Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield has been selected to participate in the 'Building a National Network of Museums and Libraries for School Readiness’ project. Photo courtesy Berkshire Museum

Business Briefs: Berkshire Museum in national program; busy real estate market; BUW campaign kick-off; new art storage facility; new Jack Miller Contractors hires

The median price for single-family homes rose by 19.5% to $490,000 and condominium prices rose by 10.5% to $420,000 when compared to September 2019.

Berkshire Museum to participate in ‘Building a National Network of Museums and Libraries for School Readiness’

Pittsfield — As part of a cooperative agreement with the Institute of Museum and Library Services awarded to Boston Children’s Museum to expand its existing School Readiness through Partnerships program to three new states, Berkshire Museum has been selected to engage in the “Building a National Network of Museums and Libraries for School Readiness” project. Berkshire Museum served as the hub leader organization for western Massachusetts as part of an IMLS National Leadership Grant-funded School Readiness through Partnerships project from 2016 to 2018.

This is a national effort over a three-year timeline that advances state work on behalf of young children, families and communities. Together with participating museums and libraries, Boston Children’s Museum has launched new grassroots museum and library networks in Iowa, Mississippi and New Mexico; and will develop methods for network sustainability within and among states. Education Development Center Inc. will serve as the third-party evaluator for the project, documenting the progress and testing the effectiveness of the model in building institutional readiness to serve all families in their regions.

Boston Children’s Museum will work with the Berkshire Museum through site visits, conference calls, webinars and an annual leadership institute to bring states together to learn from and share with each other. The museum’s programming during the project will focus on developing and testing object-based mobile museum units in nontraditional, community settings. This experimental phase will provide participating regions with examples of how they may engage their own local cultural institutions and resources, including historical and contemporary objects to support child and family development in new ways.


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Mass. Association of Realtors reports market not slowing

Waltham — The Massachusetts Association of Realtors has reported an increase in closed sales of single-family homes (+23.7%) in September, compared to the same time last year. The median price for single-family homes rose by 19.5% to $490,000 and condominium prices rose by 10.5% to $420,000 when compared to September 2019.

Shortage of inventory continues to foster a competitive bidding market with fast closing times and multiple offers for properties. Single-family homes for sale decreased by 56.6% compared to September of last year and condominiums were down 17.6%.

“While September is typically the ‘start’ of the fall market after the summer market winds down, this year we did not experience the typical summer slowdown,” said Kurt Thompson, 2020 MAR president and broker at Keller Williams Realty North Central in Leominster. “Despite some uncertainty due to the pandemic, we’re continuing to see many well qualified and highly motivated buyers take advantage of historically low interest rates and continue to fuel a strong Massachusetts real estate market.”


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Berkshire United Way kicks off campaign year

Brenda Petell, director of volunteer engagement at Berkshire United Way, right, hands over pledge forms to Gabrielle Vanderpool, employee campaign coordinator at Ray Murray Inc., during the company’s recent workplace campaign kickoff event. Photo courtesy Berkshire United Way

Pittsfield — This year will look different for Berkshire United Way’s 140 workplace campaigns, but the goal to raise money while having fun remains the same.

“These campaigns are the backbone of our fundraising efforts, so this year we have modified our processes due to the pandemic, from virtual kickoffs and creative special events to customized campaign web pages that enable employees to virtually make gifts,” said Duffy Judge, BUW development manager. “We have also launched a campaign kickoff video to replace in-person gatherings.”

Longtime supporter Unistress Corporation kicked off BUW’s fundraising year with a two-week campaign in September, reporting a 6% increase in participation, while new campaign Berkshire Sterile Manufacturing has just started.

“Charitable giving is a cornerstone of our culture and Guardian fosters it by matching nonprofit donations,” said Larry Hazzard, vice president, head of disability income product, underwriting and claims, and president of Berkshire Life. “Our campaign coordinators Matt Cormier and Jacki Alibozek have devised creative fundraisers for our work-from-home reality, such as an online raffle, tequila seminar and drive-in movie night. We’re thankful to be 100 percent functional in our virtual work environment and look forward to a robust campaign.”

In partnership with Miraval Berkshires, BUW is offering a new incentive: Anyone who pledges to this year’s campaign will be entered to win a three-day, two-night wellness getaway to Miraval’s new resort in Lenox.


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Morrison Gallery opens art storage facility, art services community

The loading dock at Morrison Art Storage Facility in Kent, Conn. Photo courtesy Morrison Art Storage Facility

Kent, Conn. — The Morrison Gallery has opened an ultra-modern art storage facility. The Morrison Art Storage Facility is a 25,000-square-foot, two-story, temperature-, humidity- and climate-controlled building. It is part of an art services community that accommodates the needs of collectors, artists and museums. MASF services include general and private storage rooms, white-glove transportation service from professional art handlers, 24/7 loading dock hours and private viewing rooms.

The family-owned and -operated MASF is part of a complex constructed in the past year that will soon include the new Morrison Gallery, which will re-open in the spring, in a new breezeway-connected building fronting on Main Street. In addition to artworks, the facility will store antiques, jewelry, family heirlooms, furniture and other valuables.

Said owner William Morrison: “One of our advantages is that MASF is not a corporate-run site and thus we can provide the highest personal service in a safe facility that was constructed specifically for art storage space and is not a converted factory building. Our art transportation shippers are available with state-of-the-art climate controls in security vehicles, and our loading dock is on call 24 hours a day. We can transport art anywhere in the world in safe custom-designed crates that meet the highest safety and storage requirements. As a convenience to artists, the facility will also provide access to art fairs and other venues. ”


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Jack Miller Contractors hires senior superintendent, project coordinator

Williamstown — Jack Miller Contractors has hired Jim La Casse as senior superintendent and Lawrence Prince as project coordinator.

Jim La Casse. Photo courtesy Jack Miller Contractors

La Casse has been in the construction business for more than 50 years. He started his career as a carpenter foreman in Williamstown, owned and operated a custom millwork shop and worked for four years as a dairy farmer in North Bennington, Vermont. In addition to owning and managing a 28-unit multi-housing property and commercial office space, La Casse was superintendent and project manager for several large companies across the Northeast. La Casse served in the military for seven years, holds a Massachusetts State Builders License and is OSHA-certified. His community service includes coach and referee roles in youth soccer, football and Little League as well as project management for the Northern Berkshire Habitat for Humanity.

Lawrence Prince. Photo courtesy Jack Miller Contractors

Prince moved to the Berkshires from Philadelphia in May 2020 to change careers and be closer to family. He has more than 15 years of experience in the electrical industry in both distribution and manufacturing. As president of Manna Supply, he directed operations for the $33 million firm, formulated and executed all strategic plans and eventually sold the company in order to make the move north. Proven in five-star customer service satisfaction, developing fruitful business relationships and executing financial decisions for multimillion-dollar operations, Prince is utilizing his skillset to improve processes across the board.