By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff
04:45PM / Tuesday, February 05, 2013

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A group of business and civic leaders are hoping to increase the chance of projects getting federal Economic Development Administration funding.

An 18-member committee formed to create a countywide Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy is considering taking its work a step further.

The strategy allows developers to apply for EDA funding. Forming another operating group and designating portions of the county as “economic development districts,” however, will greatly increase chances that projects in those zones get funding as well as provide about $70,000 a year to the new group for economic planning.

BRPC Executive Director Nathaniel Karns said there are five other districts in the state and creating one here would reel in planning funds and money for maybe one project a year. Those dollars could be helpful — particularly if the proposed committee works in partnership with already operating economic development organizations.

A countywide committee requires an intergovernmental agreement among the municipalities, that it be established under a state-recognized planning organization and be not for profit. The board must contain one representative from the private sector, at least 35 percent of its membership must be from labor groups, postsecondary education, the head of the local chamber of commerce or other workforce development group and the majority must be elected officials.

BRPC fits the intergovernmental agreement and state-recognized planning requirements and CEDs represents mostly private sector so neither of those could simply serve as that authority alone. But, Karns said a possible partnership with 1Berkshire could mesh those pieces together.

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