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Berkshire native, "creative economy" director appointed to statewide economic development post

By Patrick Donges

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wamc/local-wamc-987487.mp3

North Adams, MA – Thursday, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development announced that Helena Fruscio, director of the Berkshire Creative Economy Council, known as Berkshire Creative, will take the position of Creative Economy Industry Director of the Commonwealth beginning Oct. 24.

Fruscio has been involved with advancing what has been referred to as the "creative economy" of the Berkshires since she started with Berkshire Creative in 2007. She has been the organization's director since 2009; Kevin Sprague is creative director of Lenox-based media marketing firm Studio Two and board chair of Berkshire Creative.

"The appointment is significant recognition of the work that Helena Fruscio has done in her role as executive director of Berkshire Creative. She's been a terrific leader. She's really developed something that was only an idea into a full fledged movement."

"So I think that it's extremely appropriate for her to move up to the state level and show that leadership there because I think ultimately it will reflect well back to the Berkshires as the place where the creative economy truly is a vibrant force."

Jonathan Secor, director of special programs at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and the Berkshire Cultural Resource Center, agreed that the appointment was a well deserved boost to the entire county.

"Helena went through MCLA'S Berkshire Hills Internship Program (BEHIP) and her internship was at the fledgling Berkshire Creative, so to be able to go from there to the statehouse is a true testament to a lot of the work that a lot of the people are doing here in the Berkshires."

Fruscio said that her experience in that program and directing Berkshire Creative paved the way for her appointment to the state position.

"That program was invaluable to my development. Berkshire Creative really developed a model for how creative economy work happens, so that experience has really been invaluable to the development of this industry regionally, but I see it as a one-to-one scalable experience to bring that experience to the state."

When asked whether he thought the appointment would result in more state resources for the Berkshires, Sprague said he didn't expect a monetary windfall, but said that having an agency executive from the Berkshires may affect the way other agencies approach statewide funding.

"I doubt they'll be an overt, 'oh, well she came from the Berkshires therefore let's send the Berkshires more resources.'"

"On the other hand, I think that the Berkshires is a place where the creative economy is a very important part of our regional job creation, job retention, and economic activity. It will bring focus probably to other offices in the state (that) are charged with the health of our region to pay more attention to us from that perspective."

Secor said Fruscio would be representing the culture of the Berkshires and the creative economy, a set of ideals that some of those in Boston may have never been exposed to.

"She comes from a place where people get it, and she's going to a place where not everyone gets it yet. To be able to take the sensibilities around the creative economy to Beacon Hill is great."

Fruscio said her first order of business in the new position will be identifying the creative economy sectors in regions across the state to determine where connections can be made to further statewide creative economic development.

"Worchester probably does it different than they do it here. What I'm really interested (in) first is understanding who's doing the work of the creative economy on the state level."

"And I'm brining the Berkshires with me; this is where I'm from, it's my main point of reference, and I'm really excited about bringing that component to the work on the state."

"I'm definitely ready."