North Adams faces daunting challenges, many of which are shared by other Berkshire communities. That includes the need for a youth infusion.
At his swearing-in ceremony New Year's Day at City Hall, Mayor Richard Alcombright, who is now beginning his fourth two-year term, made the point that between he and John Barrett III, the city has been led by two people for 34 years. North Adams, it seemed to the mayor, had "skipped a generation of leaders." (Eagle, January 2).
The mayor's perceptive comments speak to the Berkshires' severe demographic problem. The population is aging while the younger generations go elsewhere in pursuit of the good jobs that are not available here in sufficient number. This is particularly the case for county students who go away to college and find that they can't come back to the Berkshires even if that is their goal.
The county must continue to attract new business, which is difficult, while making it easier for local businesses to grow. Most of the Berkshires' top employers over the generations had roots here and did not move in from elsewhere. The schools, in particular Berkshire Community College and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, must continue their efforts to prepare students for good-paying jobs, which in this day and age require specific, technology-based skill sets.
At Friday's ceremony, Mayor Alcombright spoke of the economic progress the city had made on several fronts and of the projects that could pay dividends in the months and years ahead. Challenges aside, there is reason for optimism in North Adams as the year begins. To help assure that progress is made, we encourage young people in North Adams to answer the mayor's invitation and challenge "to get involved in leadership roles, elected and appointed." That applies to every Berkshire community, but for it to be realized, the county must do what it can to keep its young people in the Berkshires and attract young people from elsewhere.