From the Editor's Desk: Come to a sit-down with the mayors
Mayors Linda Tyer and Thomas W. Bernard lead the county's largest communities: Combined, their municipalities of Pittsfield and North Adams, respectively, account for nearly half (46 percent) of the county's population.
As her cities go, so goes the Berkshires. Historically, Pittsfield and North Adams have been the economic and industrial powerhouses of the county. The mills, the factories employed tens of thousands of local workers. As such, the two cities have wielded tremendous power and influence — oftentimes good, other times not — over the rest of the county.
And historically, while a number of small businesses pulse through the economic veins of Pittsfield and North Adams, these two cities were themselves directly subjected to the ebbs and flows — and ultimately the devastating departures, beginning in the 1980s — of industrial employment giants General Electric and Sprague Electric.
When the company leaves the company town, it takes decades to re-establish new identities — if such a turnaround even happens.
But from the editor's seat, that's exactly what I see happening in Pittsfield and North Adams — a turnaround. And that's where we find our mayors: Riding atop the wave as this new identity continues to be defined and comes into its own.
For the naysayers, I'm not engaging boosterism here (though I do pull for what's best for Berkshire County); the cities continue to face challenges — from crime to poverty to affordable housing to jobs. But I'm also not stating this without evidence.
Drive around North Adams yourself. Starting with and certainly fueled by Mass MoCA's influence, North Adams is brewing with private investment — from restaurants to boutique hotels to creative reuses of mills into downtown living and creative spaces.
Visit Pittsfield's main corridor — from South Street on up through North Street, and you'll see why the Wall Street Journal called it the "Brooklyn of the Berkshires." Starting with the Colonial Theatre and Beacon Cinema, other theaters and restaurants have followed. So did Hotel on North. Shops have come back to North Street. Major downtown edifices have been and are being converted into nice apartments and workspaces.
Sure, this is just the beginning. But it's an interesting beginning for these two communities that are on the cusp of re-identifying themselves.
On Thursday, at the Church Street Center at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, we'll talk about all this and more with Mayor Tyer and Mayor Bernard. I'll be asking questions we collect from you at the event too.
We'll see you on Thursday.
Kevin Moran started his journalism career at the North Adams Transcript. Today, he is executive editor of The Berkshire Eagle.
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