PITTSFIELD — The state is taking a hands-on approach this summer to receiving input from businesses in the creative economy sector.

A statewide listening tour sponsored by the Massachusetts Creative Economy Council stopped in the Berkshires on Tuesday to give owners of businesses who work in that genre an opportunity to discuss the creative economy and its future in the commonwealth.

The Creative NEXT Tour is scheduled to make 21 stops across the state this summer. The idea behind the local stop, which took place at Interprint Inc., was to “better understand the climate you work in the Berkshires and what the creative economy (can do) better to help you,” said Berkshire Creative Director Jodi Joseph.

Massachusetts Creative Economic Industry director Helena Fruscio, Joseph’s predecessor at Berkshire Creative, said information gathered at the sessions will be compiled in a report to be presented to the state’s Creative Economy Council.

“I am here to support your business and to understand the struggles that your business goes through every day,” Fruscio said.

Participants in Tuesday’s event ranged from academic institutions to arts-oriented nonprofits to a few one-person operations.

Discussion focused mostly on the challenges that creative economy businesses in the Berkshires are faced with. Representatives of a few businesses said they were thinking about changing their business plans, while others said they were trying to find business models that worked in this area.

Leslie Ferrin, the owner of Ferrin Gallery in Pittsfield, said creative economy businesses in the Berkshires often operate on a “barter system” based on sales that is “not sustainable.”

“They’re sort of out of synch,” Ferrin said. “Two months of the year money is coming in, and for 10 months money is going out.”

Seth Nash, the owner of Blue Q in Pittsfield, which manufactures novelty items, said his business feels isolated in the Berkshires.

“I feel like we’re not even part of the local economy,” he said. “Everyone we deal with is out of the area.”

Blue Q has 40 employees, but Nash said he has trouble finding workers for his company who already reside in the Berkshires.

“When I go looking for employees I look for young people, and it’s hard to find young people,” in the Berkhires, he said. “There’s so few jobs here that young people like. And even if you do find a job, there’s very little to jump to.”


As originally published in North Adams Transcript

By Tony Dobrowolski, New England Newspapers