Divided over whether or not to allow a proposed retail development into the William Stanley Business Park, board members of the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority have floated the idea of holding a public hearing on the issue. It’s a good idea, as perhaps some new ideas may emerge that will ignite what has been a stagnant discussion.
The city is stuck in an industrial vs. retail rut at the park. The former GE property was designated for industrial development, which was logical given its history, but unfortunately the Northeast is no longer the manufacturing center it once was, with jobs having gone south and then across borders in pursuit of low wages and benefits. There are small home-grown businesses in the city, but transportation issues make it difficult to persuade manufacturers to put down roots here.
Waterstone Retail Development of Needham has proposed construction of a 200,000-square-foot building in the park to house a single mystery retailer and generate $300,000 in tax revenue to Pittsfield. It would supposedly bring in as many as 200 jobs, most of them full-time, but many or most of these jobs would likely go to people already employed by other big box retailers in a lightly populated county that already appears saturated by them. Shifting jobs isn’t adding them, and retail jobs pay on the low end of the spectrum, as opposed to jobs in industry. That proposal is stalemated as PEDA requires a letter of intent from the developer before the city will begin the permitting process and Waterstone won’t sign such a letter until the city guarantees it will provide the permits.
A public hearing may expand the city’s horizons. Could the property be used for athletic fields? As Pittsfield’s version of Central Park? Let’s hear some ideas.