From Northampton, a one-time expert has two thoughts
By Zane Lumelsky (bio)
(edited by Bill Densmore)
- “Quality of life” is not a distinguishing feature; many other areas make the same claim.
- Proximity to Williams College is a unique feature and the best selling point.
- Creativity and culture are important but a more important driver of economic development is transportation.
- Broadly defined, transportation is the movement of people, goods, and information (via the telecom/internet).
- The internet is the only transit mode in Greylock Valley that is realistically expandable.
Congratulations on organizing Greylock Creative. Although I left Greylock Valley over five years ago and now live east in the Pioneer Valley, I have a few thoughts about enabling faculty entrepreneurship — and data “transportation” that my interest you.
In the early 1990s I supplied marketing assistance to the Northern Berkshire Industrial Park and Development Corp. At that time I designed marketing collaterals for their Adams Industrial Park as well as for the proposed Williamstown Business Park at the former town landfill. I also contributed to strategic positioning for that venture. All previous marketing materials for Northern Berkshires highlighted “quality of life.”
I disagreed with this approach, not because I believed the area lacked quality of life, but because I felt it was not a competitive, differentiating position. I recall asking “You want to tell an business owner whose facility is in Connecticut, whose primary home is in Greenwich or Westport, who has a pied-a-terre in Manhattan and a beach house in Aruba that if he moves to Northern Berkshire County he will enjoy a better quality of life?” Thousands, even tens of thousands of locations claim the very same thing.
UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY? ENABLE WILLIAMS FACULTY ENTREPRENEURSHIP
What was needed was to identify a unique feature of the area. I believed that feature was close proximity to Williams College. I did not mean next to any small, liberal arts college – there are quite of few of those – but specifically to Williams.
So the question was why would a business require being physically close to Williams College? The answer was because the founder already worked there. After a brief canvas I discovered that several staff and faculty were thinking about establishing businesses but did not want to give up their teaching or staff positions. That was borne out with Tripod and other previous examples, like the Roper Institute.
TRANSPORTATION — DATA NOT GOODS?
Over the last three years I have been involved with railroad projects and have come to believe that transportation, historically and today, is the most important driver of economic development. Some would contend that research universities also fit that category and I agree to a point – because its hard to create new ones. But I also have a broader view of what defines transportation to include the movement of information (digital transit, the internet). Greylock Valley is isolated regarding most transit modes with one exception.
But in about 1982 a fiber optic trunk line was buried through the area (along the rail right of way). I explored this when thinking about the Williamstown Business Park and MassMoCA. Although this line is older technology, it should at least be investigated along with other digital modes.