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Jesse Cook-Dubin and Cheryl Mirer give the annual Downtown Pittsfield Inc. report to the City Council.

Downtown Pittsfield Reports Positive Downtown Business Environment

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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Executive Director Cheryl Mirer discusses the heart of the Berkshires marketing campaign the organization rolled out to help downtown businesses. 
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Downtown Pittsfield Inc. reported to the City Council last week that it had another positive year.
President Jesse Cook-Dubin said while the ebb and flow of the business cycle had seen some businesses leave downtown, the downtown also welcomed a number of new ones and have retained some. 
"The trend for the last many years has been largely to the positive," Cook-Dubin told the council on Tuesday.
Executive Director Cheryl Mirer highlighted places like Township Four, Framework, Thistle and Mirth, and Hotel on North that have become stable businesses in the city's downtown. Hotel on North has grown from having 679 visitors to having 1,160 already on the books for 2019. She said the hotel has become a wedding designation and bus tours have now added it to the route, and there are now 12 buses contracted to bring guests there in the next two years.
"Things are looking up for downtown," Mirer said.
Downtown Pittsfield is there to help merchants. Mirer highlighted efforts like a social media marketing class the organization has begun providing for merchants and marketing campaigns. The organization is also holding membership forums and partnering in events to bring more people downtown.
"We've got great energy among downtown businesses right now," Mirer said of the 200 or so businesses that are members.
In July of last year, the organization rolled out the Heart of the Berkshires tool kit that is coordinated marketing materials for the city's downtown businesses.
Each month the organization has been holding events with the membership to discuss issues. In August, the organization met with business owners at the Marketplace Cafe and in September, they all took a tour of Hotel on North. In October, there was an "idea jam" at Framework and the next month the members gathered to go over benefits to make sure all of the businesses were getting what they paid for. In December they had a holiday party and in January was another coffee meeting at Dottie's to discuss marketing the downtown. In February, the group joined in a networking event with 1Berkshire.
Meanwhile, Downtown Pittsfield has ramped up its marketing on social media. The organization created a Heart of the Berkshires hashtag on Instagram that had some 1,071 posts. The organization's Facebook has grown to 3,024 likes, up from 791 more than a year ago. 
"We are doing this primarily without running Facebook ads," Mirer said, adding that the organization paid for Facebook ads for only two events — Small Business Saturday and the downtown holiday frolic.
In May, the businesses will team up to clean up the downtown, an annual event. 
Meanwhile, the organization has continued with the ambassador program. It was established a few years back in response to a call for more downtown police. What evolved from that push was a partnership between Downtown Pittsfield and the Police Department to put more eyes and ears on the street.
Those in the program are trained and equipped with police radios to easily call in anything they see during their shift. They are trained in CPR and also serve a role in helping people with parking meters and wayfinding, and offering recommendations. 
"Our members love this program, they want the ambassadors out on the street," Mirer said.
Mirer said the organization is still looking for sponsors to continue the program. And the organization needs more ambassadors. It is a paid position but Mirer said it can be difficult to keep people on.
"We did have some trouble keeping folks once they realize they had to walk nine miles per shift," she said.
The City Council pushed the organization to reach out to Berkshire Community College to help find people to serve in the role. The college used to have its criminal justice program participate but that program went through a change and the ambassador program is no longer part of it.

Tags: Downtown Pittsfield,   

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