1Berkshire President Jonathan Butler reviews some of the programs the organization has operated the past year.
HANCOCK, Mass. — Ben Svenson and Eric Kerns reached back a century to cite a paean to an iconic path that put the Berkshires on the map — and leads to the front door of their own landmark addition.
Svenson and Kerns took turns reading the address given at the official opening of the Mohawk Trail in 1914 as they accepted 1Berkshires' "Putting the Berkshires on the Map" award for Tourists inn and resort on Thursday night.
The essay spoke of rugged beauty, obscure lore, intersections with history, undiscovered hills and dales, majestic vistas and a meandering route that entered the valley that shelters North Adams.
"From the very beginning of our project, these words have provided real inspiration and served as a constant reminder that much that enthralls and delights our guests today is what has been luring travelers and adventurers to our little river valley for a very long time," Kerns said.
Svenson and Kerns were given a metal sculpture of Berkshire County with a star marking Tourists' location in North Adams — along with thunderous applause from the more than 300 business and community leaders hosted at Jiminy Peak.
The presentation of the award was the culmination of "Celebrate the Berkshires," an event now in its ninth year of recognizing people and organizations that are making significant contributions to the region and a major fundraiser for the economic development agency.
"What always energizes us at 1Berkshire is seeing how much excitement this event generates amongst the people doing positive things in our region," said President and CEO Jonathan Butler. "Each year, the volume of nominations for Trendsetter Awards grows exponentially. And with that the competition becomes incredibly impressive."
Open nominations are taken in a variety of categories and then narrowed down to five finalists. With the exception of the "Putting the Berkshires on the Map," the winners are announced at the annual gala.
Butler said it's getting harder to select the Trendsetters because of the "amazing initiative all around us" spreading the Berkshires brand.
"To this year's honoree, Tourists, I just want to say awesome job, your impact is felt by all of us," he said. "And you have actually, completely, totally crushed it these last 18 months."
Tourists started as a renovation of a rundown motor court and has turned into a sprawling 40-acre site filled with potential. The motel is now a high-end, 48-room inn, the nearby farmhouse a funky lounge and the entire complex connected to nature through trails and a suspension bridge.
A representative from last year's winner, General Dynamics Mission Systems, made the presentation. Stan Kordana, vice president of surface ship programs, reminded the gathering that the award goes to a nominee that has "left an indelible mark" on the county or substantially contributed to its public profile.
"For the past year tourists has consistently garnered national and international press from publications such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Vogue, and Vanity Fair name a few," he said. "It's truly remarkable what they've been able to do with that property. The combination of their efforts has added dozens of jobs to employ people across the community and around the year."
The major sponsors of this year's event were Berkshire Bank, Greylock Federal Credit Union, Classical Tents, General Dynamics and Jiminy Peak. The ski area owner John Fairbank welcomed the gathering and his son, Tyler, had hosted the earlier VIP event.
Jess Sweeney of North Adams, center, was this year's Under 40 Change Maker.
The masters of ceremony were John Bissell, president and CEO of Greylock Federal Credit Union and chairman of the 1Berkshire board of directors and Danielle Gonzalez, director of human resources for Williams College and board vice president.
This year's Trendsetters included Lee Bank, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, Rising Roots and Jess Sweeney of North Adams.
Sweeney, a founder of Common Folk, former director of the local teen center, and a volunteer and coordinator in numerous community and arts initiatives, was named this year's Under 40 Change Maker.
"It's really hard because for me so much of my work is involved with so many different people," she said. "As much as I'm getting this award, it's very much because so many people get behind the work that I do. So I think it's like a testament to community and bringing community together."
The 2019 Winners
Innovative Marketing Campaign: Lee Bank for its locally-produced branding campaign featuring employees having fun and enjoying authentic experiences with customers.
Newcomer of the Year: Theory Wellness for opening the first recreational cannabis dispensaries in the Berkshires, attracting over 65,000 visitors from nearby states and contributing over $1M in taxes and impact fees to the town of Great Barrington in its first six months of operation.
Nonprofit Impact: Rising Roots for founding the only teen-run farmers market in the country, providing teens with authentic and accessible job opportunities and enhancing community building and teen empowerment through work with farms, food pantries and the Pittsfield Farmers Market.
Creative Economy Standout: Steve Sears of Dalton's Stationery Factory for validating the concept and starting a movement of Berkshire mill conversions into attractive repurposed space for businesses, events, live music, food and beverage, and for making the Berkshires a destination for top-notch live acoustic music.
Growing/Advancing the Berkshire Economy: Mass MoCA for its massive investment and redevelopment in the Berkshires, creating the largest contemporary art museum in the country, contributing over $50 million annually in economic impact to the region, and instigating a North Adams revival.
Under 40 Change Maker: Jess Sweeney for her work creating an environment for local and emerging artists to thrive in the Northern Berkshires through the Common Folk Artists Collective, while empowering teens in leadership and decision making through Roots teen center and leading the inaugural O-Plus Festival to address the gap in health services for freelancers and artists.
Entrepreneur/Visionary of the Year: Margaret Keller for leading the massive expansion of Community Access to the Arts' inspirational work, increasing people served by 70 percent, doubling their base of financial support and launching their first-ever capital campaign/facilities project to give artists with disabilities their own campus in Great Barrington.
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