Berkshire Visitors Bureau and Chamber of Commerce offices moving
Friday August 19, 2011
The Berkshire Visitors Bureau -- the county's primary tourism organization -- is moving out of the Discover the Berkshires Visitors Center in Adams, its home since 2004, and the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce is leaving the Central Block on North Street in Pittsfield, its home of 11 years.
Both moves are part of the plan to unite four different economic development agencies at a central location under the auspices of 1Berkshire. The Berkshire Economic Development Corp. and the Berkshire Creative Economy Council will also be represented in the unified agency.
"We can do more by collaborating and pooling our resources," said Lauri Klefos, president and CEO of the Visitors Bureau.
"An important part of our plan for 1Berkshire is to get everybody under one roof," said Stuart Chase, president and CEO of 1Berkshire. "We are focused on becoming a one-stop shop for economic development in the Berkshires."
1Berkshire was formed by the four entities in April 2010. Berkshire Economic Development Corp. has already disbanded and become part of 1Berkshire.
According to Chase, 1Berkshire is in negotiations for office space in a "centralized location" in the county. All together, he said, there should be space for about 18 workers. He declined to be more specific about the location until an agreement has been reached.
Officials are planning for the relocation to occur during the first quarter of 2012. Klefos estimated that the move will probably happen around the first of the year.
The town of Adams owns the Discover the Berkshires Visitors Center on Hoosac Street, which houses the Berkshire Visitors Bureau on the second floor and the visitors center on the first.
The building was constructed in 2003 at a cost of $2.5 million -- a state investment initiated by acting Gov. Jane Swift. At the time, she promised a significant state investment in the town after an ambitious plan for the Greylock Glen was abandoned by state officials.
The Visitors Bureau, in lieu of rent, has been administering the cadre of volunteers who staff the visitors center, a task it will hand off to Adams town officials when the agency moves out, Klefos said. The Visitors Bureau also pays the utilities there.
"We will work with the town ensure a smooth transition of the visitors center," Klefos said.
The Visitors Bureau once received much of its funding from the state, but that funding was eliminated three years ago, Klefos said. Once supporting a staff of a dozen or more, the agency is now down to seven workers in a space with 10 offices.
The Berkshire Chamber of Commerce was an investor and original tenant in the Central Block, the subject of a massive renovation and reinvestment effort after the building had become vacant and neglected during the 1990s. The chamber moved its offices into the building in 2000. Today, the chamber has seven employees in a space with 10 offices.
Mike Supranowicz, president and CEO of the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, said their office lease doesn't expire until late in 2012, and the chamber has been working with the landlord to find a suitable plan for it to move and allow the landlord to maintain its rental income.
"There's just not enough room here," he said. "So ideally, when we move out, someone will be coming in right behind us."
Jonathan Butler, Adams town administrator, said the town is considering its next move for the office space being vacated by the Berkshire Visitors Bureau. Its options include housing town offices in the structure or leasing the space to someone else.
At the same time, the town has to consider its options for the former Adams Memorial Middle School.
"So we'll need to plot a long-term course for these properties," Butler said. "We are sad to see [the Visitors Bureau] go, but it has been a good resource for the town and I think they will continue to do so no matter where they end up."
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