1Berkshire tapped to aid state panel on reopening
PITTSFIELD — As officials begin planning how to reopen the local economy, a Berkshire-based organization will play a major role in determining the immediate future of the local leisure and hospitality industry.
1Berkshire, the county's state-designated economic development agency, has been named to a subcommittee of the state's Reopening Advisory Board that is focused on tourism, restaurants and accommodations, according to state Sen. Adam G. Hinds, who nominated the local agency for this role. Those industries have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
The subcommittee will be taking "a closer look at what these industries need," said Hinds, D-Pittsfield, who is a legislative observer to the Reopening Advisory Board.
The announcement came Friday during the fourth installment in 1Berkshire's weekly virtual town hall series. Representatives of two county job sectors and Williamstown Town Manager Jason Hoch joined Hinds in discussing how to reopen the Berkshire economy,
Butler and representatives from Cape Cod have already appeared before the reopening advisory board to discuss tourism-related issues in their respective regions. Hinds said.
He said economies that rely on tourism like the Berkshires "need to be treated differently" if there is chance their venues can open during the summer season.
"How do we achieve that," Hinds said. "That's the work that Jonathan will be doing in the coming days to be clear on making sure we can be as prepared as possible for what could be a peak season."
Butler, who moderated Friday's virtual event, said 1Berkshire is waiting for the state to provide further guidance on tourism-related industries.
"There's more to come on that," he said.
Hinds also previewed what Governor Charlie Baker is expected to discuss on Monday when he provides guidelines for a phased reopening of the state economy.
"If you've been watching the governor's press conferences he's kind of tipped his hand about the process and what we can expect on Monday," Hinds said. "It's basically centered around what are the health indicators that we want to see and how that all paints a picture when you consider a reopening phase."
The state is trying to determine the businesses with low risk and high economic impact that are safe to open.
"You can imagine that would be in the first (reopening) phase," Hinds said,
To re-open, businesses will also need to have strict workplace protocols like social distancing and cleanliness in place.
"That's probably as important as testing," he said.
Panelist Ben Sosne, the executive director of the Berkshire Innovation Center, said Berkshire manufacturers have told him that they are concerned about health of their employees, whom many refer to as "family."
"Their biggest concern is that manufacturing cannot operate if there's a positive test somewhere. That's crippling," Sosne said. "So they're going above and beyond. I'm impressed with the way they're sharing bests practices with each other. That's something that we've tried to facilitate."
Jennifer Trainer Thompson, the president and CEO of Hancock Shaker Village, said Berkshire cultural institutions are considering different approaches to re-opening, including less of a reliance on indoor spaces.
"There's been a lot of talk about car programming," she said, when asked what "out of the box" approaches are under consideration.
On the municipal government side, Hoch said Williamstown is tasked with making up the for the loss of visitor income. Lodging taxes from summer visitors makes up a quarter of the town's annual non-property tax revenue, he said. The town is trying to be "supportive as possible" because businesses want to pivot to reopening.
"We'll have to fill in the blanks as they come along," Hoch said.
Tony Dobrowolski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-281-2755.
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