Submitted by Michelle Lopez, DLE Advisory Board Member and Executive Director of the Berkshire Immigrant Center based in Pittsfield, MA.
Recently, my fellow DLE Alum Kevin Pink and I united our organizations, 1Berkshire and the Berkshire Immigrant Center (BIC), to build a database of immigrant-owned businesses in the Berkshires!
It all started at the 2019 DLE Retreat, which Kevin and I attended. We were assigned to an accountability group for staying connected and accountable to our Personal Action Plans after the Retreat concluded. While going through the exercise of goal setting and timing, we realized that our offices are located across an alleyway from each other, and more importantly, that 1Berkshire and BIC could find a way to work together on both of our goals, which included supporting the Berkshire community.
Kevin is part of 1Berkshire’s Economic Development Team which coordinated The Berkshire Blueprint 2.0, an economic vision and action plan developed to launch a strategic imperative with the goal of sustained economic development across the region. 1Berkshire put together a Blueprint Advisory Committee and has been adding to it since its inception in 2019.
I am fairly new to the Berkshires. At the time of the November 2019 DLE Retreat, I had just celebrated six months as BIC’s new Executive Director. At that time, I was about to join the Blueprint Advisory Committee. Kevin subsequently introduced me to 1Berkshire’s Director of Economic Development, Ben Lamb, and we quickly realized that working together could greatly benefit the immigrant entrepreneurial community.
This summer, 1Berkshire and BIC paired up our college interns to collaborate on phone banking, surveying, and compiling data in order to start creating a master list of immigrant-owned businesses throughout the county.
The momentum will continue this fall, when new arriving interns to our organizations will take over the project and continue to build the master list. The project goal is to eventually speak to each owner and determine how 1Berkshire and BIC can provide support through translation services, referrals, consultations, social media marketing, loan application assistance, etc.
Although still in its early stages, this project has been incredibly inspiring to hear, first-hand, owners’ stories about establishing themselves and their businesses in the Berkshires!