Cory Thurston retiring as head of Pittsfield Economic Development Authority

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PITTSFIELD — Corydon "Cory" Thurston, who has served as executive director of the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority for nine years, will retire at the end of April, city officials have announced.

Michael Coakley, Pittsfield's business development manager, will replace Thurston on an interim basis. Thurston had served in his position on a part-time basis since 2017. There are currently no plans to hire a permanent replacement.

"There's not a plan to go out and do a search," said PEDA board chairman Maurice "Mick" Callahan Jr. "This is kind of a continuation of the program that was implemented when we partnered with PERC [Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Corporation] and the city."

All of the city's business recruitment activities. including those of PEDA and PERC, were put under the auspices of the city's newly created business development manager's position when Coakley was hired three years ago. The heads of both PEDA and PERC are part of what is known as the city's Red Carpet team headed by Coakley that provides a single point of entry for those seeking to do business with the city of Pittsfield. Before this program went into effect, PEDA, PERC and the city operated as separate entities when it came to business development.

Thurston, who turns 68 later this year, originally announced in March 2017 that he planned to step down as PEDA's executive director within two months. But after the city announced that it planned to streamline efforts under the newly formed business development manager's position, the Williamstown resident decided to remain as a part-time executive director to help with the transition.

"My hours were reduced when we worked with the city to create the new position that Michael Coakley has now, a single voice to represent the city," Thurston said. "So, that was a significant change."

The son of late Berkshire broadcasting pioneer Donald A. Thurston, who founded the Berkshire Broadcasting Co., Cory Thurston also runs a cellular tower company in North Adams, and serves as treasurer of the Williamstown Fire District.

"Having a part-time schedule allowed me to do what I wanted to do and stay involved. It worked out well over time," Thurston said. "I had a few pet projects that I wanted to see to fruition. The biggest one was the (Berkshire) Innovation Center."

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The $13.8 million Berkshire Innovation Center, a 23,000-square-foot workforce development and training facility in the William Stanley Business Park of the Berkshires, officially opened in February. The BIC, which took 12 years to finish from concept to completion, is considered key to the future development of the 52-acre business park parcel. A quasi-public agency, PEDA is charged with the business park's development.

PEDA will remain an independent, quasi-public agency, that is managed by its 11-member board of directors, led by Callahan, the panel's sole remaining original member. The city's Department of Community Development will support PEDA's environmental compliance and administrative functions going forward.

"We are thankful to Cory for his dedicated service through the years and we wish him the very best in the next and exciting chapter ahead. The consolidation of PEDA and the William Stanley Business Park will further align and streamline our efforts to advance economic growth in the city of Pittsfield," said Mayor Linda Tyer in a statement.

Thurston, who had previous experience in land acquisition, sales, marketing, and communications, was appointed the third executive director in PEDA's 22-year history in April 2011. He was the first executive director without previous experience within the agency. PEDA's two previous executive directors, Thomas E. Hickey Jr. and Williams Hines Sr., had both previously served as board members.

Besides the building of the BIC, other highlights of Thurston's tenure included PEDA taking full ownership of the 52-acre business park from General Electric; the building of the MountainOne Financial Center; the construction of a new CSX Railroad bridge on Woodlawn Avenue; and the environmental restoration of once heavily polluted Silver Lake, a body of water once so dirty that it actually caught fire in 1923.

"I'm very happy about the things we accomplished and the things that we were able to do," Thurston said. "It doesn't seem like a lot when you sit back and look at it, but we did get quite a bit done. Hopefully, the momentum will continue and the BIC spins off the right businesses that we hoped and planned for."

"Cory did an incredible job shepherding PEDA and the business park," Callahan said. "During his tenure, he played an integral role in the development of the Mountain One facility and the BIC. We all owe Cory a major debt of gratitude for his tireless efforts."

Tony Dobrowolski can be reached at tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6224.


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