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1Berkshires' Benjamin Lamb and Jonathan Butler walked through the region's 'clusters,' identifying strengths and weaknesses.

1Berkshire Calls For 'New Narrative' of Berkshire Economy

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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Tyler Fairbank was an integral part of both the original blueprint and the new one.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Berkshire economy is growing, according to 1Berkshire.
 
The economic development agency said some $1 billion worth of investment has been made in the county in just the last three years. Now, the organization is asking the business community to embrace a "new narrative" of the county's economic future and has put forth Berkshire Blueprint 2.0, an economic development plan for future growth.
 
"We think it is time for a new narrative. When this project began many here in the county were working off the aging narrative that often referred to the best years of the Berkshires being in the past. The age of large scale, juggernaut manufacturers and robust downtowns that were the underpinnings of our landscape for 100 years," Butler said. 
 
"However, we've also been watching the evolution of something very different, some reflected in the region's new vibrancy, the resurgence of the downtowns, and growing diversification in this economy. In recent years many of us in economic development and business have suggested that there is a very new Berkshire narrative."
 
In 2007, a number of business leaders unveiled the first Berkshire Blueprint which specific areas of economic growth to build on. In the last two years, 1Berkshire has been revisiting and refreshing that report.
 
In a packed Colonial Theatre on Friday, the organization said the process revealed that there has been economic growth and set out an action plan for that to continue.
 
"It was an amazing body of work and it set the sails for an amazing amount of work and effort to begin and really to supercharge the next decade of economic expansion in the Berkshires," said Tyler Fairbank, who was one of the driving forces behind both the original effort and the newest revision.
 
The new report is similar to the original. It identifies five main clusters of strength that could be pillars of the Berkshires economy for years to come. Those are advanced manufacturing, the creative economy, food and agriculture, health care, and hospitality. The report outlines the strengths and weaknesses in each of those sections and updates the supporting data making that case.
 
"Investment in the Berkshires is a good bet, get on board. Now we need to leverage this new narrative to further expand and strengthen our economic ecosystem," Butler said.
 
1Berkshire Chairman John Bissell said every one of those clusters is growing. However, people have tended to focus on the negatives. He hopes the report confirms that there is economic growth happening.
 
"We've spent many years telling the story of GE and Sprague and seeing more bad news around the corner. But folks, it is time for a change. It is time to open our eyes, ears, and hearts to a new narrative of growth and possibility. Things can change, things do change. Berkshire County is growing," Bissell said.
 
Even giving such a speech from the stage of the Colonial represents a dramatic change. He said if those involved in the efforts to renovate the building had focused on the negatives then it would likely have been demolished and turned into a parking lot. Instead, they rebuilt the theater to become a piece of the economic puzzle. 
 
"Thousands of workers, business owners, and families and leaders have rebuilt the Berkshire economy, job by job, one investment at a time," Bissell said.
 
Mayor Linda Tyer, North Adams Mayor Thomas Bernard, and state Reps. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, John Barrett III, and Paul Mark all highlighted major investments that have been made in the county to echo that sentiment of growth. 
 
With the 80-page plan now released, 1Berkshire is calling on those in the business community to come together in support of it. The organization is hoping the whole business community will work collaboratively to hasten economic growth.
 
"The reality is we just need to keep working on it together," 1Berkshire Director of Economic Development Benjamin Lamb said. 
 

Mayor Linda Tyer was one of five elected officials to highlight major economic investments that have happened in the county recently.
State Sen. Adam Hinds said the report will also help bring in public funding to various projects in those clusters. He, too, echoed the sentiment that good things are on the horizon for the economy and the new report and collective effort will help make the case for the state to increase its investment in those areas for the Berkshires.
 
"I'm rather bullish on the Berkshire economy right now and let me tell you why. We certainly have some dampeners that we've been concerned about, things like transportation around the county and connecting to regional economic centers is not where it needs to be, our own connectivity with high-speed internet is not where it needs to be, concerns around workforce development making sure that pipeline is as effective and efficient as it can be, energy costs," Hinds said. 
 
"But with all of those that are deep concerns and motivating factors, we've also seen progress in the last couple years on several of these. We are now watching a process that will have every single town in Berkshire County lit up with high-speed internet by 2020, we not see a pilot train service that will connect us to New York City by 2020. We have the east-west rail study, a $1 million study that just got kicked off recently, connecting the Berkshires to Boston and a number of other initiatives that actually say we are chipping away at the concerns and challenges we face as a region."
 
Butler and Lamb outlined the action steps laid out in the report but said emerging clusters are invited into the effort. Butler said while the report may focus on those industries, there are always new areas that can be incorporated into the effort. Further, he said among those clusters is a lot of crossovers.
 
"This is a report that is living, growing, and evolving," Butler said. 
 
The full report is available below.
 

Berkshire Blueprint 2.0 by on Scribd


Tags: 1Berkshire,   blueprint,   economic development,   economic report,   

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Pittsfield at-Large City Councilor Candidates Answer Questions

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Candidate for the four a-large City Council seats participated in a forum Monday at Berkshire Community College as they made a push for votes before election day.
 
Seven candidates fielded questions at a forum hosted by BCC, in partnership with the Pittsfield Gazette and Pittsfield Community Television, which recorded the forum. The moderator was Shawn Serre, executive director of PCTV.
 
After some opening statements, the candidates were asked to pick a number that prompted a question. After three candidates answered the question the next candidate in line chose a new number. At the end of the session, candidates were given two minutes to answer questions they did not get or to expand on the answers they gave.
 
One of the first questions brought forward was about Mayor Linda Tyer's proposed home improvement plan that would have allowed qualified residents to apply for money from the Pittsfield Economic Development Fund to make small improvements to their homes.
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