Election 2009: Roach Sees Future Potential in City's PastCommon Threads: North Adams' Risk Takers, Visionaries and the Future of our City
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A little over a year ago, I posed the question on my blog wondering aloud what North Adams will look like in 10 years. The future is an even more fascinating question if you take the time to look at the various evolutions of our city since it's inception.
I am 100 percent positive that North Adams will continue to bloom in various fashions and I personally believe that we are within a decade of our latest renaissance. We are a college town, a museum town, an arts mini-mecca and potentially one of the best places in America to raise a family.
We have so many things going for us that with just a little bit of optimism, investment and fortitude we will begin to see the fruits that have long been promised. Don't believe me? Look around. The energy of the current generation of young adults is palpable. I see it every day. And as these 20, 30 and 40 somethings come into their own, there are few bounds on what the future holds.
There are so many incredible things about North Adams that our biggest mistake would be to play it too cautious. Over their history, Massachusetts and North Adams has produced and attracted many who took the risks and reaped the rewards. It has been the perfect place for those who believed as Mark Twain did - that courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the management of it.
I say it is time to revive that ethos! In fact, North Adams is named after a remarkable risk taker. Nationally he is known as guy who has a brand of beer named in his honor. (How many other cities can claim that?) What we, as residents of the Massachusetts know is that Sam Adams was a Revolutionary War hero, signer of the Declaration of Independence and governor of the commonwealth. Take that Budweiser!
My neighborhood is named after a shrewd grocer and businessman, W.E. Brayton, who saw the potential of the town long before it was a city. He bought and sold the products of the local farms, selling the goods locally and shipping to the cities. His type of trade was what earned us the label of the Gateway City. Those who worked their fingers to the bone in the mills of 100 years ago laid the groundwork for the incarnation of our industrial age identity.
That period was epitomized by Bob Sprague and the role he and his company played in from Neil Armstrong landing on the moon to the TVs and appliances in almost every home in America. Over the past 25 years we have seen the emergence of North Adams' Education and Cultural Age, a spot that is a natural evolution for a city in the Berkshires.
People like Tom Krens, Joe Thompson, Eric Rudd, John Barrett, Jane Swift, Dan Bosley, etc. ... all share some of the credit for laying the ground work for what we are still in the process of becoming. Which leads me back to the question of what will North Adams look like in 10, 20, 50 years. We will certainly be a more entrepreneurial city.
We will be a destination for even more than the hundreds of thousands of visitors a year. Our museum and college will have finally been embraced by the city as a whole. I think it is likely that we will have a more walkable and bustling downtown but at the same time we will be part of a much larger regional rebirth.
While it is impossible to know exactly what shape things will take, I know one thing for certain: We will be a strong community with boundless potential. We were 200 years ago. We are one today, and we will definitely be one well beyond the foreseeable future.
Greg Roach is a father, husband, chef and writer. He is a candidate for North Adams City Council and urges you to contact him at email@example.com or visit VoteRoach.com.