Berkshire Economic Groups Come Together As '1'

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PTTSFIELD, Mass. — The county's four economic and creative growth organizations are taking the next step in cooperation by forming a strategic partnership called "1Berkshire."

The initiative was announced late Wednesday by the leaders of Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, Berkshire Creative Economy Council, Berkshire Economic Development Corp., and the Berkshire Visitors Bureau.

"We are creating a streamlined, coordinated economic development engine to provide a seamless single point of service for inquiries and opportunities related to the region," said Roger O. Goldman, managing director of the Berkshire Opportunity Fund and 1Berkshire's volunteer acting chief executive officer.

Goldman and Michael Daly, president and CEO of Berkshire Bank, will chair the steering committee made up of volunteers C. Jeffrey Cook of Cohen Kinne Valicenti & Cook LLP, Rockwell Museum Director Laurie Norton Moffatt and Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts Director Joseph Thompson.

The concept came out of a brainstorming retreat in early February with 80 business and community leaders. From that meeting, 1Berkshire was developed and is focused on uniting the four regional economic development organizations toward one vision as a place to thrive.

At the core of the project, Berkshire business and community leaders view the strategic partnership as the next step to build on the strong movements that began with the collaborative unified regional planning through the Berkshire Compact for Higher Education in 2005, the Berkshire Strategy Project in 2006, the launch of Berkshire Blueprint in 2007, and the formation of the Berkshire Creative Economy Council established in 2007.

"On a larger scale, we are striving to create a unified Berkshires brand as a means to compete to the maximum effect for attraction of talent, visitation, quality of life and business opportunities," said Daly. "Additionally, the region can foster even greater influence generated through a larger representative membership while also obtaining larger and a wider range of national, state and private funding."

Other regions are already investing in collaborative initiatives to spur growth, said Goldman.

The interim board includes David Avery, UBS Financial Services; Mick Callahan, Callahan Sign Co.; Stuart Chase, Berkshire Museum; Jeff Cook, Cohen Kinne Valicenti & Cook LLP; Reggie Cooper, Canyon Ranch in Lenox; Nancy Fitzpatrick, The Fitzpatrick Companies; Beth Mitchell, Petricca Industries; Stan Rosen, Hampton Terrace Bed & Breakfast; Ellen Spear, Hancock Shaker Village; Karen Zink, Berkshire Gas Co.; and Michael Zivyak, Berkshire Living Magazine.

The goals of the project are to unify efforts of the four main entities; leverage the momentum of the ongoing projects and bring Berkshire business and civic leaders together to strategize, promote and implement initiatives for the strong, sustainable growth.

The partnership will also give the region greater clout for procurement and coordinate economic development, complementing Berkshire Regional Planning Commission and broad regional development efforts.

"Collaboration is essential to ensure a vibrant and prosperous Berkshire county," said state Sen. Benjamin Downing, who's been sounding that note for some time. "1Berkshire recognizes that and understands that scarce public resources need to be used efficiently and effectively to create jobs and grow the Berkshire economy."
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Regional Planning Commission Tackling County Housing Issue

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission is taking steps to address the ever-growing problem of housing that Berkshire County faces.

"What we have been hearing and learning is that housing is becoming increasingly a problem in Berkshire County," Executive Director Tom Matuszko said at Thursday's commission meeting. "And a problem for a number of different ways and a number of different venues."

BRPC has partnered with countywide economic development organization 1Berkshire to develop a regional housing strategy, a policy that will set the stage for solutions and legislative support. The commission's former director, Nathaniel Karns has agreed to take this project on and help shepherd it through the process.

Matuszko explained that a group of planners and other housing-related entities has been formed to develop the regional strategy. This group will dive into the issue of housing in Berkshire County and brainstorm solutions whether it be a legislative fix, additional funding, or another programmatic element from the state government.

This initiative is not just about affordable or subsidized housing, Matuszko said, because you have to have higher-end housing for those in the applicable income bracket to move into, which then frees up more affordable housing for another group.

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