Posted on

Backwoods or not? (2005)

The Berkshires is no longer backwoods, and getting attention in all kinds of publications these days. The coverage is no more accurate, and the challenges that face the Berkshires remain substantial, with falling and ageing population and too few jobs. But I now have the Train Campaign as a vehicle, so to speak, for action. Great Barrington was recently listed as the best small town in America in Smithsonian magazine and the Guardian included in a list of the six “coolest” cities in the USA:

9 July 2005: I was getting used to people expecting a publishing bumpkin when we first meet, but the Berkshires–a range of small mountains, in fact, as well as the westernmost county in Massachusetts–is starting to appear on urban mental maps. This weekend’s Financial Times has an article about the Berkshires which calls it “the thinking person’s Hamptons.” Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal reviewed “Follies,” the Barrington Stage production we’re seeing Tuesday. And this morning’s New York Times has a review of “Rinaldo,” the opera we are seeing tonight in the Mahaiwe Theater, which is in the same building as our offices.

The question on my mind is how this new awareness of the Berkshires, admittedly as an alternative to the Hamptons, will affect business. Will it make it more likely that talented people will want to move here, and that companies like ours will be able to expand and form a more extensive professional job base? One of my goals has long been to create career opportunities in the region, as well as to build the intellectual and human capital of Great Barrington so we can more easily tackle the challenges that face this community.

Things could go either way, I think, to the Hamptons model (the rich and those who provide services to them), or to well-managed development (‘smart growth’) and diverse, engaged community life(‘social capital’). I’m busy planning, with some friends and colleagues, how to steer us on the latter course.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *