Finalists Announced for Lever's Mohawk Trail Entrepreneur Challenge

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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Five entrepreneurs have been selected as finalists for Lever's Mohawk Trail Entrepreneur Challenge, which focuses on regional, woodland-based business models designed to create jobs and spur economic activity in the Mohawk Trail region. 


Over the next few weeks, these business owners will work with Lever to refine their business plans and goals. The winner will receive a $25,000 award to advance their business at the final Challenge pitch event on March 11. 


About the finalists


Berkshire Bike Tours, Luke Toritto

Charlemont-based Berkshire Bike Tours will provide guided mountain and road bike tours. Cross-country mountain biking and lift-accessed mountain biking will take place exclusively on Berkshire East/Schaefer property. Road tours will go through the Berkshires, the upper Pioneer Valley, and Southern Vermont.


Adventure East, Brian Pearson

Adventure East brings the experienced eye of luxury eco-tourism leaders to our backyard. The core of its business model is a membership club to ensure a consistent year-round draw to the region, including through partnerships with nonprofit organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club in order to increase equitable access to the outdoors. 


VacationLand, Patrick and Katie Banks

Foolhardy Hill is an off-grid campground being developed in Charlemont. Foolhardy Hill aims to be the ultimate base camp for outdoor enthusiasts. Guests will have access to mountain biking, white water rafting, kayaking, fly-fishing, zip-lining, and hiking within a 3-mile radius. Guests that venture out a few miles further will be immersed in museums, historical landmarks, local eateries, unique shops, concert venues, and more.


Wigwam Western Summit, Lea King

Based in North Adams, the Wigwam Western Summit's core product is the "Wigwam Experience.” With the tagline "Cabins, Cars and Coffee," the Wigwam's owners  were successful at launching antique car shows on Saturday mornings during fall foliage in 2019. The Wigwam is currently a seasonal coffeehouse (May-October) with four cabins, and was fully booked in 2020 by tourists escaping the city life (most from New York, New Jersey, Boston, Connecticut) for a connection with nature. The Wigwam is planning to develop a curated "Wigwam Woodland Experience" with new accommodations, woodland art installations, workshops, and the option to book other Berkshire experiences.


Remote Harvest Sensors, Dave Eve

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts professor Dave Eve, who co-owns a woodland in Conway, has developed a turbidity sensor that can be installed near watersheds and within small ecosystems to monitor erosion control during wood harvesting operations.


Lever has organized more than 15 previous challenges, working with a wide range of business models, and has supported more than 80 entrepreneurs whose companies have created dozens of jobs in the region. 


Funding for the Mohawk Trail Entrepreneur Challenge comes from the Baker-Polito Administration. To mark Climate Week in the Commonwealth, $225,000 in total grant funding was awarded to Lever and eight municipalities in the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership (MWTP) region, with $65,000 going to Lever for this Challenge. Applications were accepted from businesses located in the MWTP region partner towns of Adams, Ashfield, Charlemont, Cheshire, Clarksburg, Conway, Heath, Leyden, Monroe, New Ashford, North Adams, Rowe, Shelburne, Peru, Windsor, and Williamstown. To apply, existing businesses had to be less than one year old with less than $500,000 in annual revenue. 


The MTWP, a grassroots-led program based on conserving forests and supporting their sustainable management in order to advance economic development in rural MA communities along the Vermont and New York border, provides funding to assist 16 member towns in the Commonwealth's most rural and forested region to plan for the care of forests in the face of climate change, prepare forest offset projects, and improve nature-based tourism.


About Lever

Founded in 2014, Lever is an economic development non-profit focused on innovation-driven job creation. Lever supports entrepreneurs with startup expertise, an investment fund, research, mentors, and access to talent. Lever has helped launch dozens of companies that have attracted more than $10 million in equity investment and have created more than 200 jobs. Lever supports existing companies by helping their intrapreneurs “innovate from within” using proven entrepreneurial methods for top-line revenue growth and job creation. Learn more at

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Baker-Polito Administration Files $45.6B Fiscal 2022 Budget Proposal

BOSTON — The Baker-Polito administration on Wednesday filed its fiscal year 2022 budget recommendation, a $45.6 billion proposal that continues the administration's response to the COVID-19 pandemic and addresses critical priorities including promoting economic growth, fully funding the first year of the landmark Student Opportunity Act, and supporting cities and towns across Massachusetts.
This balanced proposal does not raise taxes on the commonwealth's residents and preserves substantial financial reserves for the future, according to the administration.
Submitted as House 1, this budget recommendation provides $246.3 million in new funding for the Student Opportunity Act including an increase of $197.7 million in Chapter 70 funding, with a particular focus on school districts serving low-income students. The administration is also proposing to allow municipalities to count $114 million in federal dollars toward their Chapter 70 required local contribution increases to further deliver on the commitments in the Student Opportunity Act. Additionally, House 1 maintains the administration's promise to cities and towns with a $39.5 million increase in unrestricted local aid, which is equivalent to the 3.5 percent consensus tax revenue growth rate.
"We are proud to submit a fiscal year 2022 budget proposal that despite the challenges of the pandemic, invests in economic growth and fully funds the first year of the landmark Student Opportunity Act — all without raising taxes on the commonwealth's residents," said Gov. Charlie Baker. "This balanced budget proposal allows the commonwealth to respond to the pandemic and promote our recovery, while investing in key priorities such as education, health care, substance misuse, and racial equality and diversity. We look forward to working closely with the Legislature to adopt a full spending plan for FY22."
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