The Lenox native will put his sales and marketing experience to use in efforts to grow the city's economy.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — When it comes to growing and attracting businesses to the city, Michael Coakley is the guy you want to talk to.
Coakley was announced on Monday as the city's first-ever business development manager. The job is newly created through a partnership between the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority, Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Corp., and the city to serve as a one-stop shop for businesses to access incentives, information, and assistance with growing in the city.
"We have come together to break down economic development silos and Michael will be serving as our quarterback in all of the work we are doing to transform the way we support businesses, both those that are here now and are growing and expanding and businesses we hope to bring to Pittsfield," Mayor Linda Tyer said.
PERC and PEDA had both lost key personnel in the last year and, with the city, banded together to pitch in equal amounts of money toward the position. The three groups then had representatives narrow 29 applications to seven, and then down to two.
Eventually, the Lenox native Coakley won the job.
"The moment he walked in the door and delivered his ideas on how we can grow the city of Pittsfield, I knew instantly he was certainly going to be a force to be reckoned with," said Christina Wynn, who represented PEDA on the search committee.
Coakley hails from Lenox but spent much of his youth playing sports in Pittsfield. He graduated Taconic High School and then went on to Williams College, where he earned his bachelor's degree in history. After graduation, he took a job with Mass Mutual before heading to Northeastern University for his master's degree in business.
From there, he spent decades working in sales in marketing. He's worked with companies like Kraft Foods and Maxwell House Coffee in marketing. He assisted other companies such as Nabisco and Palmolive with marketing plans. When he got married in 1996, he decided to return home to the Berkshires.
"We decided to move back to the Berkshires. We thought this was a great place to live, work, and raise a family. We've been back here for about 20 years now," Coakley said.
He took a job with the Lenox-based Winstanley Partners, where he worked with clients such as Spalding, Smith & Wesson, Reebok, and Polar Beverages on a national scale and local companies like Lyon Aviation and Scarafoni Associates. He has been with Winstanley for more than two decades and is currently the vice president of account services
"I have experience working with large companies, smaller companies, and everything in between," Coakley said.
Coakley says the sales and marketing background will transition well into the new role. He's has a long experience building relationships with companies and will be able to revamp the marketing plans to help convince those outside to look at moving to the city.
"I think companies had a tough time figuring out what was available as far economic incentives, and who to talk to," Coakley said. "Now I will be the contact that companies can talk to help streamline the process."
As for attracting businesses, he gave an example. He said in Springfield CRRC, which build rail cars for numerous cities throughout the country, is spending millions on a facility. He wants to find out who is supplying the materials and to see if they would want to open a site in Pittsfield. Those are the type of opportunities he'd be looking track down for Pittsfield.
But the former member of the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce will also be there to help provide any incentives and assistance for local companies to expand.
"I really do see this as a team effort, not just between the city, PERC, and PEDA but all of the companies around. We are all working toward the same goal," Coakley said.
Tyer is particularly looking at Coakley's ability to reach out to current businesses to make sure they know all of the incentives the three organizations provide to attract businesses are also available to those here now as well.
"I believe strongly that the strength of our economy lies with supporting those businesses that are here now, employing people, contributing to the economy, paying taxes, providing new products, moving into a new marketplace. I think that is a very key strategy to our economic development plan," Tyer said.
She added that Coakley's sales and marketing background brings a piece of the economic development strategy that was missing.
"We needed, to advance the work we are doing, to find someone who had lots of experience in sales and marketing so we can elevate the work we are doing around economic development. We knew that there was a gap in rounding out this set of strategies and sales and marketing is a key component to what we were looking for in the candidates we sought to bring on board," Tyer said.
Tyer had recently developed what she calls the "red carpet team" of representatives from various economic development agencies. Coakley will now serve as the head of that effort and coordinate all of the various the efforts in a more efficient manner.
"If we don't think differently about how evolve our economy here in Pittsfield, we are just going to get the same results. This is a real shift in the way we think about economic development and the way we partner around these strategies," Tyer said.
At the William Stanley Business Park, Wynn said PEDA has received numerous interested developers over the years. When the park isn't right for that developer, she said there could be other areas in the city that do work. But in the past, the developer would have to go through another agency altogether in order to see those properties and incentives.
"There are some challenges but there are also some bright spots [with the William Stanley Business Park]. When we think about the attention we've received over the years from developers, that is a real opportunity for Mike," Wynn said.
She particularly cited work he do to not only get the Berkshire Innovation Center under construction but to attract companies to develop alongside it. Coakley himself mentioned advanced manufacturing as being a type of industry he'd be looking to recruit to the city.
Mark McKenna, of PERC, agreed that the partnership will benefit all parties.
Coakley was announced as the new manager by Mark McKenna, from PERC, Mayor Linda Tyer, and Christina Wynn, from PEDA.
"I'm looking forward to PEDA, PERC, and the city working together with Mike and bringing new businesses to Berkshire County and Pittsfield," McKenna said
Another aspect of Coakley that stood out is that he is local. His family goes back generations and he has been back living and working in the area for 20 years. Wynn said economic development takes time and is happy to find a candidate who has no plans to leave immediately.
"He has a long history of being here in Berkshire County and has a background in sales, which is incredibly helpful for this kind of role and developing relationships with businesses," Wynn said.
Despite sharing the position, Tyer said that PERC and PEDA will still remain autonomous agencies. Coakley's time isn't going to be split up between the three by an hourly basis, but he will work for all three. Tyer said the partnership isn't the start of merging the three agencies, but she didn't rule it out in the future.
"I believe that is a potential in the long run, but that is not the strategy at the moment. I view the three of us as partners in economic development," Tyer said.
Coakley, who will have an office in City Hall, said is first task will be meeting with local business leaders, commercial property owners, and government officials to start building relationships.
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