GCC receives $175K grant for collaborative pilot program



Staff Writer
Published: 4/22/2021 4:57:50 PM

GREENFIELD — Greenfield Community College has received a $175,000 grant to help create a space where, with the help of collaborators, it will provide job training programs, products and services to benefit the region.

GCC President Yves Salomon-Fernandez said the Greater Franklin County Rural Innovation Accelerator will bring together people from the municipalities of Greenfield, Orange and Athol, the Franklin County Community Development Corporation, LaunchSpace in Orange and the Center on Rural Innovation in Vermont to “build a foundation focused on the digital, creative and agricultural economies” that can be sustained over time.

“I’m thrilled that we received the grant and that this is a true collaboration,” she said. “Our goal is to design job training programs, products and services to benefit all in the region, especially younger workers with less than a high school diploma who have been adversely impacted by the pandemic.”

Salomon-Fernandez said collaborators want to “engage and retain” young people.

“The funds move us closer to realizing the mission of the Center for Rural Innovation, which is to drive economic growth and enhance the social, intellectual and cultural lives of citizens in the region, paying particular attention to vulnerable populations using an entrepreneurial mindset,” she explained.

LaunchSpace CEO and co-founder Brianna Drohen said while GCC is the lead applicant, she is thrilled LaunchSpace is part of the joint venture of the college, community makerspace and others.

“We want to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Drohen said. “With this collaboration, we’ll be able to loop a lot of resources to the region.”

She said LaunchSpace is working with the Greenfield-based Franklin County Community Development Corporation on space on Pleasant Street in Athol that will house a community kitchen, small-scale agriculture, office studio space and child care.

“We’ll be bringing all this access and these resources to people from across the county to the North Quabbin region,” she said. “We’ll be able to offer so much, including higher education classes, workforce training and more. It’s so exciting.”

Because it is a pilot program, Drohen said collaborators will pay close attention to what works and what doesn’t, and make changes as time goes on. She said eventually, the program will expand.

“We don’t want to reinvent the wheel,” she said. “We want to build on the resources we all can provide and have a centralized, one-stop shop for people. We’ll just keep building on those resources.”

Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration announced 37 Regional Pilot Project grants this week totaling more than $5 million, with GCC’s award being one of them. The program was established to support pandemic recovery solutions based on the specific economic needs of individual regions of the state, and will fund projects that uniquely address local concerns.

“These grants will empower recipients to leverage their own local expertise to tailor recovery strategies that support the unique needs of each region of Massachusetts,” Baker said in a press release.

The competitive grant was awarded based on several factors, including the ability to collaborate to support recovery from the economic impacts of COVID-19 and draw on one of more of the four pillars of the administration’s plan to spur economic recovery: get Massachusetts back to work, support small businesses, revitalize downtowns and foster innovation. The most one applicant could receive was $250,000.

“Partnerships have been key to the success of the commonwealth’s reopening plan, and the Regional Pilot Project Grant Program is one more way for the state to support and encourage the kind of collaboration that will lead to economic recovery, resiliency and growth,” state Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy said in the release.

The Arts Extension Institute, a collaboration of Montague, Springfield and North Adams, received $185,934 to create an Online Regional ArtsHub, a portal for artists, arts and cultural organizations and creative economy businesses to find jobs, resources, customers and collaboration opportunities.

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or afritz@recorder.com.

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