Business Briefs: COVID-19 impact survey; opioid response grant; new BIO director; TRIO program renewed; manufacturing training graduates

The three-year grant will fund a peer-support recovery center in South County, expand access to services and help to increase prevention capacity over the next three years

1Berkshire, Assets for Artists, Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation launch creative economy COVID-19 impact survey

Pittsfield — 1Berkshire, MASS MoCA’s Assets for Artists program and Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation are seeking information via a new survey from the leadership of creative economy institutions, businesses and organizations as well as from individual artists and creatives in the Berkshires.

Said Benjamin Lamb, director of economic development at 1Berkshire: “As we look at how the region moves through and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, we are now working to build in a new layer of our Berkshire Blueprint 2.0 that directly addresses the new, emergent, and highlighted needs raised through the pandemic. With so much of our economy being driven by the Creative Cluster outlined in our Blueprint, we really need to know what is being experienced at all levels within the creative economy so we can address those needs in a robust way collectively.”

From individual artists to cornerstone creative and cultural institutions, this survey aims to collect meaningful information across the spectrum of participants in the Creative Cluster. The information garnered will be distilled and included in a new Berkshire Blueprint 2.0 COVID-19 Addendum, and will also be used by the partnering organizations to take tactical actions and approaches that support this sector in our region.

The organizations ask that participants complete the survey by Friday, Oct. 16, so that they can begin using the information as soon as possible. The survey should take between 7-10 minutes to complete. For more information, contact the 1Berkshire economic development team at EconomicDev@1berkshire.com.

–E.E.

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Grant to fund recovery center in South County

Great Barrington — The South County Opioid Working Group has announced that it has secured a Health Resources and Services Administration Rural Communities Opioid Response Program grant. The three-year grant will fund a peer-support recovery center in South County, expand access to services and help to increase prevention capacity over the next three years.

“I couldn’t have been more pleased to hear that the HRSA Grant request for opioid related health services was fully funded. The opioid crisis is one that lurks in the shadows of our community but is certainly pervasive throughout. The grant award is a testament to the tireless commitment of a few to serve everyone affected by the opioid epidemic in our region. With the available funds, a local recovery center is now on the horizon and I personally feel tremendous hope to witness such progress in maximizing the health for all in our community.” states Rebecca Jurczyk, health agent for the town of Great Barrington.

“With this grant funding a recovery center, South County will finally be provided an extremely valuable asset. We all know that connection fuels recovery; not only for the individual but for the community as a whole. HRSA and the tireless advocacy of the South Berkshire Opioid Working Group have made it possible for us to move forward in our mission. This grant will save lives,” stated Rural Recovery Resources project manager, Gary Pratt.

When fully operational, the South County recovery center will employ a full-time program director, a full-time data coordinator/assistant, a full-time recovery coach and part-time co-responder. The center will provide peer support, education, referrals, prevention activities, meeting space and other recovery support services. For more information, contact Rural Recovery Resources project manager Gary Pratt at gary@rsyp.org.

–E.E.

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Berkshire Interfaith Organizing appoints new director

Dondei Dean. Photo courtesy Berkshire Interfaith Organizing

Pittsfield — Berkshire Interfaith Organizing has appointed Dondei Dean as its director and lead organizer. She succeeds Wendy Krom, the group’s founding lead organizer, who has gone on to serve as an independent trainer and consultant.

Dean has been a community organizer at BIO focused on organizing residents harmed by issues of racial injustice and immigrant injustice. Her efforts helped lead to the recruitment and training of more than 70 volunteers who are now prepared to accompany local immigrants to ICE appointments and appearances in immigrant court as well as to better outreach from schools to families of the children hardest hit by the move to remote learning.

Dean is a graduate of Dartmouth College, where she majored in studio art and minored in government and Spanish, in which she is fluent.

–E.E.

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BCC’s TRIO program renewed

Pittsfield — In August, the U.S. Department of Education announced that Berkshire Community College’s TRIO program for student support services was renewed for five years, with an award of $1,473,625 to help more students succeed in and graduate from college. BCC’s program will receive $294,725 per year, allowing it to continue serving 165 students per academic year through 2025.

TRIO grants are awarded every five years on a highly competitive basis, with a total of $270 million allocated to 968 institutions by the federal government in 2020. This fourth renewal marks 20 years of TRIO operation at BCC as well as a new chapter of student support services, as the institution simultaneously increased the TRIO office space, launched the building of a one-stop student service center, and bolstered its online presence to support students through the COVID-19 period.

At BCC, a majority (71%) of students were eligible to participate in the TRIO project during the 2018-19 academic year. Over the past five years, TRIO has helped participants to remain in good academic standing (95%), continue their studies (82%), graduate (54%), or transfer to a four-year institution (28%).

–E.E.

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Berkshire Advanced Manufacturing Training graduates 56

McCann welding program participants, from left to right: instructor Glenn Andrews, Logan O’Neil, Steven Barbeau, Grant Collingwood-Fox and instructor John Kline. Photo courtesy MassHire Berkshire Workforce Board

Pittsfield — Despite interruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 56 trainees completed their training as part of MassHire Berkshire Workforce Board’s Berkshire advanced manufacturing program. 21 un- and underemployed participants received certificates of completion for their participation in Introduction to Basic Advanced Manufacturing Skills training, held at Taconic High School in Pittsfield and McCann Technical School in North Adams. Six trainees completed training in welding (95 hours) held McCann Tech. The trainings combined classroom, hands-on and virtual training through ToolingU online manufacturing. Trainees received instruction in blueprint reading, shop math, computer-aided drafting, CAM, machining, and mill and lathe programming as well as receiving OSHA 10 cards. These skills prepared participants to apply for entry-level positions at local manufacturers. In conjunction with the training, participants were given the opportunity to apply for employment through two virtual job fairs sponsored by the MassHire Career Center.

Additionally, 17 individuals participated in a one-day hoisting training that prepared them to take the state licensure exams in 1A and 3C hoisting. Both un- and underemployed individuals as well as incumbent workers from Berkshire employers took advantage of this training.

As part of the grant funding, Berkshire Workforce Board was able to offer 12 on-the-job training financial assistances to area manufacturers. This funding assists employers in reducing the cost of supporting the training of new hires, particularly in entry-level positions.

These trainings are part of a $178,000 state grant awarded to the Berkshire Workforce Board for fiscal year 2020 to support the education and training of individuals with entry-level skills needed to enter and/or advance within the advanced manufacturing workforce in Berkshire County. Funding was provided by the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development and administered by the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County. This is the fifth year of providing this training.

–E.E.