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State Senate candidate Adam Hinds offers framework for robust Berkshire economy

There is a growing socioeconomic divide in our region and our strategies must not shy away from combatting this.

A strong economy underpins our future in western Massachusetts. It impacts our entire way of life: from population decline, town and school budgets, to personal fulfillment and safety. As State Senator I will strengthen the regional foundation for the growth of our small and medium sized businesses while promoting a dynamic vision for growth that propels the region forward.

Since the start of this campaign, I have heard the dreams and concerns of residents throughout the 52 communities of the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden district. Grandparents, parents, and children question the ability to create a secure future. Workers ask if jobs will remain local. Small business owners wonder if costs will impact longevity. Large employers battle utility costs and outdated transportation infrastructure.

A declining population impacts recruitment and retention while raising the cost of doing business. Almost 2,000 jobs remain unfilled; many are quality positions where the available workforce might lack the training to fill them. The starting point for our business environment is challenging.

Our next State Senator must bring our community together to lead a multi-faceted — and truly regional — economic agenda with other regional leaders. Strong advocacy on Beacon Hill is also required to bridge the divide between Boston’s priorities and our formulas for success.

As State Senator, I would focus on the following key strategies to create a foundation for our small and medium sized businesses in all sectors to grow.

Double down on existing strengths. The philosophy in western Massachusetts is shifting from extensive efforts to attract large employers to a focus on our unique strengths, ingenuity, and assets. We can be proud of several sectors poised for growth. That includes many world-class advanced manufacturing firms doing innovative work in plastics, glass, and other materials. While viewed as a “former” manufacturing center, the region still boasts nearly 6,000 manufacturing jobs. Let’s make sure these firms have what they need to grow right here, by possibly utilizing shared resources through the Berkshire Innovation Center, technical assistance, or workforce development.

Strategic workforce development. We need to promote the training employers need by strengthening dialogue between employers and educational centers. I will ensure local colleges receive state funding to continue with efforts like the Compact for Education, which I have been a member of in recent years. We must bridge the gap between local unemployment and the nearly 2,000 available jobs in the region.

Improve critical infrastructure. Our interconnected economy requires linking employees to employers. That means modernizing our transportation system within the region. Or easing travel to Boston and New York, possibly through passenger rail. It also means finalizing last mile broadband. High speed internet is critical for entrepreneurs and small business owners, yet large parts of western Mass remain deprived. Broadband is vital for home sales and high school students trying to do homework. It is unacceptable that it has taken this long to bring high speed internet to western Mass and I will focus on finalization as State Senator.

Support the creative economy. The region is a destination for thinkers, makers and innovators. There has been consistent growth in the creative economy. I will cultivate innovation and entrepreneurship by promoting access to space, talent, and fiscal support. Moreover visitor spending has increased significantly throughout the past decade. This contributes to the revitalization of downtowns and investments in hospitality, culture and recreation. I will advocate for our regional treasures and seek increased funding through the Massachusetts Cultural Council and other mechanisms.

Promote a positive vision. Western Massachusetts has a quality of life that rivals any in the world. We have a strong sense of community, unequalled access to nature and the arts, and exciting new industries with the potential for growth. Clarity about our brand attracts business, residents, and state support, while retaining our youth. But things like broadband and transportation must be in place for robust growth, particularly amongst the younger generation.

Create an inclusive economy. There is a growing socioeconomic divide in our region and our strategies must not shy away from combatting this. The Working Cities Challenge in Pittsfield works to bridge gaps and break generational poverty, and should be replicated elsewhere. Building a socially responsible economy for future generations is a priority. My campaign is, like my role in the Senate would be, built on improving the lives of all residents and removing obstacles to opportunity.

Finally, good economic policy has many first cousins. Education, housing, and energy costs among others. I will delve into these as this grassroots campaign continues.

Developing sound, meaningful policy takes collective deliberation that brings together thought leaders from all corners of the district and gives them a seat at the table. As your State Senator, I will be the convener we need to build an inclusive agenda for our future. This is a dynamic moment for western Massachusetts, and I am proud to be a part of it.

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Adam Hinds is a State Senate candidate in the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin & Hampden district. He is Executive Director of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, founder of Pittsfield Community Connection, and former United Nations negotiator in the Middle East.

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