We're less than a week from both the end of 2013 and the beginning of a new year.
Here are some local business-related topics that I would like to see realized in 2014.
Development at the William Stanley Business Park of the Berkshires: The advent of the new year means it's been 16 years since the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority, the quasi-public agency charged with the business park's development, was formed in 1998.
The reasons for the lack of development at the 52-acre site since then are many, but they can be rehashed another day. This is a time to look forward not back. In 2014, the city of Pittsfield finally has a realistic chance at securing that elusive $6.5 million state earmark toward the construction of a 20,000-square-foot life-sciences building at the business park, which, at this point, appears to be the key to the park's future development.
The new CSX Railroad bridge on Woodlawn Avenue should also be completed sometime in 2014, so if everything goes according to plan we could be singing a different tune about the park's future at this time next year.
One caveat: That $6.5 million earmark was originally awarded to the city in 2008, which means that it won't be nearly enough to pay for the construction of a 20,000-square-foot structure six years later. Delays always cause construction costs to increase. In 2007, a one-year delay in the construction of the Beacon Cinema on North Street caused the cost of that project to jump by some $10 million.
How the city and PEDA manage to leverage that state earmark into additional investment could be the key to whether that life sciences building ever gets built.
A railway car manufacturer relocates to the Berkshires: The state is expected to award a contract to a manufacturer to build new railway cars for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority sometime this winter. The contract stipulates that the final assembly work has to be done somewhere in the state.
This could be a real coup for the Berkshires if the manufacturer decides to locate here. Three county sites are currently being offered, including one at the Stanley Business Park.
This is an area that desperately needs good-paying jobs, and the possibility of 200 to 250 jobs coming here in one shot would be a late Christmas present for many.
Health issues resolved: The Affordable Care Act is well intentioned, but it's become a logistical nightmare, and some of its provisions don't match up with what's already on the books in Massachusetts.
One hopes the Obama administration will grant the state a waiver from the provisions of the act that affect people here, especially the 5 percent discount for small businesses in Western Massachusetts that the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce advocated for that has resulted in significant savings for chamber members.
Unemployment benefits extended: On Saturday, 992 Berkshire residents were among the estimated 1.3 million people across the country whose extended federal unemployment benefits came to a end, according to John Barrett III, the director of the BerkshireWorks Career Center.
It's hard to lose a job, even harder to see your unemployment benefits expire. But it's almost unconscionable to have it happen to people during the holiday season.
I hope Congress can do something to resolve this mess when it reconvenes in January, but given the legislative gridlock in Washington I'm not hopeful.
Hotel wars pay off: I know that the numbers show enough people will visit the Berkshires to fill all the rooms in all these proposed lodging establishments in Pittsfield and Lenox. Statistics don't lie, but market research is sometimes based on surveys, or trends, or overly optimistic projections. Numbers aren't people, and relying solely on a spreadsheet to make business decisions can be risky. I hope that isn't the case here. The people involved in these ventures are locals with successful track records, and know what they are doing, which is always a cause for optimism. The last thing the Berkshires needs now are row-upon-row of newly constructed half vacant hotel buildings.
Gift card fiasco settled: The Dakota Restaurant went out of business in late April, yet The Eagle is still receiving sporadic inquiries from former patrons trying to resolve issues with unused gift cards. The latest call came shortly after I finished writing this on Friday.
The most recent calls have come from people who live either out of state or outside of the Berkshires that either didn't know the Dakota closed because they rarely visit this area, or sound as if they suddenly found an unused gift card in a drawer. The last person I talked to was out $170.
That's a lot of money, and if you're in that situation I understand your disappointment and frustration. But considering the way the Dakota closed, and the financial difficulties experienced by the restaurant's parent company, my guess is that if you haven't been reimbursed by now, you won't be.
Tony Dobrowolski is the business editor of The Berkshire Eagle. He can be reached at email@example.com