Local Surprise — And Cautious Optimism — After Berkshire Bank Announces Move From Pittsfield

May 24, 2017

News this week that Berkshire Bank plans to move its headquarters from Pittsfield to Boston caught some local officials by surprise. But they're hoping the bank's move could still end up being a positive for Berkshire County and its largest city.

The moving of its headquarters to Boston goes along with Berkshire Bank's eastward expansion. The bank will pick up 19 branches in central and eastern Massachusetts, if its acquisition of Commerce Bank goes through.

CEO Michael Daly explained to investors why he thinks the move east makes sense. 

"Increasing Berkshire's access to talent and transportation and business and civic leaders, and growth markets, that will be a benefit to all of our markets, allowing us to contribute even further to communities across our footprint," Daly said.

This announcement on Monday caught Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer off guard.

"I was unaware that they had been making these corporate decisions," Tyer said.

The mayor has since talked to Berkshire Bank's boss.

Tyer said she's happy no job cuts are planned locally and that Pittsfield will remain an operational hub for the bank.

Still, those those corporate or white-collar jobs the bank is looking to add — won't be here. And that's been a problem: a lack of opportunities like this, especially for young professionals in the Berkshires.

Tyer, though, does envision a scenario where some of those jobs could be shuttled west.

"Let's say, for example, they find some excellent talent and they bring that talent into their organization, and then there are expansion opportunities here in the Berkshires, and they may relocated some of those employees," she said.

That's an optimistic way to take the bank's move.

But there is a perception of Pittsfield as a former industrial town struggling to reinvent itself and attract new businesses. Jonathan Butler, head of 1Berkshire, the county's chamber of commerce, said news like this doesn't help in fighting that notion. He added, though, that as the bank has expanded to six states, this area has felt the positive effects.

"They've created more jobs locally as they've expanded outside the region," Butler said. "I think we're hopeful that we'll see some of that, and that Berkshire Bank is going to remain one of those true anchor organizations, real anchor presences in the Berkshire economy."

By any measure, Berkshire Bank has been a success story rooted in Pittsfield, soon to possibly have over 100 branches and more than $12 billion in assets.

And local officials are certainly hoping the bank doesn't forget about its roots.