|Thurston to Lead Pittsfield Economic Development Authority|
|By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff|
07:45PM / Friday, April 01, 2011
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A longtime North County businessman has been named the new executive director of the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority.
Corydon L. "Cory" Thurston will replace retiring interim executive director William M. Hines Sr. Hines stepped into the role two years ago when PEDA's first director, Thomas E. Hickey Jr., stepped down.
PEDA is charged with overseeing and developing the 52-acre William Stanley Business Park on East Street that was once home to the city's biggest employer, General Electric.
Thurston, whose family operated the Berkshire Broadcasting Co., a string of local radio stations sold to Vox Communications in 2004, said the position aroused his interest when he read that Hines was planning to retire.
"It is the kind of job that fit very much with the things that I look to do," said the Williamstown resident on Friday. "When I saw Bill's announcment for his retirement, I said, you know, this is good timing and it's what I enjoy."
PEDA has come under fire over the years for the slow pace of work at the site and the failure to lure tenants — and jobs — to the park. So far, the only tenant is 6,500 solar panels.
The 58-year-old Thurston is confident his background and experience in real estate, marketing, communications and finance are the right mix for job.
"Not everybody walking down the street has development credientials, whatever those are, but the job itself, being out and marketing, logistics, getting documents together, real estate work, I've done it and I enjoy," he said.
Thurston was president of Berkshire Broadcasting, which his father, the late Donald Thurston established in 1963. He will continue as president of North Adams Tower Co., which owns and manages communications towers, and is an acquisition specialist and special projects consultant for Redstone Properties Inc. of Williamstown. He's also spent more than two decades as a director of Berkshire Bank and is a member of the Williamstown Volunteer Fire Department. (Thurston also provided consulting last year to one of iBerkshires' Web properties, BerkshireNonProfits.com.)
He's the first PEDA director from outside the founding circle; Hines was board chairman until stepping into director spot in 2009. A press release quoted by The Berkshire Eagle (but not sent to iBerkshires) said Thurston's hire was unanimously approved by the PEDA board on Friday and that 13 resumes had been received.
Thurston confirmed he was hired Friday and expected to start first thing Monday. "I'm very flexible, I guess that was the advantage to some degree — I could start right away," he said, adding Hines will be staying on and bringing him up to speed on the project. "He and I are going to work together through the month so, hopefully, it will be a smooth and intelligent transition."
The search for a new director only began a couple months ago, after Hines announced hire retirement in December. In February, Hines told The Eagle that the new director had to be a "jack of all trades."
That appears to describe Thurston, who says, "I have my nose in everything." He's worked with federal government and officials in lobbying for the broadcasting industry, with financial and legal documents, and in overseeing road construction, utilities and permitting, and dealt with local and state officials over various projects.
"It's a very, very complicated process, brownfields development, the land that was supposed to be have been turned over ages ago is still not 100 percent turned over to PEDA," he said. "GE stills holds title to the '40s,' for insancee."
As those issues are resolved, he expects good things to begin happening this year. There's an expectation a groundbreaking this summer and there's interest in a couple other plots. "Some of the results of Bill's work are really going to start to show," he said. "It will make me look good but it's all because of the seeds that Bill has sown."
Thurston, however, is looking to find more creative ways to market the park, including outside ideas, and sees the potential in supporting industries for existing companies.
"We're going to take a little more aggressive approach at PEDA once I get my feet on the ground," he said. "General Dynamics is a wonderful story and I think there are some other stories in the region that will create the right kind of synergistic-type companies that either supply or support some of these growth industries. We might get our share if we work at it."
In a way, the goal is to put himself out of a job.
"Hopefully, it's not going to be a long-term job," said Thurston. "The idea is to get it developed and there's only 52 acres there, so we if we find the right combination of businesses, who knows? ...
"It will remain a challenge but somebody's got to do it."