Spring 2022 has been exciting and productive for the 1Berkshire Economic Development Team. We are proud to be instrumental in bringing forth awareness of critical community issues, and in providing opportunities for residents and businesses to reach new levels of growth and excellence. Read on for details!
The Tech Impact Collaborative, an ongoing collaboration of 1Berkshire, the Berkshire Innovation Center (BIC), and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at BCC, is excited to share the successful completion of their initial two phases of work to grow a more inclusive digital and tech-enabled economy in the Berkshires. This collaborative of three organizations, initially formed in 2020, has held over a dozen classes, workshops, webinars, and panels through the OLLI platform, engaging more than 1,000 individuals across the Berkshires and beyond. Learn more here.
Initial BerkshiresCanCode Program Launched
BerkshiresCanCode, which represents a close collaboration between nonprofit CanCode Communities, educational partner Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, and community partners Berkshire Innovation Center and 1Berkshire, is offering its first course – Front-End Web Development. BerkshiresCanCode delivers programs that train and upskill non-traditional talent for tech career opportunities, assisting employers by developing a pool of highly-skilled software coders, developers, and engineers. Registration is now open for the 12-week course, which starts on May 10 and runs through July 28. Learn more here.
1Berkshire Starts Entrepreneurial Material Translation Project
1Berkshire has begun to collect materials and resources in the region focused on entrepreneurial resources and guidance, to then have them translated into Spanish. This effort, in partnership with the Berkshire Immigrant Center and Berkshire Language Management, aims to help increase the accessibility of key information, resources, and marketing materials for Spanish-speaking businesses and entrepreneurs in the region. Our immigrant population was the most rapidly-growing population in the region, increasing by over 25% in the 10 years between 2007 and 2017, and national trends indicate that immigrants are some of the most motivated and active communities of entrepreneurs and small business owners. 1Berkshire has been actively working with the Berkshire Immigrant Center to navigate opportunities and resources to support the needs of this critical group in our region. Learn more here.
A Housing Vision for the Berkshires
1Berkshire, in partnership with the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission (BRPC) and with support of a broad working group comprising housing practitioners from throughout Berkshire County, has announced the launch of A Housing Vision for the Berkshires, a regional strategy intended to lead more intentional efforts to address the current housing crisis. Housing was identified as a key cross-cutting theme in 2019’s Berkshire Blueprint 2.0, with large supply gaps identified for quality, affordable, and proximal housing for those seeking to live and work in the region. A Housing Vision for the Berkshires is intended to act as a phase one to begin addressing systemic challenges in housing development. Learn more here
1Berkshire Welcomes 2022-2023 Youth Leadership Class to Newly-Updated Program
1Berkshire has welcomed its 12th class into the updated and relaunched Berkshire Youth Leadership Program! This group of 31 rising high school juniors from across the Berkshires were selected through a competitive application process to begin a year-long leadership development program that kicks off in June 2022 with a three-day, three-night retreat to be held at the newly-renovated Camp Arrow Wood. This year’s class brings a wide breadth of experiences, backgrounds, and potential to the program. The 1Berkshire Youth Leadership Program is focused on helping students in our region develop and grow through career opportunity awareness, leadership skill development, and the design and completion of a 10-month-long collective-impact project focused on positively impacting the Berkshires. Learn more here.
1Berkshire Launches GoFundU Crowdfunding Essentials Series
1Berkshire, in partnership with the Berkshire Innovation Center, and with the financial support of Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Corporation (PERC) and Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation (MGCC), held a brand new workshop series, GoFundU. GoFundU was a free, 5-week intensive series. For 2 hours per week, the workshops focused on providing the essential background, information, and guidance needed for entrepreneurs to start, grow, or create resilience for their small businesses through the use of crowdfunding opportunities. Learn more here.
Late this winter and into the Spring, the Economic Development Team has continued to partner with small businesses in the Berkshires to host Entrepreneurial Meetups. These events offer networking opportunities for current and aspiring entrepreneurs as well as the platform for the host business owner to share their experiences and promote their businesses. In February, Liam Gorman of CozQuest in Pittsfield hosted a virtual meetup over Zoom to discuss launching a tech-based business during the pandemic. In March, attendees enjoyed a tour of the lush greenhouse at Ward’s Nursery & Garden Center in Great Barrington as Greg Ward shared his experience operating a family business. In April, entrepreneurs heard from Isa Ali of Juice N’ Java in Dalton about being a third-generation entrepreneur who has taken over his family’s business. Entrepreneurial Meetups are open to existing business owners and anyone who has an idea for a business. Learn more here.
1Berkshire Supports Entrepreneurship in the Berkshires
1Berkshire offers free 30-60 minute consultations for entrepreneurs, business owners, and anyone looking to bring an idea to fruition. Need to learn about channeling your skills or accessing resources? Whether seasoned or just beginning to explore, these sit-downs with our Econ Dev team can help you advance goals, tackle obstacles, and game out pivots, expansions, or the rollout of new goods and services. Learn more here.
Berkshire Economic Recovery Project Technical Assistance Program
1Berkshire launched the Spring 2022 Berkshire Economic Recover Project (BERP) Technical Assistance Program, a cohort-based technical assistance series for small businesses and organizations located in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. Each cohort is capped at seven businesses per class, with that cohort going through a 2-hour initial workshop together, followed by required independent work, and then concluding with up to two hours of free one-on-one technical assistance provided by the cohort TA provider. This process is meant to provide each business the key structural guidance and individualized support to help them recover, rebound, and become more resilient in our current economic landscape. This program is ongoing, and includes the first fully-Spanish speaking cohort. Learn more here.
“Best Foot Forward” Facade Improvement Micro-Grant Program
Earlier this month, 1Berkshire announced the launch of a pilot micro-grant program to support downtown business facade improvements throughout the region going into the summer season of 2022. Funded through a one-time grant received by 1Berkshire, at least 30 micro-grants ranging from between $500 and $1,000 will be made available to small for-profit and non-profit businesses and organizations located in downtown business districts across the Berkshires. Funding is focused on providing these businesses and organizations small injections of capital that will help them execute non-construction facade improvements, such as awning repairs, updated signage, trim painting, window washing, power washing of entryways, hanging plants, outdoor seating, and window lighting. Through these improvements, not only will our small businesses be able to put their best foot forward during the busy visitor season, but the overall aesthetics of our downtowns will be improved. Learn more here.