Pittsfield names new economic development 'quarterback'

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BEN GARVER — THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE
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PITTSFIELD — A key component of Mayor Linda Tyer's economic development strategy was realized on Monday with the announcement of a new business development manager.

Michael Coakley, of Lenox, will begin in the new role on Feb. 5. He's worked for 30 years in sales and marketing, the last 20 of which were spent at Winstanley Partners in Lenox.

"This is a really great day for the city of Pittsfield," Tyer said during a press conference. "This is a real shift in the way we think about economic development."

In his new position, Coakley will work to attract new business to Pittsfield and support existing ones. Tyer also hopes the position will make it easier for businesses to navigate city processes in dealing with one person.

Funding for the new position will be shared between City Hall — where Coakley's office will be — the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority and the Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Corp.

"We have come together to break down economic development silos," Tyer said, with Coakley serving "as our quarterback."

Tyer announced plans for the post last spring as part of her "Red Carpet" initiative, which aims to streamline the processes businesses use to get what they need from city government. The city has financially struggled for decades as more and more of the manufacturing base that long drove its economy slipped away.

Since General Electric's big dropoff during the early '90s, the heart of its former plant along Woodlawn Avenue — now named the William Stanley Business Park — has sat, waiting for new purpose.There have been several false starts on a proposed retail development in recent years, most recently one anchored by a Walmart Supercenter. That plan fell through in the fall.

PEDA is charged with the development of the business park. PERC is a regional economic development agency that is headquartered at Pittsfield's Department of Community Development, and shares some staff members with it.

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The new business development position is not particularly unique, especially among other gateway cities in Massachusetts that felt the loss of manufacturing more heavily. What is unique, however, is the funding mechanism.

The city will kick in $24,663 a year for the position, as well as office space and telecommunications services. It will split resources related to the position evenly with PERC and PEDA. Salary for the position ranges from about $77,500 to $87,600, officials said. PERC and PEDA have agreed to cover the remainder of the salary, and will pitch in $20,000 a year to cover marketing and other costs.

The boards of PERC and PEDA approved the new job description last year, the posting of which attracted 29 applicants.

Christina Wynn, a PEDA board member, said Coakley's background proves he'll be "a force to be reckoned with."

"I have no doubt he's going to jump into this role with both feet," she said.

Coakley said he grew up playing basketball at the Boys and Girls Club and graduated from Taconic High School.

One early idea Coakley has is to explore companies supplying materials to the China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation, which is moving some operations to Springfield while it builds rail cars for the T. Perhaps, he said, he could look into drawing manufacturing companies to Pittsfield to supplement those operations.

"Pittsfield's very important to me," he said. "I can't wait to get to work."

Reach Amanda Drane at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter or at 413-496-6296.


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