NORTH ADAMS -- Clear and concise permitting guidelines, mentors and guidance for new business owners, retaining MCLA graduates and training for a better workforce were on the "needs lists" of local business owners attending a North Adams Vision 2030 workshop Wednesday at MCLA Gallery 51.
"We’re at the point where we are taking a closer look at the economic development and we’re looking to find out from you what specific changes need to be called for to make the city more business friendly," Amy Kacala, a senior planner with the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, said to a group of about 20 city business owners. "You’re the ones going to the planning and zoning boards and hiring employees. We want to get a sense of what you need, which can be completely different than what came out of our regional conversation."
The city embarked on it’s long-range planning process, which coincides with the regional planning process, "Sustainable Berkshires," last July. The goal of the long-range planning process is to create a comprehensive Master Plan for the city.
"This is a very important process for the city, which, on a whole, hasn’t had a master road map in 40 years," Mayor Richard J. Alcombright said. "Coming from the business world, we always had a plan. It needs to be a design that is in a very bendable, soft cover book, because it needs to be a fluid road map to success. It needs to keep the
During the workshop, business owners were asked to write down what they saw as issues or needs in the categories of business planning, access to capital, permits and compliance, legal issues and workforce.
Kacala said the information would be compiled by the regional planning commission and summarized in a report at a later date. She also told the business owners not to be surprised if themes emerged when they viewed each other’s suggestions, which were displayed according to category at the end of the meeting.
Among the themes that emerged on the board for the permits and compliance category were the need for a more concise permitting process in the city, a singular point person to guide businesses through the process, and for the permitting process and forms to be available online.
Develop North Adams President Brian Miksic said creating a master plan for the city is important because there needs to be a singular plan and vision to which groups can refer.
"We have local businesses, the college, the hospital, the museum, the Hoosic River Revival Coalition planning things. We need it to ensure that we’re not doubling up on the work and that our plans work together," he said. "As a business owner, I’m concerned about the city’s zoning and permitting process and the available workforce. We have a really high unemployment rate in this area, but on the other side, it’s hard to find qualified employees."
Develop North Adams board member Jonathan Secor said the visioning process plays a role in letting local voices be heard.
"Change is going to come from the bottom up if we’re going to make North Adams move forward," he said. "Local people need to feel that they are part of the bettering the conditions in the city, which in this particular case is hearing from the business community."
More information on North Adams Vision 2030 can be found on the city’s website, www.northadams-ma.gov.
To reach Jennifer Huberdeau, email email@example.com.