by the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, Berkshire County has seen an 8 percent decrease over the past 50 years, while Adams has seen a 35 percent decrease. He added that in another 50 years, Berkshire County's population will drop even faster and Adams may see its population dip below 6,000.

Although grim, there are things Adams can do to mitigate the population issue such as attracting people to the area, especially young people. He said it would take nearly 800 young people a year to boost the Berkshires' population.

He said if Adams is aware of this coming decline they can better position themselves to change it.

"These are only projections and there are things that we can do," he said. "That is the purpose of economic development, and it can be changed. Anything is possible and it does not mean this will actually happen."

President and CEO of Adams Community Bank Charles O'Brein spoke about how the bank wants to stay exclusively in Berkshire County and provide a useable banking resource for the changing population.

"We sit as a bank figuring out how to be the most effective community bank," O'Brein said. "Adams has been our home since 1869 and we like that. We like banking in Berkshire County."

He said the bank's vision is to provide banking resources so individuals and business can flourish in the county.

A crowd from North County attended the forum.

The bank recently absorbed the Lenox National Bank, as a way to expand the franchise "right in our back yard."

O'Brien said the financial institution employes about 60 people in Adams and looks forward to helping other businesses establish in the area.

North Adams native Richard Tavelli, who has experience in international mergers and middle market transactions as well as advisory work for entrepreneurs and businesses, a spoke about what opportunities Adams should try to capture to bring in more business and growth.

He said Adams should continue to focus on its creative economy and try to attract artists, though that is not the complete solution: the town needs jobs.

But attracting large manufacturing will be nearly impossible because Adams simply does not have the infrastructure.

Rather, he said, Adams needs to focus on linking and creating partnerships with larger industrial companies in places like Boston and Albany, N.Y., and attract smaller establishments in science, manufacturing, and technology that provide resources for the much larger companies"We are never going to have ... a big center like there is in Boston or Albany because those are multibillion-dollar institutions that are just not going to be here," Tavelli said. "But through a center like this, we can establish collaborations, we can establish relationships, and we can provide resources to companies who want to do something in the supply change."

He also advocated for Adams to look more toward the closer Albany than Boston and attract businesses from that area.

"We do have a quality of life and we have a workforce that is trainable and works hard," he said. "These facilities will be part of the supply chain for these bigger manufacturing facilities."

Town Administrator Tony Mazzucco was the final speaker, saying Adams is not alone when facing population decline. He said communities throughout the world see decline because people are dying and fewer children are being born.

He said areas that are seeing growth are not seeing it organically because the increase mostly comes from people moving to these booming areas and leaving places like Adams or avoiding them all together.

He said the key to changing this and attracting people to Adams is the economic development committee that will focus on attracting these jobs that will encourage people to move to Adams.  

"They are going to focus on making sure Adams has a seat at the table ... and to make sure we are going after the tax base growth and the job base growth that we need," Mazzucco said. "We need to make sure that our community is ready for growth and development because just because you want something it doesn't mean you are ready for it."

Retired acquisitions consultant Richard Tavelli advised Adams look to small businesses that can supply larger industry in Albany.

Mazzucco said to make Adams more competitive and attractive for business he would like to focus on land and zoning reform and make Adams more "business friendly and shovel ready."

He envisions live/work space zoning throughout the entire town to attract artists and creative people who are more able to buy buildings and renovate them to their needs.

"The most growth we have seen over the past couple of years has been form artists moving into town and they are taking property off the market that are very difficult to sell because they don't work for a traditional business or have a traditional family," Mazzucco said.

He added that he would like to continue focus on regionalizing and sharing resources with surrounding communities.

"We are not going to grow and develop in a bubble without ... all of the surrounding communities," he said.  

The next meeting the center will hold will focus on promoting the arts in Adams.

The slide presentation can be found on the Adams-Anthony site or here on Scribd.

Tags: community forum,   economic development,   

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