Chamber, Berkshire Visitors Bureau set to vote on consolidation under 1Berkshire

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PITTSFIELD >> The idea behind the 1Berkshire Strategic Alliance has always been to provide a single point of entry for those seeking to do business in this area.

1Berkshire and its supporting organizations have been moving toward that goal since the strategic alliance was formed in April 2010. The final legal step will take place later this month.

On May 25, the members of 1Berkshire's two remaining affiliates, the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce and the Berkshire Visitors Bureau, will hold a joint meeting to vote on a full merger of the three entities under the 1Berkshire banner.

The meeting will take place at 5 p.m. at Berkshire Community College's Boland Theater. Admission is free to all members.

The merger won't officially take place until July 1, the beginning of fiscal 2017. If formal approval is granted, the Berkshire Chamber and Berkshire Visitors Bureau will cease to exist after that date.

The chamber and visitors bureau's governing boards have already approved the merger, said 1Berkshire COO Jonathan Butler. But official approval also requires a vote of each entity's membership as the final legal step.

"Operationally, I think we've been there," Butler said, referring to the three organizations operating as one. "But this is getting the organization legally and structurally in the same place.

"This formal step is taking the governance of the organization and unifying it in a way that is more efficient," Butler said. "One organization will be replying to one board instead of three.

The Berkshire Chamber of Commerce was formed in 2000 when the Central and Northern Berkshire chambers merged. But the Berkshire Visitors Bureau's history goes back much longer to 1938. The BVB celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2013.

No layoffs or personnel changes will occur when the merger is legally completed. 1Berkshire currently has 17 staffers. Six are currently working with the chamber and another eight with the Berkshire Visitors Bureau.

"There have never been any plans for downsizing as a result of this," Butler said.

The merged organization will have one board, with members of the chamber and visitor bureau's panels joining 1Berkshire.

"The 1Berkshire board will be a compilation adding members from both organizations and the outside," Butler said.

The chamber and visitors bureau were two of the four organizations that formed the 1Berkshire Strategic Alliance six years ago. A third organization, the Berkshire Creative Economy Council, officially merged with 1Berkshire in October. The fourth organization, the Berkshire Economic Development Corporation, is disbanded.

The chamber, visitors bureau and Berkshire Creative all were located in separate locations until April 2012 when they consolidated into the 121-year-old central fire station building at 66 Allen St.

They have since been joined at that site by the Berkshire Regional Employment Board, the Berkshire Film and Media Collaborative, Berkshire Enterprises and a branch office of the Sheffield-based Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation.

Contact Tony Dobrowolski at 413-496-6224.


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