The mayor of North Adams says his city is strong and getting stronger.
Mayor Tom Bernard gave his second state of the city speech Thursday, saying North Adams is facing change with resiliency and innovation. Praising the city’s staff, public safety officials, schools, and sense of community, Bernard said North Adams’ collaborative spirit is the engine for its progress.
“And that’s why I stand here tonight to report with full confidence that the state of the city of North Adams is strong and getting stronger,” said the mayor.
Bernard pointed to private investment as evidence of rising tides in North Adams. He namechecked local developer David Moresi, who last year fully rented out the Norad Mill on the city’s west side.
“And whether you call it an innovation center, a business mall, or an entrepreneurial incubator, one thing is clear: David has found a formula for success,” said Berard.
Working his way down Route 2, Bernard also praised Greylock Works, the Tourists hotel, and the Trail House restaurant as “bringing renewed vitality to the west end of the city.”
Bernard drew attention to the city’s manufacturing economy, citing Crane Paper – which was recently acquired by Mohawk Paper – as well as Deerfield Machine and B&B Micromanufacturing, a small house company.
“And I’m proud that I recently helped to nurture the growth and expansion in our manufacturing sector by supporting a five-year tax increment financing deal with TOG manufacturing which recently was purchased by Stanley Black and Decker," said the mayor. "This came forward to the council back in December, and it’s a great deal for North Adams.”
Bernard says the deal includes $2.7 million in planned capital investment and 28 manufacturing jobs over the next several years.
He touted his efforts to make it easier to do business in the city’s downtown.
“Working with the Commonwealth’s Executive Office of Housing and Community Development, I fought to secure state and federal approval to designate two downtown census tracts as qualified opportunity zones," said Bernard. "This promising new program provides tax incentives to investors who direct capital gains into funds designed to support job creation and development projects like housing, the Extreme Model Railroad Museum, and the Hoosic River Revival.”
Bernard was careful to note the city’s relationships with county bodies like the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission and the Berkshire Innovation Center in Pittsfield. He also celebrated the Massachusetts College Of Liberal Arts’ role in North Adams, and acknowledged the impact of MASS MoCA.
“While MASS MoCA’s 250,000 annual visitors and estimated $51 million in economic impact are powerful statistics, they mask a persistent challenge that visitation numbers alone – impressive as they are – do not translate into robust downtown development,” said the mayor.
Bernard said North Adams needs to attract more businesses, make more market rate apartments available, and continue holding public events to bring life back to the city’s core. One downtown move he announced was about the Mohawk Theater.
“I will be coming to the city council at the next meeting seeking your support to declare the Mohawk Theater no longer needed for municipal purpose, which will enable me to work with staff in the office of community development to issue a request for proposals to identify interests and opportunities to privately redevelop the Mohawk into an asset that will anchor the next phase of downtown development,” said Bernard.
Noting the city’s ability to bring in grant money, Bernard – also chair of the school committee – praised public schools superintendent Barbara Malkas specifically for securing a $286,000 grant earlier in the week.
“And it’s going to support a collaboration between the North Adams Public Schools and Childcare of the Berkshires to strengthen access to affordable, high quality child care and preschool for our young people,” said the mayor.
Turning to public safety, Bernard continued to push for a new public safety building. He said that the police department continues to face the issues of domestic violence and the opioid epidemic, and said Berkshire County DA Andrea Harrington and the state police unit attached to her office were partners in both battles.
“The DA and I recognize what so many in our community also recognize: addiction is a disease," said Bernard. "This understanding is especially important in a small, close knit community like North Adams, where nearly every one of us knows someone struggling with their own addiction or that of a family member.”
Bernard drew a bead on one of the epidemic’s sources.
“Deceptive marketing by pharmaceutical companies leading to overprescription of legal opioids by physicians that too often create a cycle of dependency that ends up in the misuse of illegal narcotics," said the mayor. "That’s why I joined over 100 cities and towns in Massachusetts in signing on to the class action lawsuit that aims to hold the drug manufacturers responsible for their role in this epidemic.”
The mayor said he would deliver on a pledge to hold public conversations with constituents made at his last state of the city in 2018.
“Tonight, I’m announcing that I will be holding these meetings on the first Saturday of every month throughout the spring," said Bernard. "And this coffee and conversation series begins this Saturday, February 2nd, at 9 a.m. at the Empire Café on Main Street, with future meetings to be held at Brewhaha, the Uno Community Center, and the Greylock Apartment Community Room.”
Bernard closed out his speech with a return to a theme he hit on at MCLA’s Spring Opening Breakfast the week before.
“Yes, we’re the smallest city in terms of population," said Bernard. "But consider our influence: we are home to the largest contemporary art museum in the United States, and the greatest small public university in the country, and while I’m at it, let’s claim the best vocational high school in the commonwealth of Massachusetts."
You can hear the full address below.