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:

For more information about this program, please contact Jessica Atwood, Economic Development Program Manager (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.

In 2014, FRCOG received its latest EPA award, a $300,000 combination grant to conduct environmental site assessments on properties suspected of possible contamination by hazardous substances or petroleum products.  Through a public procurement process the firm of Tighe & Bond, Inc. was hired by FROCG to conduct these environmental site assessments under this grant.  When a property is being considered for assessment under this program, the Brownfields Steering Committee checks for EPA eligibility and uses pre-established criteria for determining and prioritizing sites.

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. Two recent properties that received funding for site clean-up are: the Usher Mill site in the Town of Erving, and the Strathmore Mill’s Building #10 debris pile in Turners Falls.

For more information about this program and site eligibility download the Regional Brownfields Program 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 has completed 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. 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. 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.  The MBI used this framework to provide technical assistance to additional communities. Presently, FRCOG is continuing to support the work of the MBI to actively exploring last mile network options for unserved and underserved communities in Western Massachusetts.

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