Hampshire County data project aims to ID biz opportunity

Last modified: Tuesday, February 25, 2014
NORTHAMPTON — The Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce is working on an economic strategy that touts the benefits of doing business in the region and pulls the county together in new way, said Suzanne Beck, the organization’s executive director.

“We recognize that the county has a concentration of considerable assets. As we look at the environment for our own economy here, we’re really blessed with a number of major advantages so to speak because of the five colleges, the landscape and the way people think up here,” Beck said.

“When it comes to retaining a business or attracting a business, quality of life in your area is a major factor in that decision making.”

As part of this initiative, chamber leadership, nonprofit organizations, municipalities and business owners across the county are in the “discovery phase” of a study of regional economic and demographic data, Beck said.

Consultants have met with more than 100 people in small groups or individually to determine “on a more granular level the qualitative sense of the economy,” she said.

In the next several months, that data collection and qualitative research will be assembled for use. It will be translated into projects municipalities, nonprofit organizations and for-profit groups can collaborate on.

The goal is to represent Hampshire County’s interests more effectively, Beck said.

One key to growth is building on the area’s concentration of the “creative economy,” which could include visual artists, design professions, film and media and performing arts, Beck said.

“When we get to the point where we’re looking at the specific ‘to do’s’ once we gathered all the research we will look at what we do to enhance the creative economy,” she said.

An added benefit in Hampshire County to attracting and retaining businesses is its Regional Tourism Council, whose efforts educate people unfamiliar with the county on all that it has to offer, Beck said.

“The Council is another important game-changer if you will for Hampshire County because we are eligible for state funds in order to promote the county to attract outside visitors here,” she said. “We have a fairly significant tourism economy and this has really given us a leg up in terms of showing what we have to offer.”