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Berkshire County Planners Making List of Regional Economic Development Initiatives

Planners in Berkshire County are reaching out to organizations in the public and private sectors to request information on their upcoming economic development projects.

The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission is talking to private businesses, municipalities, non-profits, agencies, and others to collect data in order to update its Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy Priority Project List.

Nat Karns, Executive Director of the BRPC said the planners formed a committee and prepared a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy in 2011. He said having the strategy in place, which includes an updated list of ongoing or planned economic initiatives throughout the region, is an important tool to secure funding from the Federal Economic Development Agency.

“So you have to get into this process of preparing a CEDS…and then completing the annual reports to maintain the region’s eligibility to seek funding from them,” said Karns.

Karns added that it’s important to keep the list of ongoing and upcoming projects up to date and remove any projects from the CEDS that are completed or no longer in need of federal funding.  

“For instance when we wrote [the CEDS] two years ago, the MassBroadband 123 project was getting underway but wasn’t even remotely close to being accomplished yet,” said Karns.

Portions of the federally funded MassBroadband 123 fiber optic network were recently completed, with the rest scheduled for completion in the coming months.

On the other side, there are projects that weren’t on the list two years ago that should be included, and it’s also not just large public works projects like the MassBroadband 123 that should have their mention. Workforce training initiatives and other programs from the private sector are also being sought out for inclusion in the CEDS.

Mike Supranowicz, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of 1Berkshire, an economic development organization with partners including the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, the Berkshire Visitors Bureau, and Berkshire Creative, said that when the Federal Economic Development Agency is considering proposals for grant money, having a particular project on an updated CEDS looks more favorable and sends a message of accountability.

“So when the feds do release some dollars they feel good that those dollars are being spent in a way that has an impact on a community that a community has already weighed-in on,” said Supranowicz.

Supranowicz added that if a business or organization’s project is on the list it’s not a guarantee for funding, but it’s more advantageous than the alternative.

“If you’re not on the list you definitely won’t be funded,” said Supranowicz.

The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission has sent information packets to private and non-profit businesses, financial, and educational institutions throughout the county. Projects ranging in status from conceptual ideas to near construction/implementation are asked to be accounted for. The deadline for submission is May 24th.

For more information visit: http://www.berkshireplanning.org/major-initiatives/berkshire-comprehensive-economic-development-strategy-ceds/

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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