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. This work includes CEDS, Brownfields, and broadband efforts. 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

For resources and guidance for businesses and nonprofits impacted by COVID-19, click here.

For more information about the Local Rapid Recovery Planning Program, click here

Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) Program

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

  • In summer 2020, FRCOG was awarded a two-year supplemental planning grant from the EDA, as funded from the CARES Act, to assist communities in economic recovery due to the COVID-19 pandemic and to become more resilient at times of economic shock.  This award is funding the following activities:
    • Creation of an economic recovery and resiliency plan with strategic partners that focuses on experiences from the current coronavirus pandemic crisis and prepares Franklin County to withstand and recover quickly from future economic shocks. To help inform the creation of this plan, a survey and select interview of key stakeholders about the COVID-19 crisis, response and recovery priorities were conducted by Hodge Economic Consulting in early 2021. Click here to view a summary of findings.
    • Through a public procurement process, FRCOG hired the Franklin County Community Development Corporation to provide direct technical assistance to entrepreneurs, businesses, and organizations in Franklin county that need support in responding to changing conditions due to the pandemic.
    • Through a public procurement process conducted spring 2021, FRCOG hired the firm of Tighe & Bond to assess public water and sewer/wastewater systems across the county, and areas in need of these systems. The consultant will produce a study that evaluate districts’ needs, identify common issues, provide an overview of funding programs, and propose recommendations.
    • FRCOG staff provide technical assistance to municipalities, non-profit entities, and other stakeholders to support development, securing of resources, and implementation of transformative projects consistent with the CEDS Plan and that will lead to job creation and private investment.
  • The 2020-2025 Franklin County CEDS Plan (PDF, 10.9 mb) was completed under the guidance of the CEDS Committee in June 2020.  This five-year plan uses the EDA framework and serves as a roadmap for the FRCOG and its partners to foster an environment in Franklin County that cultivates business and job growth and enhances opportunity for all. For a brief overview of the Plan, click on 2020 Franklin County CEDS Plan Summary (PDF, 1.3 mb). Released in June 2022, the 2022 CEDS Annual Performance Report is the second of four annual reports based on this plan.
  • FRCOG is a member of the Pioneer Valley Regional Planning Core Team, which is working with MassHire Franklin Hampshire Workforce Board and additional partners to implement workforce development strategies identified in the 2018 Pioneer Valley Labor Market Blueprint.
  • The 2018 Franklin County Business Development Profile provides data and resources to help entrepreneurs and existing businesses grow their ventures. 
  • Studies to support economic development at the municipal or downtown/village center have been completed in recent years for Conway, Deerfield, Orange and Whately.
  • FRCOG sponsored a study by the UMass Donahue Institute of the Economic Impacts of Vermont Yankee Closure and continues to work in partnership with tri-state area regional planning and economic development organizations to develop a strategy that will address the economic impacts of the discontinuation of energy generation activities at Vermont Yankee. 
  • 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.  The Northern Tier Cluster Study (2014) analyzed important clusters in the region and includes information from past Northern Tier studies.

For more information about this program, please contact Jessica Atwood, Economic Development Program Manager ( or 413-774-3167 x123).

Brownfields Assessment & Clean-up

A “brownfield” is defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as real property which the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant. These sites have the potential to negatively impact our region’s public health, natural environment, and economic opportunities. Since 1999, FRCOG has administered a Brownfields Program on behalf of the region that has conducted assessment or participated in clean-up on over 70 sites in 22 Franklin County towns.

FRCOG has been awarded seven EPA environmental site assessment grants totaling $1.5 millions. The latest award of $200,000 was received in 2019 to fund assessment at sites potentially impacted by hazardous substances. Publicly or privately owned properties may be eligible for assessment under this program. FRCOG works with the EPA to determine site eligibility. No staff or contractor may go on a property without prior permission of the owner. Assessments are conducted at no cost to the property owner or the town. FRCOG member municipalities may request a site be considered by submitting a letter or email that identifies the property and describes why assessment is necessary. An assessor’s card for the site should be included with the request, along with an explanation of how the site addresses the Committee’s’ selection criteria. At this time, all funds from the 2019 assessment grant have been obligated. However, FRCOG continues to accept municipal letters of request to consider sites for the program’s waiting list. Having sites on the waiting list is helpful when applying in the future for another assessment grant or when other resources may become available.

Previously, FRCOG administered a Brownfields Clean-up Revolving Loan & Subgrant Fund through EPA awards of $1 million in 1999 and $500,000 in 2005.  The Fund provided low interest loans for clean-up of brownfield sites.  A portion of the Fun also provided subgrants to eligible towns. Properties that have benefited from the Fund included: First National Bank Building in Greenfield; the Upper Mill in Colrain; Putnam Hall in Orange; Usher Mill in Erving; Strathmore’s Building #10 Debris Pile in Turners Falls; Lunt Silversmith in Greenfield; and the Ramage Paper – Wood Structure in Monroe. The Fund was closed out in 2016. FRCOG may reapply to the EPA in the future to reestablish the Fund.

For more information about this program, please view our FRCOG Brownfields Program Information sheet (PDF, 902kb) or contact Peggy Sloan, Director Planning & Development, ( or 413-774-3167 x133) or Jessica Atwood, Economic Development Program Manager ( 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.  A timeline of work conducted by WesternMA Connect, Inc. and previous Connect efforts with FRCOG describes activities undertaken from 1997 through 2016.

The MBI completed construction of the MassBroadband 123 network, which is a fiber-optic middle mile network that dramatically changed the business model for how last mile providers can serve unserved areas, and provides 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.

Executive Director Linda Dunlavy is a gubernatorial appointee to the MBI Board of Directors. FRCOG continues to support efforts to more robustly use the advanced telecom infrastructure available in the region as well as to bring broadband access to the last mile in the unserved and underserved communities of Western Massachusetts.

For more information about this program, please contact Jessica Atwood, Economic Development Program Manager ( or 413-774-3167 x123).