Downtown Pittsfield, Inc. (DPI) Virtual Annual Meeting via Zoom.
Meeting commenced at 8:04 am on Friday, May 1, 2020
Remarks by Jesse Cook-Dubin, Outgoing President
J. Cook-Dubin called the Annual Meeting to order and made opening remarks by thanking members, major donors, and property owners.
J. Cook-Dubin spoke about how the COVID-19 crisis is impacting downtown businesses. He encouraged the community to continue to work together to support small businesses by purchasing gift cards through the DPI online store, which has sold over $16,000* worth of gift cards so far (*total as of May 1). He suggested other ways to support businesses are to follow them on social media, share their posts, and attend virtual events.
This is J. Cook-Dubin’s last annual meeting as president of the DPI board after serving for four years. He thanked his family, colleagues, law partner Dennis Egan, and DPI staff. He invited Mayor Tyer to say a few words.
Remarks by Mayor Linda Tyer
L. Tyer thanked J. Cook-Dubin for his years of service and contributions to DPI. The Mayor acknowledged that it has been 7 weeks since schools have been closed and the shelter in place restriction has been placed on us.
The Mayor hopes that the public has viewed the City’s COVID-19 Community Impact Dashboard. She praised efforts that have slowed the spread of the virus; however, she stresses that people are still getting sick and are experiencing the grief of loss. The stay at home order is in place now through May 18.
The Mayor applauded how quickly people have adapted to doing business in the virtual realm and thinks life will be different when we say farewell to this virus. She is concerned about Pittsfield’s business community and acknowledged the struggles faced by our businesses. She commended DPI for meeting this challenge and commented on how fast DPI launched and promoted the online gift card store: https://business.downtownpittsfield.com/store.
The Mayor mentioned that many businesses participated in the federal government programs such as the Paycheck Protection Program and the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, and recognized that these resources are not the solution, that there are no easy fixes, and that the need is still great. The Mayor sees a fierce spirit of resiliency and creativity among all of us. “Pittsfield will not go down without a fight.”
The City will be offering an economic relief and recovery program with $1.1 million of local and federal funding to support residents, small businesses, and cultural organizations impacted by this global health crisis. Grants of up to $10,000 will be available. Funds are meant to help retain and re-hire employees and modify business operations to help them remain viable. On Tuesday April 28, the Pittsfield City Council approved key funding portions of the program, and the City is hoping to receive Community Development Block Grant approval to put this program to work in partnership with the Berkshire County Regional Housing Authority as soon as possible. The program will also help Pittsfield residents who qualify, by offering three months or up to $5,000 to help with mortgage, rent, and utility payments.
If you are interested in more information, please contact Justine Dodds in the City’s Community Development Office at firstname.lastname@example.org, who will collect your contact information and be back in touch with you once there is more grant information to share.
The Mayor reassured us that the City of Pittsfield, and Commissioner Morales, are committed to maintaining and upgrading downtown infrastructure and streetscape maintenance. The City is in process of selecting a contractor to help with pending streetscape maintenance to keep downtown inviting. The City is working with beloved community partner, Pittsfield Beautiful, on a plan on how they can begin downtown planting while maintaining social distancing.
The Mayor emphasized that although we continue to be challenged by the pandemic, there are many things we can do to remain in good spirits and with hopes of better days ahead. She is proud of the determination and resourcefulness that Pittsfield has shown during this time and is sure that the collective Pittsfield/Berkshire resolve will help us recover and emerge stronger and more united than ever.
Jesse Cook-Dubin thanked Mayor Tyer for her clear communication during this crisis and extraordinary job in circumstances with no recent precedent. J. Cook-Dubin welcomed Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, champion in the state house for fighting inequality.
Remarks by Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier
Rep. Farley-Bouvier acknowledged that the DPI team has done extraordinary work and brought a renewed energy to downtown: “a force that has brought small businesses together and served as Pittsfield’s front door.” She thanked everyone for supporting the businesses they love.
She stressed that no one in Berkshire County should be hungry even with so many people living on the edge. The Pittsfield Public School System’s first goal is to make sure children are not hungry.
The Berkshire United Way and the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation have raised funds for the community to address food insecurity, emergency childcare, homelessness, and to help the very poor pay their rent. Rep. Farley-Bouvier thanked Candace Winkler (Berkshire United Way) and Peter Taylor (Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation). “This situation is going to last a long time and no one in Berkshire County should be hungry. Let’s keep this value in mind.”
Rep. Farley-Bouvier emphasized that people need reliable information and government more now than ever and that the greatest need people have is applying for unemployment insurance. In February, there were 50 people working in the MA call center for unemployment. The week of May 1st, they had 1200 people working remotely from their own homes. She acknowledges that the unemployment system is very clunky and antiquated, and that small errors in applications lead to delays. If anyone has issues applying for unemployment, they may contact Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier at Tricia.Farley-Bouvier@mahouse.gov.
Rep. Farley-Bouvier said that the very best thing we can do right now is to convince the federal government to bring relief to state and local governments. She encouraged everyone to take action today by contacting Congressman Neal, Chair of Ways and Means. Go to https://neal.house.gov/ and complete the contact form. “The people of Pittsfield/Berkshire County need the next stimulus package to go to state and local government. This is how we will stabilize the economy and save businesses.”
In closing, Rep. Farley-Bouvier talked about reopening and encouraged us to stay close to our own associations: Downtown Pittsfield, Inc., 1Berkshire, retail associations, etc. “Tap into your sector to prepare your business to reopen.”
Business from Lindsey Schmid, DPI Clerk
L. Schmid presented the Nominating Committee Report for Corporators & Directors and moved to the Election of Corporators & Directors. In accordance with the Nominating Committee’s Report, L. Schmid moved to elect the individuals listed on the report as Corporators commencing with this meeting:
3-Year Term Ending 2023: Nick Dargi, Jess Rumlow
Re-Elected 3-Year Term Ending 2023: Jen Glockner, Sean Jennings, Gary Levante, Joe Lotano, Steve Oakes, Eric Pratt, Alex Reczkowski, David Renner, Lindsey Schmid, Steven Valenti
In accordance with the Nominating Committee’s Report, L. Schmid moved to elect the individuals listed on the report as Directors commencing with this meeting:
3-Year Term Ending 2023:
Nick Dargi, General Dynamics
Gary Levante (3rd term), Berkshire Bank
Joe Lotano (3rd term), NBT Bank
Steve Oakes (2nd term), Commercial Property Owner
Eric Pratt (2nd term), MountainOne
Jess Rumlow, Berkshire Family YMCA
Lindsey Schmid (2nd term), 1Berkshire
J. Cook-Dubin nominated Elizabeth Tully, Cohen Kinne Valicenti & Cook, as a Corporator and Director.
L. Schmid moved to elect Steven Valenti as Life Director. Steve and his store, Steven Valenti’s Clothing, are North Street institutions. Steve has been an advocate of downtown redevelopment for decades and has served multiple stints on the DPI Board and many of its committees. In 2016, DPI recognized Steve with the Bob Quattrochi Downtown Person of the Year Award for his extraordinary service to our community.
The Bylaws of Downtown Pittsfield, Inc. allow the Board to elect as an Honorary Life Director any board member who has served the organization in an exemplary manner over an extended period. The Committee enthusiastically nominated Steve as a Life Director. He joins Gary Scarafoni, Peter Lafayette, Elie Hammerling, and David Carver as Honorary Life Directors.
Since we received no notice of any other nominations, L. Schmid called for a vote. J. Cook-Dubin seconded.
All Corporators in attendance responded to a poll on the screen indicating if they approved, opposed, or abstained from this vote.
L. Schmid noted that the slate of Corporators and Directors had been unanimously elected. She thanked existing and new Corporators and Directors for agreeing to serve this organization as well as the outgoing members of the Board for their years of service to downtown Pittsfield.
Jennifer Berne, Berkshire Community College
Christine Hoyt, 1Berkshire
Dave Renner, Marketplace Cafe
Bridget Rigas, Service Fidelis
Jesse Cook-Dubin called to order the meeting of the Board of Directors for the purpose of electing officers. The Nominating Committee had met previously and J. Cook-Dubin nominated the following people as officers to serve until the next annual meeting in 2021:
President: Branden Huldeen, Barrington Stage Company
Chair: Gary Levante, Berkshire Bank
First Vice President: Michele Butler, David J. Tierney, Jr., Inc.
VP Administration: Timothy O’Donnell, Guardian Life Insurance Company of America
Treasurer: David Irwin, Adelson & Co.
Clerk: Lindsey Schmid, 1Berkshire
Foot Traffic Committee Chair: Karen Pelto, Downtown Pittsfield, Inc.
Marketing Committee Chair: Lindsey Schmid, 1Berkshire
Quality of Life Committee Co-Chairs:
Allison Egan, Berkshire Regional Planning Commission
Kathie Penna, Mill Town Capital
L. Schmid seconded.
Since we had received no notice of any other nominations, J.Cook-Dubin called for a vote. Members of the Board of Directors, including those just elected, responded to a poll on their screen indicating if they approved, opposed, or abstained from this vote.
The slate of Officers was unanimously elected. J. Cook-Dubin thanked officers for agreeing to serve for the next year and adjourned the meeting of the Board of Directors. He reconvened the Annual Meeting and turned over the virtual gavel to the newly elected President, Branden Huldeen. J. Cook-Dubin thanked Casey O’Donnell from EforAll Berkshire County for help with the virtual Annual Meeting.
To view the full Board of Directors, click here.
Remarks by Branden Huldeen, Artistic Producer, Barrington Stage Company, and newly elected DPI Board President
B. Huldeen recognized DPI’s small yet mighty staff and is grateful for the dedicated DPI Executive Committee who cares deeply about downtown and the engaged DPI Board from across membership. He highlighted the true collaboration of DPI with City and government officials. He thanked J. Cook-Dubin for his years of service. B. Huldeen remarked that he started coming to Pittsfield in 2009 and sees how far we have come. He moved here with his husband in 2016, fell in love with Pittsfield, and bought a house downtown.
B. Huldeen stressed that DPI is here for members, and is grateful for members and the hard work and passion that they all bring to downtown Pittsfield.
Remarks by Cheryl Mirer, DPI Executive Director
C. Mirer thanked the DPI board and committee chairs for their support and genuine passion for downtown Pittsfield. She thanked staff, Karen Pelto and Kimberly Gritman, and DPI members, major donors, property owners, and the City of Pittsfield.
C. Mirer spoke about the new online Gift Card Store and how it is helping 55 small businesses for a total of $16,000 in sales so far and also about DPI’s new marketing messages around COVID-19, including the “What’s Open & Closed in Downtown” web-page, which is updated each week. Also new, “Downtown Pittsfield Stories” – a video and blog series available on YouTube and downtownpittsfield.com. So far, stories have been created about the Marketplace Café, the Pittsfield presence of the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center, and Hancock Shaker Village.
C. Mirer thanks Mill Town Capital for their sponsorship through which videos of 5 downtown restaurants were created for Restaurant Week held in March. On Facebook alone, these videos were viewed 22,000 times! You can view them anytime on Facebook or on our YouTube channel.
C. Mirer spoke of a new tool which is coming for DPI members called the Member Information Center. DPI members will be able to communicate and network with each other in a way that has not been possible before. Businesses will be able to easily share news and updates with DPI and share information and interact with other businesses either by computer or phone app.
DPI hopes to have a downtown cleanup this summer instead of the one originally scheduled for May 8, and one is also scheduled for October 9. DPI’s Foot Traffic Committee hopes to have another fabulous Downtown Trick or Treat in October and has a lot of great ideas to make Small Business Saturday in November and the Downtown Festive Frolic in December better than ever.
C. Mirer urged the audience to keep their heads up and to know that Downtown Pittsfield, Inc. is here for you.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:58 am.