Patrick Visits North Adams; Delivers $800K in Grant Funds
Photo by Paul GuillotteCoffee at Brewhaha on Thursday morning; top, Debi Pendell and the governor are caught on camera at Gallery 51.
The amount includes some $800,409 for North Adams, $884,801 for Adams, $231,506 for Lee and $799,700, plus some $2.1 million total for hilltowns just over the Berkshire County border. The competitive funds are designed to support housing and social service needs and infrastructure to support economic development.
Standing on carpet-covered ice in front of a group of young skaters at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Skating Rink, the governor said the rink, a beneficiary of the federal and state funds, "is a very tangible example" of the type of investment that grows opportunity and hope.
"We need to build a platform for economic development," he said. "We have to be governing for today and tomorrow not just crisis management."
Mayor John Barrett III said the city had overseen the investment $2.1 million into the facility, the only public rink in North Berkshire, to keep it open when no private operator even bothered to bid several years ago. Funding from the grant will be used to maintain and upgrade the structure, which generates eight to 10 full- and part-time jobs and provides space for local leagues, clubs and after-school programs.
The announcement at the rink was one stop among many during a whirlwind visit to the city. The governor stopped at several of the city's success stories in the morning, starting with coffee with Mayor John Barrett III and state Rep. Daniel E. Bosley, D-North Adams, at Brewhaha on Marshall Street.
While he didn't make to the Mohawk Theater — with its marquee sign welcoming him — Patrick took a turn around the west end of Main Street, visiting Waterfront Media, two galleries and The Hub, and ducking quickly into the Registry of Motor Vehicles and Juvenile Court.
He ended the trip with a roundtable of leaders in the region's creative economy and tourist industry to seek input into how the state can best aid the Berkshires in maintaining and developing its cultural pre-eminence. The governor had planned to hold a town meeting in Adams but postponed it to attend the wake and Friday's funeral for Eunice Kennedy Shriver. While Adams officials were disappointed, Patrick didn't let down the 100 or so kids that were waiting for him at the ROPES course at Windsor Lake. He squeezed in few minutes to at least say hello.
But the focus of the visit was on the new economy the city has been trying to develop since its largest employer Sprague Electric Co. and other mills moved out in the 1980s.
Sheri Iodice explains her online counseling at Waterfront Media. Patrick Bannan, VP of customer service is at left.
"This is a very important economic development tool," he said. "When they talk about the creative economy, this is being creative. We took over this facility when no one else would really run it — we are now turning a profit here. The money is being invested back into the facility but most important, it's being invested back into the kids and into the community."
The ripple effect on the region includes the Bay State Winter Games, which uses the rink and pumps an estimated $1 million into the economy every year. More importantly, the rink offers a place for the people of Northern Berkshire, said Bosley.
"We've gone through a lot tribulations to keep this rink open," he said, crediting first former acting Gov. Jane Swift of Williamstown for supporting it but especially the Patrick administration for really stepping up and helping with the much-needed repairs. "They agreed to put money into this rink and signed long-term agreement ... We do that not for us but for you guys," he continued, pointing to the youngsters.
Earlier, Patrick toured Waterfront Media in the former Roberts Co. building. The company, which manages a wide range of health-related and nutrition Web sites, has quadrupled its work force to 60 in the few years its customer service operation has been located in North Adams. Its headquarters is in Brooklyn, N.Y.
"We fly under the radar a little bit," said Patrick Bannan, vice president of customer service. "Local people know we're here but don't know what we do."
The governor got a lesson in what the company does from registered dietitian Sheri Iodice, who explained how she provided nutritional counseling through the Web. "He's very easy to talk to and asked great questions," she said of her pupil.
Patrick was equally interested in the abstract artwork of Debi Pendell at MCLA Gallery 51, lingering in the gallery as Pendell, a graphic artist, explained how she played with text and images — and how the human mind filled in the gaps and discarded the out-of-place elements to envision the work.
He left with some homework — "An Ordinary Man" by Paul Paul Rusesabagina — that's on the reading list for Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts first-years from Monica Joslin, dean of academic affairs. The biology professor expressed the college's thanks for his support of the planned science and innovation center.
He also had an attentive crowd at the North Adams Artists Co-operative.
World War II veteran Michael Catrambone gave the governor sand scooped from Omaha Beach.
Sarah Kline of Adams, who has children in Plunkett Elementary School and in the eighth grade at Hoosac Valley High School, was able to briefly chat with the governor as he walked down Main Street about her concerns over teacher layoffs and rising classroom numbers. "He said he understands the concern," Kline said.
Patrick was upbeat on the state's future despite a tanking economy over the past year that resulted in cuts in programs and departments at every level.
There are signs the economy is turning around, he said. Investment in job creation is crucial because "hunkering down is no way to build."
"I'm asking people to see what I see on the horizon. We're are on the right path. I'm certain of that."
Photo by Paul GuillotteSkaters lineup for a picture with Gov. Deval Patrick, Mayor John Barrett III, Rep. Daniel Bosley and Tina Brooks, right, undersecretary for housing and economic development.