More Than 30 Real Estate Experts Attend Berkshire County Tour

September 21, 2010

Kelsey Abbruzzese, MassDevelopment, 617-330-2086
David Rooney, Berkshire Economic Development Corporation, 413-464-0178

At 7 a.m. this morning, a bus carrying nearly two dozen real-estate executives, developers, and investors left Boston, rolled down the Massachusetts Turnpike, and headed for the Berkshires for a first-in-the-county tour showcasing key development sites in Lee, Lenox, and Pittsfield. Pittsfield Mayor James Ruberto, MassDevelopment Chief Operating Officer Nancy Howard, and Berkshire Economic Development Corporation (BEDC) President David Rooney entertained attendees with fact-filled commentary, Berkshire County trivia, and video clips previewing the sights to come and investment opportunities in the region.

Another nine participants joined the group on Lee, with a total of 52 assembled for the final event of the day, a working box lunch and panel discussion with four development experts and architects at Pittsfield's Colonial Theatre, a fully restored example of America's Gilded Age.and centerpiece of Pittsfield's growing arts community.

The tour, organized by MassDevelopment and the BEDC, highlighted properties such as the former Greylock Mill in Lee and the William Stanley Business Park in Pittsfield.

“Berkshire County has lots to offer in terms of economic development: a widely envied quality of life, a skilled workforce, and intriguing development opportunities,” said MassDevelopment COO Nancy Howard. “We're thrilled so many real-estate professionals took the time to explore some of the many business possibilities in the Berkshires.”

“People tend to think of Berkshire County as the Western frontier,” said BEDC President David Rooney. “I would argue that Berkshire County is in a central location for Northeast business markets, running from the Connecticut River to the Hudson River Valley. Our educational institutions, industrial history, creative economy, and educated workforce are all strengths we continue to leverage.”

“Entrepreneurship is key to the history of Pittsfield and the Berkshires,” said Mayor Ruberto. “Innovation and creativity are also key to moving Berkshire County forward.”

Boston architect Maury Wolfe of DiMarinisi and Wolfe, whose experience includes municipal, educational, and public safety projects, said the area had several opportunities for small business and mixed-use projects, which would help accommodate the kinds of businesses that would bring jobs to the region.

Panelist Walter Upton, Director of Construction for the Boston Museum of Fine Arts who oversaw construction of the MFA's 100,000-square-foot addition, added that the Berkshires have “a lot of pluses” for development, and will benefit from using local assets to grow markets.

Eden Milroy, president of Pilot Development, a Boston real estate consulting and management firm, stressed the importance of Pittsfield’s commitment to its schools and how valuable that attention is to the city’s future.

And Fred Kramer, president of the Boston architectural firm Add Inc and head of the New England Chapter of the Urban Land Institute, concluded by saying that Berkshire County has several qualities he described as “mission critical”: passion, persistence, patience, and a plan. He also said the connections between cities and towns in the region reflects the future of commerce in the Commonwealth.

The event marked a new approach in MassDevelopment's ongoing series of developer conferences highlighting Gateway Cities and other communities across the Commonwealth. By expanding the tour to several towns within a county, developers received a fuller picture of the region's dynamics and demographics, worthwhile knowledge in terms of appreciating economic opportunities in Berkshire County.

MassDevelopment, the state's finance and development authority, works with businesses, financial institutions, and communities to stimulate economic growth across the Commonwealth. During FY2009, MassDevelopment financed or managed 229 projects statewide representing the investment of nearly $1.2 billion in the Massachusetts economy.