Monday November 12, 2012

In Northern Berkshire, tour ism has become one of the driving forces for economic development and growth. Although some may argue that it brings limited job opportunities for locals, it is clear that tourism has brought much need dollars, along with the recognition that this area is a desirous tourist destination.

Also, keep in mind that this movement has brought in artists who, along with our educational institutions, business community, government and interested citizens, are weaving a new economic fabric that is transforming this community from a lost industrial base to an artistic, performing arts, and cultural venue.

One of the most important components for this transformation lies with the North Adams Office of Tourism and its role in creating growth and support for tourism. Over the past year, I have met or spoken with the mayor, director of tourism, artists, business people and members of the public to discuss the role of the office and have concluded that there is a pressing need to expand, define the role of the office as well as to and make improvements in the delivery of services.

It should be made clear that currently the office has a number of restrictions that hamper growth. These restrictions range from staffing to limited monetary resources but nonetheless, there are thing that can be instituted with little to no cost in making the office more effective and helpful to the area. It is also important at this point that our governmental leaders recognize these needs and respond.

It is extremely important that the mission of the office be clearly defined, including the establishment of short and long-range goals and objectives. Currently the mission seems vague and needs examination.

The office appears to be little more than an event planning operation depending on other outside organizations to promote the area. In this respect, the Office of Tourism needs to become more aggressive in its efforts to communicate effectively with the outside world as well and in its need to respond to tourist and business inquires. We need to see the establishment of personal networking with outside media outlets in the Albany, New York and Springfield media markets with the goal of increasing the promotion of this area. In the past, I have done this and can report that it works.

Lastly, and probably most controversial is the suggestion that we need to consider and create a new office called the Northern Berkshire Office of Tourism. This new structure would encompass North Adams and all surrounding towns thus widening our ability to promote the total region.

For years we have been talking about working more as one unit so such efforts certainly would fit into that concept. Hopefully, this letter will stimulate discussion, suggestions and implementation of some much-needed changes which would increase the economic stimulation of this beautiful area.

VINCENT MELITO

North Adams