The U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) has approved Berkshire Regional Planning Commission’s request for designation as an Economic Development District (EDD). District designation recognizes the region’s demonstrated enthusiasm and competence in partnering with EDA to pursue the mutually held goals of regionally collaborative economic development work and innovation-driven economic growth. It also serves as the foundation for future economic successes that will benefit both families and businesses in the region.
The interdependence of a region helps to elevate its geographic proximity to one that justifies a District designation. “On a daily basis, Berkshire residents travel throughout the County to work, learn, shop, dine, and visit friends and family,” said BRPC Executive Director Tom Matuszko. “This creates a tightly knit network of economic and personal interactions that extends over a much larger area than any single town.”
Designations are reserved for regions with an EDA-approved Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). Berkshire Regional Planning Commission coordinates the development and updating of Berkshire County’s CEDS on a five-year cycle, in partnership with a CEDS Strategy Committee. The current approved strategy spans 2017 through 2022, and the 2023-2027 CEDS will be developed this year.
Support for District designation from a majority of municipalities within the region is required, along with concurrence from the state – both of which were secured when BRPC requested the designation. Districts must also be of sufficient size, usually a county or multiple counties working together, to be able to foster economic development on a regional scale.
Designated District Organizations are expected to engage in and support the full range of economic development goals listed in their EDA-approved CEDS. These can include coordinating and implementing economic development projects, carrying out research and planning activities, serving in an advisory capacity to project proponents, and developing and updating future CEDS planning documents for the region. BRPC will now be eligible for Partnership Planning investments by the EDA on an annual basis, which will help to support Economic Development work to benefit the entire county. Partial support of their staff efforts may begin as early as July of this year.
“We already work closely with EDA staff, shepherding impactful projects through their range of funding programs,” said Laura Brennan, BRPC’s Economic Development Program Manager. “We secured a substantial CARES Act grant to support this work, even before obtaining EDD status to become an official partner of the EDA. This designation and the planning support it provides will allow us to keep offering those services well after our current grant period ends.”
Examples of projects identified in Berkshire County’s CEDS include the Berkshire Innovation Center, a 20,000-square-foot, $14 million life sciences/high technology workforce training and research and development center in Pittsfield. Another project is Greylock Glen, which recently announced additional state funding for the construction of the Outdoor Center to house education, dining, retail, and other services for Glen visitors. BRPC is currently working with both projects to pursue additional funding through the EDA.
Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated the effects of economic disruptions experienced by Berkshire County in recent decades, including the departure of major employers and the impact of the Great Recession. Other major obstacles include changing demographics, inadequate infrastructure, limited suitable land for development, and insufficient public transportation. However, the strong sense of regional identity combined with the increasingly coordinated efforts around economic development that helped lead to this designation are positively impacting the region’s economic landscape.
More information about Berkshire County’s EDD designation can be found here: