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Initiative Launched To Assist Immigrant-Owned Businesses In Berkshire County

Downtown Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in 2019.
Nancy Eve Cohen
Downtown Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in 2019.

Two groups in Berkshire County — one focused on helping immigrants, the other on economic development — are launching a project to support immigrant-owned or operated businesses. 

The first step for 1Berkshire and the Berkshire Immigrant Center is to get the basic facts: How many immigrant-owned companies are there in the county and what do they do?

The next, said Benjamin Lamb, director of economic development at 1Berkshire, is to help the businesses navigate challenges, such as getting information in their own language about loans or grants or support for businesses during the pandemic.

"Forms, applications, things to apply for funds or resources or programs," Lamb said. "And then workshops that have historically just been offered in English — having a way to have them be translated into someone's native tongue."

According to 1Berkshire's 2019 action plan, "The immigrant population represents the largest sector of growth in Berkshire County."   

U.S. Census Bureau data from2014 and2018 show the number of foreign-born residents in the county increased by more than 14% during that time period, while Berkshire County's total population dropped by more than 2%.

Lamb said once the project has more information about immigrant-owned businesses, it can do a better job advocating on their behalf to state and federal lawmakers. 

Nancy Eve Cohen is a senior reporter focusing on Berkshire County. Earlier in her career she was NPR’s Midwest editor in Washington, D.C., managing editor of the Northeast Environmental Hub and recorded sound for TV networks on global assignments, including the war in Sarajevo and an interview with Fidel Castro.
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