PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Leaders of the 1Berkshire Strategic Alliance say the benefits of collaboration under one roof are beginning to take shape some six months after the coalition of local economic development organizations moved into its headquarters in the downtown Central Station building.
Directors and staff of the collective 1Berkshire were on hand Wednesday for two open house periods, with some representatives from the large base of Chamber and Visitors Bureau member businesses and nonprofits stopping in to tour the facilities and hear more about what the umbrella group is doing to forward tourism and other economic development in the region.
The building, bequeathed to the partnership by Berkshire Bank, now contains offices for the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, the Berkshire Visitors Bureau, Berkshire Creative, the Berkshire Regional Employment Board, MassDevelopment, and the Berkshire Film & Media Commission, all of whom have settled in since May of this year.
“It really makes it a kind of one-stop shop for economic development,” said Berkshire Chamber Project Assistant Darci Toomey, who was hired last summer to provide support functions for both Chamber business and the overall 1Berkshire agenda.
In addition to offices for these organizations, 1Berkshire’s building includes a wide variety of small conference spaces available for hosting its own meetings and seminars, as well as for rental to member and non-members organizations beginning at $25 and $100 respectively.
“We’re very rich with meeting space here,” said Toomey, walking visitors through its boardroom, conference room and a classroom-style room called the Learning Center, with capacities ranging from 16 to 35 people.
Jodi Joseph, director of Berkshire Creative, pointed to a recent meeting of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation it had been able to host earlier this week as a typical example of how the meeting space is being utilized at present. “I think each of our various constituencies were represented there.”
“When we first started talking about this, everybody kind of assumed that it was all the same people,” said BVB Director Lauri Klefos of the Chamber and Bureau, who said out of about 1,200 members in the Chamber and 800 in the Bureau, there is only about 10 percent overlap in membership. “It’s not where we intersect, it’s where our circles don’t intersect that to me is the exciting part of what we’re doing.”
“It’s definitely making life easier,” said Berkshire Visitors Bureau Marketing Director Lindsey Schmid, who is now part of a combined marketing team between the groups that meets regularly to collaborate strategies for selling the region.
1Berkshire leaders say the increased collaboration is allowing them to begin looking ahead to the next steps, which include working on broader-based economic development and attraction of commercial interest, including support and coordination with such entities as the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority which oversees the struggling William Stanley Business Park.
“One of the biggest accomplishments of 1Berkshire is that it was certified by the state as the official regional economic development office [for the county],” said Klefos, who described the group as the “next generation of the old BEDC [Berkshire Economic Development Corp.]. “Economic development is a big part of what we’re doing.”
Originally published on iBerkshires.com on October 4, 2012
by Joe Durwin