Press Release: Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation Releases First-Ever Regional Assessment


Nearly 2,300 Residents Provided Perspectives on Key Challenges and 
Opportunities for Improving Lives 


July 13, 2017

Sheffield, Mass. — Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation today announced the release of A Closer Look, a new report resulting from a yearlong assessment project designed to share key data and resident perspectives on the region while sharpening the foundation’s focus as it enters its third decade.

The publication caps a process begun in June 2016 through which Berkshire Taconic—along with research partner Mt. Auburn Associates—held a series of conversations with residents around its four-county region to better understand the most pressing issues today. Through a dozen focus groups and four online surveys, the foundation engaged close to 2,300 people. Mt. Auburn also reviewed a wide range of existing reports and studies to provide a meaningful context for the discussions and report.

“With nearly 30 years of grantmaking and other community investments behind us, we set out to better understand what residents see as the most pressing issues for the future and how key data support those perspectives,” said Peter Taylor, president of Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation. “With a new knowledge base to build on and share, we can better support donors, nonprofits and communities as we shape a bold vision for the future together.”

The report highlights a group of five themes that emerged from the research and community dialogues, and presents a combination of key facts and resident perspectives for each theme that help document the region today. 

Jobs & the Economy: Even as jobs in the creative economy, food-related industries and tourism are on the rise, the region’s slow overall job growth since the recession and shifting economic base are primary concerns for residents of all ages, incomes and education levels.

Demographic Transition: With one in five residents over 65 and a shrinking share of working age families, the region is losing population but is also slowly becoming more diverse. 

Youth & the Future Workforce: Larger than average professional and working classes and declining public school enrollments—together with an emerging skills mismatch and the growing opioid crisis—all have implications for current and future employers. 

Deepening Inequality: Poverty is rising in three-quarters of the region’s towns and cities, and incomes have not kept pace with inflation in over half the region. At the same time, the number of housing units used as second or vacation homes has grown by 28% since 2000.

Assets & Infrastructure: While much of the region’s landscape is under protection and historic and cultural resources abound, services such as transportation and broadband are underdeveloped. 

Results from the project’s resident survey include: 

60% of all residents reported challenges accessing job opportunities for themselves or a family member

1 in 5 reported challenges with transportation to work or school

1 in 8 reported challenges securing fresh and healthy food

44% of residents under age 46 answered “yes” or “maybe” when asked if they are considering moving in the next three years

In coming months, Berkshire Taconic will engage with donors, nonprofits, business and civic leaders, and residents to stimulate additional thinking and strategy development in response to this report. The foundation will also host several events in the fall to continue asking critical questions for the region’s future—including how philanthropy can make a difference. 

“This is an exciting time for Berkshire Taconic because so many of our neighbors throughout this region enthusiastically contributed to this project,” said Sarah Stack, chair of the Berkshire Taconic board of directors. “By tapping into this area's many assets—our people and their talents, our institutions and their leadership—we create an opportunity to build even stronger communities.” 

A Closer Look can be downloaded at: www.BerkshireTaconic.org/ACloserLook.






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