The Hilltown Collaborative is a group of active, engaged citizens and town officials from each of the six Gateway Hilltowns—Blandford, Chester, Huntington, Middlefield, Montgomery, and Russell. The group meets regularly to discuss local and regional issues around education, the economy, and sustainability. Working together with other active organizations in the region, the Hilltown Collaborative has been able to win grants, advocate for rural issues, and facilitate more open discussions and collaborations between the six towns and the school district.
The Hilltown Collaborative has benefited immensely from the state’s Community Compact program, designed to help municipalities find ways to operate efficiently and sustainably as they strengthen and adapt to changing economic conditions. In 2016, the Collaborative succeeded in getting a grant for the six towns (with Chester as the lead sponsoring town) to undergo an economic development assessment. The results of this pointed to several opportunities including real estate development, recreational tourism, and encouraging entrepreneurship, as well as recommended the hiring of a full time economic development director for the area.
In 2017, the Hilltown Collaborative received another grant through the Community Compact program to hire an economic development director, and in July they brought on Jeanne LeClair, who has an extensive background in small business support, public management, and entrepreneurship.
In the last year, working with all six towns, they’ve been able to facilitate many innovative projects and events, continuing to work toward a more secure regional future.