On October 28, the Steering Committee of the University-Town of Amherst Collaborative, or UTAC, had its first-ever meeting, held appropriately in the Amherst Room at the UMass Campus Center. The Steering Committee, co-chaired by Amherst Interim Town Manager David Ziomek and UMass Associate Vice Chancellor Nancy Buffone, met to receive its charge from Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy and Amherst Select Board chair Alisa Brewer and to receive updates on preparations for the start of the initiative.
The formation of UTAC was one of five key recommendations made by U3 Advisors, who consulted on the Town Gown Steering Committee launched by Chancellor Subbaswamy and then Town Manager John Musante in 2013. The other recommendations were that UMass Amherst adopt an anchor strategy that embraces the Town of Amherst; thorough exploration by UTAC of mixed-use and housing development; focused joint pursuit by UMass and the Town of public-private partnerships; and the creation of an economic development director position for the Town of Amherst.
Interim Amherst Town Manager Dave Ziomek (l) and UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy at the October 28 UTAC meeting
Many of the members of UTAC's three subcommittees - economic development, housing, and culture, arts, and living - were in attendance for the short inaugural meeting, which was followed by a reception. Enthusiastically and without being prompted, the three committees broke into their respective clusters at the conclusion of the business portion of the evening and quickly got acquainted with one another.
Over the next several weeks, the subcommittees will begin their regular monthly meeting schedules. The Steering Committee will reconvene early in 2016 to hear from the co-chairs of each committee on their progress and begin work on the longer term strategic plan of the initiative. Tony Maroulis, UMass' Director of External Relations, and the the Town of Amherst's economic development director to be hired, will provide staffing for the steering committee and three subcommittees, ensuring continuity and that initiatives are carried out.
In the coming weeks, information about UTAC will be available on its own website. We'll share the link when it launches.