Greg Roach's Berkshires Blog
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
  "This won't be Silicon Valley any time soon, and I wouldn't want it to be..."
Here's an interesting glimpse of how the internet has affected economic growth in rural towns from the Christian Science Monitor:
"It's not just about historical preservation or farming, but also the Mayberry mentality – that ultimately people do enjoy these small towns," says Chad Adams, director of the Center for Local Innovation in Raleigh, N.C. "It's a golden opportunity for small-town America."

Three trends are fueling growth in some rural areas, says Bill Gillis, director of the Center to Bridge the Digital Divide in Spokane, Wash. Mobile dot-commers with "golden Rolodexes" are launching tech-based companies. Eco-fuel growth and rising corn prices are pumping money toward entrepreneurs in traditional breadbasket industries. And government investments in broadband and high-tech "incubators" (subsidized office space geared toward high-tech businesses) are allowing local economies to branch out beyond the cotton and corn fields.
Waterfront Media sort of fits this mold, although it seems that most of their high paying jobs are in NYC while we get the customer service phone bank. And let's not overlook Berkshire Biodiesel in Pittsfield. It wouldn't shock me if someday this incredibly well connected company is a huge global player in the renewable fuels game.

This is a damn nice place to live and regardless of the opinions of a few long-time loudmouths, most of us so-called newbies are here to stay. Change is the only constant.

UPDATE: How could I forget MCLA's science center? This project has the potential to impact our economy in a 21st century kind of way, as well!
I suggested two years ago that NA should look to combine the brains of the local colleges and create a major alternate energy research center. Now it seems an even better idea with the new Science center and the biofuel plant in Pittsfield. It looks like algae is going to be the new petroleum and its growth could be combined with wind power and pond/lake water using hydrolysis to produce hydrogen.
The Mayberry Mentality is a great way to describe small towns like North Adams. And yes people do like the presumed slow paced lifestyle that a small town like North Adams can offer, in appearance at least. It is the lack of a 24/7 busy, busy, always busy lifestyle that does attract people. People that are tired of the rat race of a city and are longing for a place where they can set their own pace. Where they are in control of time not the other way around. Where they have time to contemplate and foster new and innovative ideas, that in the raging turmoil of a greedy city scape where everyone is to busy grabbing for the golden ring, to have time to think.
Come all you tired and burned up people. Come live here and sit with me on my porch and suck down a frosty mug with me. We don't even have to talk just sit and enjoy the sounds of silence and think!
I've been told that Waterfront media is moving or is thinking about moving some of the more technical and higher paying jobs to North Adams because they can pay less here (much lower cost of living ...) but I don't know if that has happened yet.

It seems to me that the two biggest barriers to entry in the region are power prices and labor costs. And then I look at all these big old brick mill buildings sitting on rivers and think. How did they do it before there were high tension power lines running across the landscape? They did it with the resources they had locally - hydro power mainly.

A Center for Science and Innovation that can look into far more local and renewable sources of energy, paired with a damn fine environmental studies program that could make sure things were done in the right way, could be a great contribution to the region.
Amy...You are correct, there is more hydro power potential than you can shake a stick at. But unfortunately John Barrett is ignoring it because he lacks any insight into forward thinking. And he is in bed with the power companies. The dams and all the old hydro plants have been discussed at length in other threads and the conclusion was that the only impediment to the town getting off the grid is John Barrett.
Jack, I only know the mayor socially and haven't the history in this town that others have, but I gotta say, Barrett has show more forward thinking about the town than most of its residents, and he can only lead so far ahead without losing his pack.
I think the biggest obstacle would be the environmental safe guards. Just look what they did to the windmills and they weren't even going into the rivers.

I'm not for letting anyone do anything they want with a river, but if they can dredge out PCB's without flooding south county, I think the hydro power could be done correctly as well.

I don't think Barrett can, or should, be involved. Private business should take the lead, they may need a nudge from the corner office saying he would support it though.
Amy...John Barrett is not forward thinking, he is a regressionest. He believes the system and it's survival is more important than the needs and the wishes of the people...(sound familiar?) He thinks by cutting services to the people of the town and making deals with private vendors nobody will notice that all he is doing is screwing over the town folk and trying to make himself look good in the process....(Look at me! I cut cost to the town!) But it will cost the citizens twice as much out of their pockets for the private service that the town could and should provide. That's not forward thinking, that's gaming the system!
da snoop..... Barrett doesn't have the desire or the ability to let private business do their thing. without his express permission! The "Bully In The Sandbox Syndrome" Yes he and Dan Bosley could both take the lead, but they won't! Not in their interest. It would benefit the people, not the system, and remember the system comes second, right behind themselves and way, way before the people!
Southview I don't know much about JB so what you say maybe true, seems unlikely to me. But I very disagree with your characterization of Mr. Bosley I believe he works very hard for NA in a city doesn't even know the place exists.
In my opinion the mayor is fairly forward looking, but he appears to have major blind spots, as well. Very little happens in this city that JB III does not try and take credit for. Sometimes the credit is merited, other times it is not.

The history of MoCA is a classic example. The Mayor opposed the project until it became unstoppable, and then switched sides, becoming the Chair of the MoCA Commission. The KMart plaza debate also comes to mind - JBIII wasn't happy with the original redevelopment plans and offered his own (partnered with MoCA.) The developer told him 'no way' but agreed to upgrade the stores. The next thing you know, the two are shaking hands and people are suggesting calling it Barrett Plaza (seriously.) (BTW we still ended up with a mattress store which was one of the mayor's main objections.)

Hopefully he will mellow out a little given that he will likely retire within a term or two and his positive legacy is already cemented. We're obviously going to name a street or a school or something after he leaves and he will go down in NA history as one of the great city leaders regardless of the various controversies over the years. The bad stuff will fade from memory.

I've never seen any evidence that the mayor is in the pocket of others, or intentionally acts outside of the city's best interest. But like all of us, he is certainly not perfect.
greg.....You are correct Barrett acts only for the towns interest, not the peoples interest! He is dedicated to the premise that the system is supreme over the people and the people serve the needs of the system, the system must survive at all cost! He does not believe he is an employee of the people but they are servant to him and his wishes. (Ever see one of his childish temper tantrums when someone questions his motives, not very professional) He is your a typical politico, leaching off the backs of the very people he is employed to be helping.
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