He Kept the Focus on the Future


As anyone in business knows, it’s hard enough to project out a few months or even a few weeks, let alone several years or even a few decades.

But that’s been Tim Brennan’s job for almost 50 years now, and suffice it to say he’s done it very well. While keeping one eye on the present and immediate future, the director of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission has kept the other on what the world, and this region in particular, will likely look like in 20 or 30 years when it comes to infrastructure, workforce demands, recreational needs, and even climate change.

In a few weeks, Brennan will be calling it a career — as we said, a long and fruitful career, for himself and the region he became passionate about.

It was fruitful for him because, as the story that begins on page 6 makes clear, it was in what amounted to a dream job, doing work he found “intoxicating.” And beneficial for the region, because Brennan did a capable job of keeping the focus on the future and anticipating what it might bring.

We believe his most significant contribution — and it was a team effort, to be sure — is the Plan for Progress. We say ‘is,’ because this is a working document, one that will be continually changed and updated as times, and the region’s needs, change.

The first iteration of the plan detailed the need for an economic-development entity to put the focus on regional progress at a time when individual communities were battling with each other for employers, often to the benefit of the employer, and not the municipalities involved in those competitions.

This recommendation led to the formation of the Western Mass. Economic Development Council, which has been in the forefront of efforts to advance the region and put its best foot forward — and today, that region includes both Western Mass. and Northern Conn. — the so-called Knowledge Corridor.

More recent iterations of the plan have helped the region place greater emphasis on maintaining a strong workforce in the wake of retiring Baby Boomers, training the next generation of leaders, and other priorities.

Meanwhile, throughout his tenure, Brennan has put a strong emphasis on the environment (from Connecticut River cleanup to climate change), infrastructure (especially when it comes to rail service for a region where it has been missing for the past several decades), and making cities places in which people, and especially young people, will want to work and live.

One of his pet projects, a high-speed rail line connecting this region with Boston, has not come to fruition — yet. But Brennan has been one of the leaders from this region who have worked hard to keep this issue alive when it could easily have died on the vine.

Brennan leaves some very big shoes to fill, but he has set a tone for effective planning in this region. Through his efforts, a foundation has been laid, in the form of the Plan for Progress and other initiatives, that will make this region better able to anticipate change and be prepared for it.

That is Tim Brennan’s legacy, and he and this region should be proud of it.