Senate Candidate Conroy Shares Thoughts on the Berkshires
"You can very easily sit in an office as a U.S. Senate candidate and make phone calls to high-network individuals all day long and try to raise money for your campaign and be in and around the [Route] 128 area and never run into anybody who doesn't have a job," Conroy said sitting in a corner booth at Rita Marie's Ice Cream Shop on Thursday morning.
"You come out here to Western Massachusetts and you go to the towns and cities that I've visited, and again, you look at Fitchburg, Garner, Orange, Greenfield, North Adams and Adams, and you can see just how many jobs are missing from the region, how much people are desperate to get those kind of job opportunities. That's what I'm seeing. That's really helping me focus on jobs as the number one priority to my campaign."
The Wayland state representative's walk across the state brought him to the county Sunday night when he met with the North Adams Democratic City Committee. After nearly a week of talking with the local residents, Conroy said he learned a lot about the people here.
"We're here on the outskirts of Pittsfield and I talked to Fred right here behind me and I talked to Walter yesterday, both former GE employees and you had 13,000 middle-class jobs here in Pittsfield not that long ago and those are gone," Conroy said. "People are wondering what's going to be the next big middle-class opportunity? It may not come in Detroit with auto jobs, it's not going to be steelworker jobs, it's not going to be some of the classic middle-class jobs [that] have been resident here in manufacturing. If not that, then what?"
Before embarking on another busy day visiting businesses, the Chamber of Commerce and the Pittsfield School Committee, Conroy sat down at Rita Marie's for breakfast and to chat with anybody who walked through the door, always campaigning for a run against U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, a Wrentham Republican.
Conroy described the people he's met in the last week as "very grounded" and innovative in a county full of natural beauty.
"They don't get enough attention from Boston or from Washington, quite frankly, and I look at Western Massachusetts as an opportunity with people desperate for jobs, for companies that previously moved their jobs overseas to move them back to Western Mass. The costs of running a business here are a lot lower than they are in other places."
Bringing those jobs will be the focal point of his campaign. He wants to shift money from overseas and invest locally in infrastructure and forming public-private partnerships. He said he wants to encourage apprentice programs and create a "revolving account" where the government buys equity in life sciences and continues to invest in science. And all that needs to be centered around finding the "right" business leaders to keep the money in the state.
"Those are the jobs that can grow out here where there is a lot of innovation and creativity in Western Massachusetts," Conroy said.
While the creative economy has given the county a strong foundation, Conroy said he would like to see more light manufacturing and green jobs. Utility and health care costs are also on Conroy's radar.
"When you look at the art industry, certainly we're doing a lot in that area. You look at MCLA in North Adams and Mass MoCA and that's been a great partnership with the mayor's office. That helps, certainly, but I think we need more light manufacturing, more sophisticated manufacturing in the area," Conroy said. "You can do even more for the people that will create small businesses here and hire more people. Small businesses is where the action is in job growth. They're less likely to move overseas and more likely to hire locally."
Conroy is scheduled to be at the Lenox Farmers' Market on Friday from 3:30 to 4:30.