While the UTAC Steering and subcommittees have been on hiatus for the summer, working groups from the Economic Development, Housing, and Culture subcommittees are meeting on a regular basis to tackle some of the many topics that had emerged during the Town-Gown effort's first year.
UTAC staff - Amherst Economic Development Director Geoff Kravitz and UMass Director of External Relations Tony Maroulis - meet weekly to keep tabs on all of the efforts. Current working groups that have already met are the following:
- Understanding the Amherst Economy - Higher education is the town's main economic driver, but other factors influence a stable and strong local economy. The group hopes to collect and analyze data including workforce numbers, new construction, and opportunities from emerging industries. The group is also taking into account how other towns and the region play a part in Amherst's overall economic health.
- High Value Research Activities - What research on campus can be seeded in town? What partnerships can emerge from the cutting edge research that is happening at UMass? What type of spaces need to be developed in order to capture fledgling companies (e.g. office, lab, industrial, etc.)? This group hopes to create synergies and connections that are a benefit to the Town-Gown relationship.
- Re-ignite Ignite Amherst - The town of Amherst is filled with talent, expertise, and awesome folks. Ignite Amherst, a once per year happening last seen in 2013, was an outlet for touting those ideas in short five-minute presentations that were often illuminating, sometimes sidesplitting, but never, ever boring. The group hopes to kick the series off again during the 2016-17 academic year. Stay tuned.
- Commercial Space Inventory – A central location for available commercial property does not currently exist. Partnering with local property owners and real estate agencies, this group aims to create a filterable map of locations available for lease and purchase, with information on each locations zoning, price, prior uses and contact information. A prototype has been developed and we are now in the process of populating the map with available properties.
- Entrepreneurship & Startups – What can be done to support entrepreneurial activity and startup companies? As a first step, this working group is developing a list of people interested in serving as mentors to advise and nurture new business ventures in Amherst.
- Amherst Population - According to the 2010 census, Amherst is home to nearly 38,000 residents. Who is counted in that number and what makes up a full time resident in this college town has long been a matter of dispute. This committee is working to better understand how we count our population and what the implications are on our current and future housing market.
- Housing Incentives - In the U3 Advisors report that is the basis for UTAC it is noted that among Amherst residents, only 25% work at UMass Amherst, and among that set 45% are faculty. This group is exploring and studying programs that other Universities have utilized to incentivize faculty and staff to live in their host communities.
- Housing Impact Analysis - This group is trying best to understand how new construction is affecting demand both on and off-campus and what future opportunities and threats may be provided by future construction starts.
- Culture Communications - The working group is beginning talks on a Town-Gown cultural survey. While campus and community are chock full with over 60 venues for entertainment and potential programming, residents and residents often say “there’s nothing to do here.” This group will attempt to gather intelligence on how culture vultures gather information about events.
- Culture Programming and Placemaking - This group is assisting with plans on a months long town-gown exhibition that will feature local and national artists and students with programming. More to come on this exciting effort.
The next Steering Committee meeting is scheduled for September 13 at 5pm. The fall subcommittee meeting schedule will be posted in the next few weeks.