NORTH ADAMS -- The newly formed North Adams Chamber of Commerce hopes to become the voice and driving force behind the city's business community.
Develop North Adams, which was formed by an all-volunteer group three years ago, announced Friday that after a vote by its board of directors, it has officially become a local chamber of commerce.
"We're excited to announce our new mission and invite others to join us as we work together to energize the North Adams business community," said Brian Miksic, president of the newly-named chamber board. "We will be a voice for business in the city, and look forward to finding creative solutions to our common challenges while promoting the economic, civic and social vibrancy of North Adams."
Initial discussions about the conversion to a chamber of commerce began around the holidays in 2011 and continued into the beginning of this year, he said Friday.
"We began talking about what the next steps for Develop North Adams were and how to keep it going," Miksic, owner of Axiom Multimedia Development, said. "As many of our board members are members of other local organizations, one thing we all realized is that a group can only go so long with an all-volunteer board before it runs out of gas. We came to the conclusion the we need a professional director running the organization. A subcommittee set out to find the best way to go about it and eventually came to the conclusion that we needed a dues-paying membership base and a professional director if we were going to continue."
Becoming a chamber of commerce made the most sense for the group, he said, as the "name is something people recognize and understand."
The chamber has already launched a website, www.northadamschamber.com, and announced its membership fees, which are based on the number of employees a business has.
"We'll begin the search for a professional director after the turn of the new year," Miksic said. "We have the funding for a part-time director, who will be tasked with finding funding and grant opportunities, which in turn will hopefully allow the position to become full-time."
Mayor Richard J. Alcombright said Friday that he supports the group's decision to become a chamber of commerce, which will allow it to expand its footprint and solidify its place in the county, but also has encouraged it to have strong ties with the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce.
"I think it will be good to have a local presence. When people come into a community, they often look for the chamber of commerce or a tourism office," he said. "The need to have a chamber presence is obvious as we continue to develop our master plan; develop the Partnership for North Adams and move forward with some of the projects we have on the burner."
The mayor added, "At the same time I have encouraged them to have a good solid relationship with the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, which will be able to help on a regional level and deal with much larger issues."
The North Adams Chamber plans to work in tandem with the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, as well as the city's Office of Tourism, and other local and regional organizations, such as the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce.
"We've had many talks with [Berkshire Chamber CEO] Mike Supranowicz along the way," Miksic said. "Mike was a founding DNA board member. For obvious reasons, he will not be on the new chamber board."
He added, "Our goal is not to duplicate or overlap services already provided by the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce. The Berkshire Chamber has a specific mission as a regional chamber. The North Adams Chamber will not have to worry about working on a regional or state level, while the Berkshire Chamber won't be expected to do hyperlocal programs that are no longer in its purview. We see this as being beneficial to both organizations as well as to the North Adams community."
Supranowicz said Friday that the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce hopes to work in collaboration with the North Adams Chamber.
"For the past five years, we have tried to develop a model of collaboration and find ways to work together in an atmosphere that speaks about collaboration," he said Friday. "We recognize there is a small business need in downtown North Adams and had really hoped to create community chamber model to meet that need. We would liked to have seen DNA to keep to a community model but we realize we couldn't force that decision. We support its move in this direction. As we are a regional chamber, we believe the needs of the region are of greatest concern. From time to time, individual community needs become great and we focus on them as well. As the North Adams chamber comes to identify those needs, we will certainly work with them."
To reach Jennifer Huberdeau, email