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Allen Harris, left, and Sherman Baldwin take a moment before the job summit begins.

Berkshire Job Summit Opens in Pittsfield

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Ron Insana of CNBC sees a brighter future.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — CNBC's Ron Insana offered some 200 business and civic leaders encouragement on Friday morning as Berkshire Job Summit opened at the Crowne Plaza.

The senior analyst for the financial network said the economy appears to be rebounding.

"People keep looking for death and destruction," he said, "when they should be looking for an opportunity to get back in.

"It's a good time to strengthen your business, good time to start growing."

The goal of the morning-long session was to get local employers fired up on new opportunities and offer some ideas on how to get started, said organizers Allen Harris of Berkshire Money Management and Sherman Baldwin of radio show "TalkBerkshires" on WBRK.

Local businesses need to invest in themselves now to take advantage of the opportunities available as the economy improves from the worst economic downtown in 70 years, said Harris in his opening remarks. "The message is 2010 is going to be the best year ever."

The morning went off smoothly despite coming under fire recently after The Berkshire Eagle published reports detailing the two organizers' run ins with the law and skepticism over claims of the event's job-creation goals.

Despite that, at least 200 guests RSVP'd; close to that number showed up for Insana, the morning's first speaker. (Insana said he was unaware of any controversy having "arrived here at 1 a.m.")

Among those attending were the county's two mayors, James Ruberto and Richard Alcombright, city councilors including Peter White, John Krol and Michael Ward, and business community leaders such as William Hines and Michael Supranowicz.

Noting the hard work to put an event like this together, Baldwin joked, "at least there wasn't any controversy."

"In spite of the controversy, in spite of questions, in spite of mistakes Allen and I made, you're all here today."

Baldwin said it was because "we all love our lives in the Berkshires we all love the businesses we represent and we all want them to grow strong."


Business and breakfast at the Crowne Plaza.
Insana said signs the economy is turning around inlcluded carmakers increasing production (both from depleted inventory from the federal "cash for clunkers" and a chance to take on a weakened Toyota) , the banks are sitting on a lot of capital, the market is up, and "there are stirrings that entrepreneurs are trying to get things going."

He had little good to say about the federal stimulus package that concentrated too much on filling potholes and congressional pet projects than forging new ground.

It was "ill-conceived, ill-focused," said Insana, and should have focused on new technology, such as power grid infrastructure, which would create future jobs.

There was a lot controversy leading up to the summit. Was it worth it?
Speakers informative and interesting.
Heard good ideas
Interesting but was not inspired.
All I got out of it was breakfast.
Would attend another one.
Would not attend another one.
Was invited but did not attend.
  
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"That technology, the technology of the future is what should have been focused on, not the technology of the past."

Entrepreneurs and employers interested in capitalizing on a resurging financial sector and that new technology were provided an overview of what the Small Business Administration can offer by SBA Springfield branch manager P. Edgardo Tarrats. Some federal stimulus progams are still available.

Ken Singer, executive director of Berkshire County Arc, encouraged employers to consider giving workers with disabilities a chance at employment. The agency was the only one in Western Mass. awarded a $500,000 grant to develop a regional employment board for the disabled.

Wrapping up the event was Jonathan Salem Baskin, who spoke on branding and providing a quality and reliable service.

"I think it was a great turnout and a successful dialogue," said Baldwin. "I'm very happy about what's going to transpire after this summit."

Harris said they had a few different ways to follow up, including through BerkshireJobSummit.com and Baldwin's radio show and Web site.

"I'm taking over his airwaves and his Web site," laughed Harris. "But he has built in a way so that we continue to follow up on this."

"I think this really is the just the start just the start of the dialogue that's what's important.

"We've always looked at this as the start of the dialogue," said Baldwin.


Below is the original post jotted down during the summit. We were not able to stay for the entire morning. We encourage anyone who attended to tell us in the comment section what they thought about it or e-mail us at info@iberkshires.com.




PITTSFIELD, Mass.
We're here at the Berkshire Jobs Summit in the ballroom Crowne Plaza. The morning forum is being put on by Allen Harris of Berkshire Money Management and Sherman Baldwin of  "TalkBerkshires," an independent radio talk show on WBRK.

Opening remarks are a couple minutes away so we're going to finish our breakfast and grab another cup of coffee.

Noting all the hard work to put this together, Baldwin jokes, "at least there wasn't any controversy."

"In spite of the controversy, in spite of questions, in spite of mistakes Allen and I made, you're all here today."

Baldwin said it was because "we all love our lives in the Berkshires we all love the businesses we represent and we all want the to grow strong."

Mayor James Ruberto says the "seminar is about growth. Standing back looking at where we are right now ... put ourselves in a position to strategize at the same time economy rebounds."

Local businesses need to invest in themselves now to take advantage of the opportunities available as the economy improves from the worst economic downtown in 70 years, said Harris. "The message is 2010 is going to be the best year ever."

Says the business community has weathered recession and is made up of business leaders, he said "because it takes a leader to have done that."

CNBC analyst Ron Insana says most people don't understand how close nation came to a depression on the scale of the Great Depression. "We were that close."

The financial sector has had a series of so-called "sigma events" - the dot-cam crash, housing bubble - that statistically should occur every 25,000 years, said Insana.

In August 2008, there were 25 sigma events, a run that would happen only once every 100,000 years - or every billion, according to some.

"We were on the precipice of having a bank run in the United States," said Insana, adding the Federal Reserve moved extraordinarily quickly to prevent that occurrence.

"But it wasn't able to protect Main Street from Wall Street this time," he said.

Insana says there are signs the economy is turning around - carmakers increasing production, the banks are sitting on a lot of capital, the market is up, and "there are stirrings that entrepreneurs are trying to get things going."

"People keep looking for death and destruction," he said, "when they should be looking for an opportunity to get back in.

"It's a good time to strengthen your business, good time to start growing."

His praise for Bernanke's handling of the crisis didn't extend to the White House's stimulus program, which he said should never have been handed over to Congress to fill with pet projects.

It was "ill-conceived, ill-focused," said Insana, and should have focused on new technology, such as power grid infrastructure, which would create future jobs.

"That technology, the technology of the future is what should have been focused on, not the technology of the past."
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Berkshire County Kids' Place Gala Celebrates Courage

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff

Michael Supranowicz was presented with the Founders Award. He was president of the Kids' Place board for two years and retired from Hillcrest Educational Centers. 
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The "Wizard of Oz's" the Cowardly Lion finds his courage by facing his fears with the help of his friends. 
 
"Like the Lion, many children just need someone to help them realize that the courage they need to heal from the abuse they have suffered is already inside of them," said Rosemarie  Phelps, chairman of the Berkshire County Kids' Place Board of Directors. "For 26 years, the Kids' Place has helped lead these children and their families down the path to recovery."
 
The path on Friday night was a yellow brick road to "A Night in the Emerald City," the theme for these year's fundraising gala for the nonprofit that was held at Country Club of Pittsfield. Phelps donned a purple witch's hat to welcome guests to the event that also included recognition of several individuals for their work for Kids' Place. 
 
Berkshire County Kids' Place has been providing a safe and healing place for abused children for more than a quarter century. The agency is funded through the state Department of Children and Families, grants and donations. It works closely with related agencies and the Berkshire County district attorney's office to serve the more than 400 children that pass through its doors each year. 
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