On Thursday, December 9, 2021, 1Berkshire held its 2021 Annual Meeting, virtually. With a focus on Building a Stronger Brand, over 135 attendees joined in real-time via Zoom to hear the 1Berkshire team provide a year in review.
Jonathan Butler, President and CEO of 1Berkshire, reported on the financials and the membership of 1Berkshire, stating that the membership is strong, with businesses from every sector, size, and regional geography participating in the narrative of the Berkshires.
“During 2021, we maintained direct contact with our members as communication was key during this difficult stretch in history. We’re fortunate to be an organization that was well equipped and had the existing channels to play a big role with that in the past 21 months,” stated Butler.
We changed our membership levels and membership rates to better serve our members, lowering our Core and Enhanced membership rates, and adding a Basic membership rate to allow businesses to have a digital footprint with 1Berkshire. Butler also stated, “The organization’s goal, always, is to keep as many businesses at the table as possible, as they are what gives our organization its voice.” With over 80,000 social media followers, 1Berkshire has used these platforms to communicate important information reopenings, pandemic recovery programs, as well as feature members’ events, services, and products.
And although 1Berkshire, like many other organizations, saw some difficult financial challenges this year, we were able to adapt and overcome by continuing to shift programming, marketing strategies, and business support systems to remain in a fiscally stable position, ensuring its future. Butler reported on the fiscal 2021 numbers, half of which were still greatly affected by the pandemic and resulting restrictions constraining many of our Berkshire businesses. More than 75% of the budget is raised via marketing programs and grant funding and around 25% of the $1.3 million in total income is brought in through membership and investors of 1Berkshire, which shows the continued commitment of our business supporters.
“Programs, including both 1berkshire.com and berkshires.org, and the extensive menu of print and digital advertising opportunities, along with our economic development programs, remain the backbone of 1Berkshire revenue,” Butler said during the presentation. The remainder of the income is made up from grants, events, and one-time federal programs through the CARES Act. These dollars were utilized in the marketing of the region, as well as the continued economic development initiatives and programs commissioned by 1Berkshire.
1Berkshire Director of Economic Development, Ben Lamb, provided an update on the Berkshire Blueprint 2.0 and the work of the August 2021 Summit. From the Summit, three themes emerged: DEI, housing, and childcare. Outdoor recreation has also been officially identified as an industry cluster for our region. Lamb reported that over 270 jobs have been posted to 1Berkshire’s jobs thing, surpassing 2019 job postings. The jobs thing will also be moving over to berkshires.org in 2022. With over 70 different events, workshops, and programs hosted, as well as over 230 consultations with emergent, existing, and transitioning businesses and entrepreneurs, the Berkshire economy is strong and on its way to recovering from the pandemic.
Vice President of Tourism and Marketing, Lindsey Schmid, provided some information from 1Berkshire’s most recent Visitor Perception Study. Highlights from the study include: the median age of our visitor is now 41 years, down from 52 just 7 years ago; 58.3% of our visitors are married; and 24% travel with children.
Schmid stated, “This survey and its results were able to quantify that indeed we are attracting a younger demographic to the region.” Further the research showed that out of all visitor activities, 89.6% participate in outdoor recreation, an increase of 143% over the 2013 visitor survey results. Other top activities include museums, historic sites, and performing arts. The complete 165-page report is available only to 1Berkshire members and can be accessed through the 1Berkshire Member Portal.
Schmid also reported that in 2021 public relations impressions were up 99% with 723 million impressions. Website impressions increased by 25% and social media had over 15 million impressions, along the various platforms 1Berkshire utilizes; the newest addition to the social media group is TikTok.
After not producing a printed The Official Guide to the Berkshires in 2020, the printed Guide returned in 2021 and was met with a warm response from the local community and our visitors. We saw requests for the printed guide in the first month match that of the first quarter in 2019. Schmid’s presentation concluded with information on the redesign of berkshires.org, which is scheduled to launch in the first quarter of 2022. Schmid teased the audience with a sneak peak of the new website with a video.
1Berkshire also announced some new initiatives for 2022 which included continuing to support regional diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, a Berkshire housing strategy, new features of the jobs thing tool, and the return of 1Berkshire’s premier programs. The Berkshire Leadership Program (BLP) will return in-person along with a revamped Youth Leadership Program (YLP).
During the business portion of the Annual Meeting, the membership accepted the Nominating Committee’s recommendation to add Brenda Burdick of General Dynamics to the Slate of Officers. Burdick will serve as Vice-Chair for one term joining the following officers who have one year left on their term: Danielle Gonzalez of Williams College (Chair), Mindi Morin of Canyon Ranch (Vice-Chair), Lori Kiely of Berkshire Bank (Treasurer), and C. Jeffrey Cook of Cohen Kinne Valicenti & Cook, LLP (Clerk).
The Annual Meeting also allowed 1Berkshire to thank outgoing Board Members Donna Palma (Adams Community Bank), Adam Davis (Shakespeare & Company), Jordan Brechenser (The Berkshire Eagle), Frank Reynolds (Berkshire Gas), and Marc Wilhelm (Wheatleigh) for their service to the 1Berkshire Alliance Board of Directors.
The membership renewed a term of three years for each of the following Directors: John Bissell (Greylock Federal Credit Union), Jerry Burke (Hillcrest Educational Centers), Danielle Gonzalez (Williams College), Riad Mahar (MLCC Properties, LLC), Vicki Saltzman (The Clark Art Institute), Betsy Strickler (Independent Consultant), and Colleen Taylor (Freight Yard Pub, Trail House Kitchen & Bar, and Craft Food Barn).
The membership voted in new Board Members Leigh Davis, Development Director of Construct; Michelle Lopez, Executive Director of the Berkshire Immigrant Center; Alfred Enchill, Owner of Elegant Stitches; Sue Kristjansson, President of Avangrid/Berkshire Gas; and, Barbara Guido, Senior VP of Retail Banking for Adams Community Bank. Each was approved to serve a term of three years.
1Berkshire Board Chair Danielle Gonzalez took the opportunity during her remarks to thank the 1Berkshire staff, board of directors, and the membership for their partnership and continued investment in our community. She also focused her comments on the resiliency of our region and the continued work ahead, which includes an expansive approach to economic development, creating a 1Berkshire Alliance Board that reflects the business community, a human-centered inclusive approach to our workforce, and leading with kindness and compassion.
Gonzalez stated, “As we strive to meet the diverse needs of our community, the 1Berkshire board has to reflect this work as well. As you saw in our new slate of directors, we have some new and important voices at the table to expand our knowledge and expertise.”
As we wrap up 2021, we thank you for your support and partnership this past year. Together, we have continued to make the Berkshires a premier and safe place to live, work, visit, and grow a business.
To view the 2021 Virtual Annual Meeting in its entirety, please click here.
Return to 1Berkshire news.