In Pittsfield, vision is sadly lacking
To the editor:
What a weekend. Living in a Cincinnati, Ohio, suburb, it is rare to be able to visit Pittsfield where I grew up, let alone be there on the July 4 weekend. I had dinner with friends and visited homes where we lived. Much had changed, so much had not.
A key reason for stopping was to honor my friend Jim Shulman for his work bringing the Berkshire Carousel to fruition. He is a historical visionary who sees an opportunity to enhance Pittsfield's image and bring new visitors to the city center.
What had not changed, however, was the lack of vision of city leaders.
I listened to friends who still call Pittsfield home speak of providing prime real estate from the General Electric plant site for a proposed Walmart Supercenter. There is no vision there. Why more retail especially on this property that will siphon business from existing stores?
Pittsfield's leadership history of being visionary is a zero. From the 1960s, it was always worried General Electric would be slighted if they sought new industry. GE opened the door, walked out and left a mess.
City Councils from that period had no idea what type of "industry" should be sought. Today, new industry is not manufacturing. The city has squandered state funds provided to bring in business with zero success.
By vision, I mean what kind of businesses makes sense for the city to market itself as a potential home today? Hi-tech? Startups need low-cost space and cost-of-living found in a place like Pittsfield. What about engineering companies? Same answer. How about financial services, advertising, marketing?
When presented with the prospect of living in a great small city but only two hours from clients on the I-95 beltway of Boston it might be very enticing. Startups have moved from California to Cincinnati because there is a concentration of available labor and low cost of living.
Long-term vision, a new Walmart? The business community and City Council must think differently.
I know there is much castigating of GE for what it left behind. Has anyone thought to call CEO Jeff Immelt and ask him to consider placing a facility such as I mentioned on the old property? You could even give the company some of the land back, no charge. GE is advertising it is a technology company that happens to manufacture stuff.
The city needs to make a business decision instead of a knee-jerk decision, and tell them it's time to change.
Gerry Korkin, Cincinnati