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MA Taps Berkshire Creative To Lead Region's Innovative Economy

Jim Levulis
Credit Jim Levulis / WAMC
Secretary Bialecki also announced the state added 55,000 jobs over the past year—the majority in the greater Boston area. He says that marks the most jobs added in any year since 2000.

Massachusetts has named the Berkshire organization designated as part of the commonwealth’s Creative Economy Network.

Massachusetts Housing and Economic Development Secretary Greg Bialecki announced Berkshire Creative as the lead organization for the Berkshire region. Bialecki says state government will continue to serve as a partner to support innovative industries.

“What we’re focused on here is a very important part of the innovation economy,” Bialecki said. That’s a sweet spot for us and that’s where we will continue to focus.”

The state’s Creative Economy Director Helena Fruscio, a Berkshire native and former director of Berkshire Creative, says the innovative economy employs more than 120,000 across the state. She says the designation allows Berkshire Creative to tap into a toolbox of best practices so groups and individuals associated with the network can increase their business development, visibility and access to talent and capital grants. Berkshire Creative, she says, is a model for those best practices while other regions are building their innovative economies from the ground up.

“As we’re recruiting from the state-wide level and as I’m thinking about who has their act together as far as the creative economy goes, I do get those random calls of ‘where should we go? How does this work?’ I’m going to be more apt to be working with those areas that are part of this network,” explained Fruscio.

Established in 2007, Berkshire Creative partners with the county’s leading economic development agency 1Berkshire, employing more than 6,000 people in the county across roughly 40 member organizations. Julia Dixon is the manager of Berkshire Creative.

“$62 million flows into the local creative economy and the local economy annually from arts and culture non-profits alone,” Dixon said. “In other words, creativity means business. Business means jobs and visitors. Residents and visitors mean economic growth and sustainability for the entire region as well as the commonwealth.”

The state’s Creative Economy Network was set up last summer to boost growth in industries such as video game companies, cultural non-profits, along with design, marketing and architecture firms. It also works to assist individual authors, architects, movie directors, artists and musicians. Secretary Bialecki also announced the state added 55,000 jobs over the past year—the majority in the greater Boston area. He says that marks the most jobs added in any year since 2000.

“There’s been sort of an image that if things start cranking in greater Boston they will spill out across the state,” Bialecki said. “I think what we’ve learned over the last seven years is that that is kind of a superficial way to look at it. The truth is you ought to look at this region on its own.”

To attract growth, Bialecki says western Massachusetts can sell and market itself on its lower cost of living, available manufacturing space and willingness to cooperate with other businesses. An example of that is the company that will be selected to manufacture MBTA rail cars. Bialecki says all of those who have expressed interest in the state contract have been looking at sites in the four western counties.

“It is simply the most sensible place to put a facility like that,” said Bialecki.

The state isn’t expected to award a contract for MBTA car production until January 2015. Berkshire Creative and the Springfield-based Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts join the Creative Economy Association of the North Shore as three of the six regional organizations designated. The Cape Cod Chamber, the Metro-South Chamber and the 495/MetroWest Corridor Partnership will officially be designated later this spring.

Jim is WAMC’s Associate News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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