WILLIAMSTOWN -- Tourism in Berkshire County has shown significant growth this summer, partly due to the reopening and expansion of the Clark Art Institute, according to Stephen Sheppard, a Williams College economics professor.
Since reopening July 4 after a $145 million expansion and renovation, the Clark has welcomed roughly 63,608 visitors -- 19 percent higher than the museum’s previous record during the Picasso Looks At Degas show in 2010, he said.
"That is a real accomplishment," Sheppard said. "And many of those are new visitors who dine in our restaurants, shop in our stores, stay in our hotels and possibly even might consider moving here."
The bottom line, he said, was $3 million in new economic impact and 32 additional jobs. Overall, he said, The Clark has an economic impact of $54 million per year, including 443 jobs in a variety of areas.
Sheppard made his comments Wednesday as the keynote speaker at the Good News Business Salute, a breakfast meeting hosted by the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce at Williams Inn.
Bruce Finn, COO of Main Street Hospitality Group, which operates the Red Lion Inn, Porches and the Williams Inn, noted during his remarks as the event emcee that July hotel room stays in North Berkshire increased 14 percent over figures from July 2013.
The Berkshire County cultural sector, however, depends on other sectors of the economy, just as those sectors also depend on the cultural sector for stability and growth, Sheppard noted.
Both the local education and health care industries feed on and propel the cultural economy, so the question facing the local economy is: How to facilitate and encourage these economic drivers?
The answer, Sheppard said, is through transportation and accommodation.
The plan for a rail connection to New York City will help, but will require a new way of thinking -- figuring out how to get rail travelers from the station to attractions in the Berkshires, and how best to accommodate those folks.
"The cultural sector is supporting the local economy," he said in closing. "So grab a hunk of that success and make it your own."
To reach Scott Stafford:
or (413) 663-3741, ext. 227.
On Twitter: @BESStafford