While the Greater Boston region has one of our nation’s strongest economies, the same cannot be said for the entire state. Unemployment is higher in Western Massachusetts and incomes are lower as the region struggles to adapt to the new economy. Thankfully, the Franklin County CDC has developed a flexible and customized array of services to support the long-term economic vitality of Western Mass by helping locally-owned businesses start, grow, and thrive.
Each year, Franklin County CDC (FCCDC) works with over 300 entrepreneurs to help develop and grow their businesses, and they are continually expanding and adapting their programs to meet the needs of their region. More than 20 years ago, they established the Venture Center in Greenfield as a small business incubator. A few years later, the CDC established the Western Massachusetts Food Processing Center, which provides the facilities and equipment for culinary businesses to not only prepare their products, but also to package and prepare them for distribution. More recently, thanks to funding from the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation, the CDC formed a regional partnership with MACDC Members, Valley CDC and Hilltown CDC, to provide small business technical assistance and lending to the broader region, from Northampton, to the Hilltowns, to the Northern Berkshires.
And just this year, the CDC established the Pioneer Valley Grows Investment Fund to enable local residents to invest in local businesses. So far, the CDC has raised $650,000 from dozens of local investors and those dollars have been reinvested in four local companies – with six more in the pipeline.
The CDC also has a new program to help their clients reach new and larger markets. Expanding on the Western Massachusetts Food Processing Center’s work, FCCDC encouraged many local growers and processors to connect to the recently opened Boston Public Market. Eight Franklin County CDC-supported businesses now either have a booth or sell their goods through other vendors in the new market. They also hope to encourage more regional sales through the market, or develop a way to rotate in producers and collaboratively use the space. Helping businesses in Western Massachusetts to access the Boston market will help lessen the economic inequities between the Eastern and Western parts of our Commonwealth.
Each year, the CDC strives to find new and creative ways to build their local economy. It’s not easy, but, as John Waite, Franklin County CDC’s Executive Director says, “This is what we do.”