Economic Development Planning

An important focus of FRCOG is to support key strategies, programs and projects that strengthen our regional economy and encourage economic opportunity for all. To that end, FRCOG works with federal, state, regional and local partners to assess economic development needs and issues, and support those initiatives that offer employment opportunities and investment in our communities.

Current Projects

Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS Program)

Funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), the Greater Franklin County CEDS Program allows FRCOG staff to support local projects and regional initiatives. Recent efforts include:

  • 2014 CEDS Annual Report published in June 2014. A new five-year CEDS Plan, with corresponding project listing, is being developed currently and will be complete by June 2015.
  • Created a marketing brochure to promote a data center development opportunity at the Greenfield Innovation Park (formerly the Bendix site).
  • Co-sponsoring the Pioneer Valley Growth Business Study
  • Supporting economic development related to the return of passenger rail service in Greenfield.
  • Partnering in the Economic Resiliency in the Northern Tier initiative with the Franklin County Community Development Corporation and the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission to support access to technical assistance for small businesses and entrepreneurs.  A Northern Tier cluster report is being conducted that analyzes important clusters in the region and includes infomration from the 1986 Northern Tier Study, 1990 Northern Tier Project Summary, and 2004 Northern Tier Study.
  • Working with the Town of Greenfield and the Town of Montague to support the development of new planned industrial park land.
  • Completed a Downtown Orange Market Assessment that identified the types of businesses and services most wanted in the community.

For more information about this program, please contact Jessica Atwood, Senior Economic Development Planner (jatwood@frcog.org or 413-774-3167 x123).

Brownfields Assessment & Clean-up

A “brownfield” is defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a property that the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant. These vacant or underutilized sites can impact our natural environment, community health and economic opportunities. Since 1999, FRCOG has administered a Brownfields Program on behalf of the region that has conducted assessment or clean-up on over 50 sites in 17 Franklin County towns.

The most recent EPA award in 2011 allowed FRCOG to hire the firm of Tighe & Bond, Inc. to conduct environmental site assessments on seven properties potentially contaminated with hazardous substances. The FRCOG has submitted an application for a sixth EPA grant to continue this assessment work on sites potentially impacted by hazardous substances and also allow for assessment of properties potentially impacted by petroleum products.

In addition to assessment, FRCOG administers a Brownfields Clean-up Revolving Loan Fund that can provide loan financing (and potentially subgrants to municipalities) to eligible property owners to fund clean-up hazardous materials. In the past year, two sites have accessed these resources to fund site clean-up. The Town of Erving received $150,000 in funding to complete the clean-up the Usher Mill site. The Town of Montague received approximately $260,000 to clean-up the Strathmore Mill’s Building #10 debris pile in Turners Falls.

For more information about this program and site eligibility download the Franklin Regional Brownfields Program brochure or contact Peggy Sloan, Director Planning & Development, (psloan@frcog.org or 413-774-3167 x133) or Jessica Atwood, Senior Economic Development Planner (jatwood@frcog.org or 413-774-3167 x123).

Broadband Infrastructure and Adoption

FRCOG has been an active leader in regional broadband access equity issues since the “digital divide” emerged as a significant challenge for the region in the 1990s. Through partnerships with the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) and WesternMA Connect, Inc., the FRCOG supports efforts to deploy broadband infrastructure in the region and encourage the adoption of advanced broadband services. The MBI was created by the state legislature and Governor Patrick in 2008, with the mission to expand affordable broadband access across the Commonwealth. Executive Director Linda Dunlavy is a gubernatorial appointee to the MBI Board of Directors.

The MBI is currently completing construction of the MassBroadband 123 network, which is a new fiber-optic middle mile network that is dramatically changing the business model for how providers are able to serve unserved areas, and is providing a direct fiber connection to over 1,200 community anchor institutions (CAIs) in western and north-central Massachusetts. The MBI is also actively exploring last mile network options for unserved areas and encouraging broadband adoption programs.

Working with the MBI and Connect, the FRCOG produced the “Innovative Uses of Broadband in Your Community” guide to inspire municipally-based CAIs to think about how they could use next generation broadband services in their community. FRCOG also conducted a Request for Information (RFI) process in Spring 2013 to provide municipally-based CAIs with information about service providers using the MassBroadband 123 network. These RFI responses can help CAIs better understand the service, products, and pricing structures being offered by service providers as they are making procurement decisions.

RFI Overview
Table of RFI Responses
• RFI Respondent Proposals: Crocker Communications, Inc., DSCI Corps, Direct Network Services Inc.., Town of Warwick Broadband Service, Cornerstone Telephone CompanyIntegrity by CELT, AccessPlus Communications Inc., Community WISP Inc., Sidera Networks, WiValley, and MECnet.

In Fall/Winter 2013, FRCOG implemented a pilot project with 11 Franklin County municipalities to help them evaluate the telecommunication needs of their municipal departments, provide potential network configurations (including using MassBroadband 123), and offer recommendations for how they can solicit proposals from service providers to meet their needs.

For more information about this program, please contact Jessica Atwood, Senior Economic Development Planner (jatwood@frcog.org or 413-774-3167 x123).