Vol. IV No. 6 3/15/2023
Berkshire Regional Planning Commission's Comprehensive Economic Development Plan (CEDS)
by Christine Rasmussen
Living in the Berkshires, we're dependent on neighboring towns to provide services for our well-being, like food and drug stores, medical professions, etc., so working region-wide while honoring home rule on economic development makes good sense. The strategy lifts all boats in a county with a median household income in 2019 of $59,230, a statistic that continues to lag the U.S. figure ($65,712) and the state figure ($81,215) and per capita income for Berkshire County in 2019 of $35,616, compared with $46,241 for the state.
After working diligently for ten years, Berkshire Regional Planning Commission (BRPC) received designation from the federal Economic Development Administration in January of 2022, establishing the county as an Economic Development District (EDD). This designation recognizes the region's enthusiasm for and competence in collaborating around economic development work and innovation-driven economic growth.
Over the last year, BRPC brought together a diverse group of business, non-profit, and community leaders to develop a broad-based vision for a more robust economic future for the county. The plan, called the Berkshire County Comprehensive Economic Development Plan (CEDS) for 2023-2027, focuses on three themes: People, Community, and Economy, with goals that will serve as the framework for prioritizing Economic Development efforts in the region over the next five years:
1. Healthy People - Foster the well-being of all residents by ensuring affordable and equitable access to food, housing, education, and healthcare.
2. Resilient Communities - Equip our municipalities to serve their constituents, steward resources and manage governance effectively.
3. Future-Ready Workforce - Prepare our workforce through a lifespan approach to education, training, upskilling, and career versatility.
4. Strong Business Environment - Provide a streamlined ecosystem of support for a diverse range of businesses through access to capital, technical assistance, and expansion opportunities.
5. Robust Infrastructure - Prioritize improvements to critical economic prosperity and resilience elements, including transportation, utilities, and communications.
Pursuit of these goals are a shared responsibility of economic development practitioners, business owners, and municipal leaders alike. Stockbridge's Board of Selectmen and Agriculture and Forestry Commission are already working on the first goal of improving access to food by building on our "brand identity" with a rich agricultural tradition, historic properties, and outdoor recreational activities enhancing the lives of residents and visitors by exploring the creation of a farmers' market this summer.
Editor's note: Christine is the Stockbridge Board of Selectmen's delegate to BRPC.
Photo: Lionel Delevingne