Our Opinion: Addressing Berkshires' population loss

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The continuing population decline of Berkshire County isn't surprising, but that doesn't make it any less worrisome.

The Berkshires lost 0.6 percent of its population (727 people) between July 1, 2014 and July 1, 2015 according to US Census Bureau statistics (Eagle, March 26), These figures are estimates, but there is no reason to doubt their veracity, and the decline is the largest of any of the state's counties over that span.

Berkshire County has the oldest demographic in the state, and in that time frame there were more deaths than there were births. The county is struggling economically, and the lack of good jobs makes it difficult to retain young people after they have left high school or college.

However, it is not as if efforts aren't being made to reverse this trend. Berkshire Community College and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts are working with Berkshire employers to help tailor courses so students are prepared for the high tech jobs or jobs requiring specific skills that are being offered. Communities are finding ways to attract new businesses and, as important, keep businesses and help them expand. New high schools in Pittsfield (Taconic) and serving Lanesborough and Williamstown (Mount Greylock) will ideally attract families, sustaining and building the population and the tax base.

All of these efforts are long-term, of course, and in the interim communities must find ways to address current reality. One of the most important involves sharing services to reduce government and school costs. The consolidation of school districts must be explored even if it means — especially if it means — tossing aside traditions and thinking patterns that have grown counterproductive. Reversing population trends of 40 or more years won't be easy but it can be done.


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