Politics, egos and history
As a former member of the Berkshire Visitor’s Bureau’s (BVB) leadership team for over a decade, I applaud my town’s decision to promote Lenox through the BVB. Lenox and all of the villages, towns and cities that make up the Berkshires are much too small to be marketing and promoting themselves to tourists near and far. The BVB has always been the main vehicle for destination marketing and putting the Berkshires on the map. The Lenox Selectman’s decision to market the town through the BVB is a step in the right direction towards greater cooperation and regionalization of existing resources, something sorely needed throughout all aspects of civic life in the area.
Nearly 20 years ago, I remember asking Bill Wilson, the former, longtime BVB president, "How come the BVB isn’t an arm or department of the Chamber of Commerce?" His answer was a mix of "politics, egos and history." Most consumer tourism calls went to the Chamber of Commerce at that time. The Chamber then referred the calls to the BVB. Well, it’s taken some time, but the BVB and other Berkshire organizations with economic and other interests in the area now operate under one roof through an umbrella organization called 1Berkshire. These organizations still operate fairly independently, but I suspect more organizational and financial integration will come creating a more streamlined 1Berkshire (hopefully with a new name).
During a time of great fiscal challenges for Berkshire towns, villages and our nation, this sort of merger and cooperation among organizations should pay off in economies of scale through shared resources as a result of common goals and vision. Lenox’s tourism budget is just too small to have any significant impact, no matter what the campaign or strategy to attract more visitors. Whether or not town government or the Lenox Chamber of Commerce does the marketing is irrelevant. Much better to promote Lenox through the BVB whose reach is much broader and wider.
Lenox and the Berkshires are competing with Aspen, Disney World, Paris and California -- entities that have mega-million tourism marketing dollars to promote their destinations. When Great Barrington, Pittsfield, Stockbridge, Williamstown, Lee and all of the other municipalities in the region and their chambers of commerce come together to allocate their tourism budgets through one organization, we increase our tourism marketing prowess offering better odds of realizing our common tourism economic interests.
What advantage is there in being a member of a multitude of chambers all trying to do the same thing, when they could put their marketing dollars toward one entity along with many other companies trying to achieve the same goals? When it comes to visitation to the Berkshires, all of our communities benefit when we speak with one voice.
Another conversation I have approximately twice each year is my sidewalk, post office entrance meeting with our state representative, William "Smitty" Pignatelli. Smitty and I have often talked of the need for more re gionalization of services in the Berkshires. When I ask Smitty what’s holding things up, he answers -- politics, egos and history. Sound familiar?
What a shame so much of our political leadership can’t move regionalization of community services forward more quickly. Sure, there’s a lot of talk about regionalization of town services, but very little action despite current and even greater fiscal problems in the future for tax-paying citizens. Of course, Smitty always reminds me that Lenox had three or four police officers in town when he grew up. Now we have 10, yet Lenox’s population has remained constant.
It’s good to see my selectmen governing the town rather than managing a tourism budget. Still, I’d like to see them move faster on regionalizing other town services to the benefit of all county citizens. Politics, egos and history shouldn’t determine what’s best for Lenox or any other town or group in the Berkshires.
Rich Woller is an occasional Eagle contributor.