Every so often, when we're sipping hot cider or peeling apples, my friends and I find ourselves talking about the Berkshires. We've all chosen to live here through our 20s and 30s and 40s -- and that makes us a cheerfully stubborn and oddball lot. At least I speak for myself.
Why do I say that? Why do so many people end up moving to cities after college, for some length of time, even those who love the country and later move back there?
My brother, like me, is a Williams alum who loves this part of the world. When he finished graduate school this summer, he moved to Boulder, Colo., where he hikes, hangs out at the local farmers market and works in an office where plaid flannel is upscale.
It sounds alot like the Berkshires, except for two key points: It has a lot of bright people in their 20s and 30s. And it has the kind of job he wants. He works for a green-energy think tank.
When a recent survey from Berkshire1 asked people between college age and 40s what had brought them here or would convince them to stay, many answered either good jobs or good people.
Of course the, the two answers relate. Good jobs can bring in intelligent and creative people, and intelligent and creative people can start new projects and create new jobs. Most of the people I know in the Berkshires are here because of Tripod, a Web company started in the 1990s by Williams graduates. My friends stayed in the Berkshires when they graduated, or moved back, because they had jobs here, or friends working here. And when that one company left, our small community held on, found new ways to find work we like, and put a fair amount of time and energy into this place. And when I finished grad school, I moved back here because I had friends here.
And that raises the follow-up question: How do we reach a critical mass of people and jobs, so the cycle sustains itself and grows?
Lauri Klefos, chief marketing officer at 1Berkshire, agrees that broadband and light rail connections to Boston and New York would help. I hope that summer internships, encouraging college students to connect to the county as a whole, can help as well.
I suspect, for now, the answer may be one person at a time.