Pittsfield seeks new day, not an echo of its heyday,

By Jaclyn Stevenson
February 9, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — The pervasive feeling in the city of Pittsfield — the Berkshires’ largest city and county seat — is that it’s done trying to return to its heyday.

Rather, elected officials, business- development professionals, and entrepreneurs alike are calling for a new day in Pittsfield, one that celebrates the creative economy, makes great use of existing resources, and stands ready for entrepreneurial endeavors of all types and sizes.

Mayor Linda Tyer, who took office in January and will serve Pittsfield’s first-ever four-year mayoral term, made these tenets some of her key platform points during her campaign, and the message appears to have resonated. The former Pittsfield City Clerk defeated two-term incumbent Mayor Daniel Bianchi with 59% of the vote, winning all 14 precincts.

Tyer said the city has long suffered from what she calls “group depression” following the departure of General Electric, which became part of the Pittsfield landscape in 1903 and at its peak provided 13,000 jobs in a city of 50,000 residents. Its influence on the city’s economy dwindled steadily through the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, but many people long held hope that another outfit similar in size and scope may someday return.

Mayor Linda Tyer Embarks on First Term in Pittsfield

BusinessWest spoke with Pittsfield’s Mayor Linda Tyer on day 11 of her administration.

“Pittsfield has a tendency to say, ‘someone is out there,’” Tyer noted. “But we’ve already seen that one business will only be able to sustain us for so long. I’m interested in who is already here, on the cusp of expansion or ready for something new. In the end, the best investment is local, big or small.”

Corydon Thurston, executive director of the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority (PEDA), has a similar, if not more concentrated, view of the city and its opportunities for business development.

“The chances of landing a major corporation are akin to winning Powerball,” he explained. “Today, competition isn’t just statewide, it’s worldwide, and finally the realization here is that we need to support who we already have, help them grow, and find ancillary opportunities for additional growth and added diversity — not create another a one- industry town.”

If You Build It…

The largest development currently underway is the creation of the Berkshire Innovation Center (BIC), which will be located at the William Stanley Business Park (created at the massive former GE complex) and cater to small and medium-sized businesses positioned to add to the supply chain of various life-science and biotechnology projects.

“The BIC is designed to provide access to high-tech equipment that will allow businesses to innovate, grow, and respond to customer demands in an efficient and timely fashion — rapidly prototyping products and bringing them to market,” Thurston said. “Temporary space will be available for lease within the center to allow companies to mature, and hopefully they will stick around. Pittsfield has plenty of existing manufacturing space at low cost, and once we get them here, we can grow them here.”

He added that support of the BIC, which was made possible by a $9.75 million state grant, has been citywide and dovetails with a number of other initiatives in the areas of workforce training, real-estate development, and education. In the coming year, PEDA is expected to blend its efforts with 1Berkshire, a regional economic- development organization, and Pittsfield’s Office of Community Development.

“One of the reasons why we’re so bullish on the innovation center is it has a broad base of community support at every level,” Thurston went on. We also believe that a young startup company, whether it’s in Worcester, Boston, Albany, or Rensselaer, that is looking for a place to commercialize or test their ideas and inventions, will be attracted here because of our existing manufacturing structure and lower costs of doing business.”

A built-in mentor network will be part of the BIC’s offerings, with 19 mentoring partners from across Pittsfield already signed on, along with several academic partners from across the Northeast, including UMass and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

“The support from the education side is rewarding to me because it’s a foundational element that will create a number of new opportunities for our industrial base,” Thurston said, noting that Berkshire Community College has been a particularly active participant.

In the absence of a physical building, for instance, BCC has taken the lead on the programmatic components of the center, identified a variety of courses to complement the BIC’s eventual hands-on work, and set up a temporary center at Pittsfield’s Taconic High School that includes a pipeline for students to pursue advanced-manufacturing careers.

Hire Education

Ellen Kennedy, president of Berkshire Community College, echoed Thurston’s excitement for the BIC.

“This could be the most promising economic-development engine to enter Pittsfield in a long time,” she said. “As the facility itself comes into play, training opportunities are already in place that allow existing businesses to share research and identify workforce-development needs.”

Kennedy said BCC has been instrumental in identifying academic opportunities for Pittsfield students from grade school to college, as well as career-development and refresher courses for the workforce. It received $500,000 in funding from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center last year in order to create educational components to support the BIC, such as the purchase of state-of-the-art equipment and new courses in advanced manufacturing and engineering technology, and another $10,000 just last month to fund career-path programming for middle- and high- school students.

The BIC has also become the new lead organization of the Berkshire Robotics Initiative, with an eye toward underscoring the use of robotics in today’s manufacturing world and the career opportunities that may arise.

“We’re looking to build on students’ interests, allow them to see the different employment opportunities open to them, and start them on a career path,” Kennedy noted, adding that this and other projects have the dual benefit of increasing the college’s profile among prospective students, and therefore that of the city, which has an aging population.

“Berkshire County’s demographics are challenging, and it has become the job of both Pittsfield and BCC to keep the younger population engaged,” she told BusinessWest. “In a sense, we’re making a commitment to the Millennial.”

For Kennedy, that means offering more opportunities for the community to visit the campus, be it to play sports, attend a career fair, or utilize campus amenities. By extension, she hopes the city’s cultural destinations, retail shops, eateries, and nightlife will also get a boost.

“In order to attract people here to experience what we have to offer, we all need to market the quality of life and the world-class culture. In that respect, we are tied at the hip with the city of Pittsfield.”

North Star of Our Nights

That’s a construct the team involved with Hotel on North, a boutique hotel on Pittsfield’s main thoroughfare that just opened its doors in June, subscribes to as well.

Owned by Berkshire residents David and Laurie Tierney and managed by Main Street Hospitality Group, a hotel- management company based in Stockbridge that manages three other properties in the county, Hotel on North includes a restaurant, bar, event space, and gift shop housed in a pair of adjoining 19th-century buildings that are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Sarah Eustis, CEO and part-owner of Main Street Hospitality Group, said work between the partners began in earnest in 2012, and moved swiftly into “two solid years of highly collaborative project work.”

“We represent two deeply rooted Berkshire businesses with different skills that we wanted to apply to Pittsfield, to contribute to the renaissance that is happening here,” she said, noting that a hospitality venue in Pittsfield has been a goal of Main Street Hospitality Group for several years. “We looked originally to Pittsfield to build on a base, and now we have an undying passion that this is right for the city. That belief comes from both gut and numbers.”

The hotel features brick walls, tin ceilings, and hardwood floors that hearken back to the buildings’ original décor, as well as Victorian themes paired with nods to the Berkshires in the form of vintage maps and organic elements. The scheme is bound together with the ‘on North’ tagline, i.e. ‘Eat, Drink, Stay on North.’

In more ways than one, the entire business was “made on North,” said Eustis, by partnering with local vendors and craftsmen whenever possible, from architects to designers to furniture and décor makers.

“We like to create hotels that give you a sense of where you are, and we realized early on that it had to be ‘by Pittsfield for Pittsfield,’ with influences from around the world. That’s one reason we didn’t partner with a large brand or make a slick New York hotel and plop it in the Berkshires,” she went on. “The ‘on North’ concept arose from that idea of using local businesses.”

One of the hotel’s owners, Laurie Tierney, added that she hopes its luxurious feel paired with local accents will instill a feeling of pride in Pittsfield’s residents, and attract them downtown along with other visitors to the region.

“My goal is to change perceptions so people realize what’s downtown and feel safe,” she said. “The locals need to be brought into the change, and I do believe that there is a movement afoot.”

Sometimes, Tierney added, getting big things to happen in a city is like starting a lawnmower.

“You pull the cord, but it often takes a few times to start. That’s how it’s been in Pittsfield … almost, not quite, almost, not quite. I’m hoping this is what turns the engine.”

Indeed, it’s been nearly 90 years since GE made Pittsfield a boom town, and many people are now seeing the city’s heyday as something ahead of them, not behind. The key, says Tierney, is to maintain momentum.

“We can’t stop; we have to keep going,” she said. “I hope to be in a place someday where I can sit back and watch the ball roll a little, and maybe be a background person who whispers in someone’s ear, ‘hey. You know what we should do?’”

One person Tierney may be able to whisper to is Mayor Tyer.

“I’m interested in anyone who wants to make an investment in the city,” Tyer said in conclusion. “The idea of a hip, walkable urban center is coming back, and we have the infrastructure for it. Now, we just need to be plugged into the modern economy.”

Pittsfield at a glance Year Incorporated: 1761
Population: 43,697 Area: 42.5 square miles County: Berkshire
Residential Tax Rate: $18.76 Commercial Tax Rate: $38.06 Median Household Income: $35,655 Family Household Income: $46,228 Type of Government: Mayor, City Council
Largest Employers: Berkshire Health Systems, General Dynamics, Berkshire Community College, SABIC Innovative Plastics

Latest information available



By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff
October 27, 2015

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The beams spanning the Woodlawn Avenue bridge have been laid. The long-awaited project will connect the Morningside neighborhood with East Street and is seen as not only a north-south connection but also a boost to the development of the William Stanley Business Park, which it cuts through.

The road was closed to traffic in 2006 and the bridge demolished in 2012. The reconstruction lifts the bridge high enough to allow double-decker trains to fit underneath. “It’s a huge step. The abutments are complete. We’re spanning the bridge with steel and getting ready to set the deck,” said Pittsfield Economic Development Authority Executive Director Corydon Thurston.

The $4.2 million state project was delayed multiple times with construction finally started in the spring. The goal is to have the road reopened in 2016. The placing of the beams, a total of eight, represents somewhat of a topping-off ceremony. The beams will be covered by a steel decking followed by concrete.

“Eventually there will be a road surface on top of that,” Thurston said. The beams represent a midway point in construction with the biggest benefit being that coordination with the railroad will be at a minimum. A protective floor will be placed underneath the beams and the majority of the remaining work will take place above the tracks, so trains can still operate unabridged.

Since the road has been closed, traffic has been diverted over residential and winding roads. For PEDA, the exposure of being able to drive through and see the sites will help attract businesses to the park and improves transportation around the city for any company that does move there.

“I believe it will be a very popular route to connect north to the south,” Thurston said.

The city transferred the land to PEDA in 2011 for reconstruction and the demolition took place shortly after. However, the state was uncertain about the level of replacement so the property sat for eight months with no action. In 2012, state Sen. Benjamin Downing secured $2 million in state funding for the project in a bond bill but that money was
dependent on being completed in 2013 in conjunction with the remediation of Silver Lake.

The city then found out that the City Council needed to take some additional easements by eminent domain to proceed. Both General Electric and PEDA waived payments for the easements.
From there, the state’s bidding process pushed back the construction yet again. Ultimately, Northern Construction, of Palmer, was awarded the contract.

By Andy McKeever

iBerkshires Staff
August 19, 2015

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Mayor Daniel Bianchi remembers growing up in a vibrant Morningside neighborhood. And he wants that back.

“This was just an incredibly vibrant area. Anything a working family would need was right here in Morningside,” Bianchi said.

But then General Electric closed up shop putting many in the neighborhood out of work. The once hopping neighborhood became a shell of itself and businesses struggled, storefronts emptied, and residents moved away.

But, “there are hundreds of people who still live here, who grew up here, who still believe in Morningside. I still believe in Morningside,” the mayor said.

On Wednesday, those who “believe” in Morningside gathered to start planning the steps to bring the Tyler Street community back to life. The city is part of a Transformative Development Initiative, through <a href=”http://www.massdevelopment.com/” target=”_blank”>Mass Development</a>, with the goal to restore economic vibrancy to the neighborhood through a partnership of community groups, the city and private businesses.

The first step in the process is to develop an action plan envisioning what the community will eventually look like and how to get there.

“We’re passionate about community development. It is our job to stitch these [stakeholders and ideas] together,” said Lisa Nagle, a principal with the planning, design, and architecture firm Elan. “We want this to be an action plan people can use.”

Over the next eight months, the firm will be holding public meetings, open houses, meeting with stakeholders, identifying funding sources, and crafting what Nagle calls a “roadmap” for redevelopment. The plan will identify specific properties for redevelopment, who could do it, and where the funding will come from.

“We’re looking to have a draft in early winter,” Nagle said.

The identified district is anchored on each end by Berkshire Medical Center and the <a href=”https://williamstanleybp.com/”>William Stanley Business Park</a>, which will soon be home to the Berkshire Innovation Center. Through redevelopment of certain properties — such as St. Mary’s the Morningstar Church — along with a streetscape reconstruction, the hope is to bring more jobs and housing to Tyler Street.

<a href=”https://williamstanleybp.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/1440003098.jpg”><img class=”size-medium wp-image-2052″ src=”https://williamstanleybp.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/1440003098-300×225.jpg” alt=”Photo by Andy McKeever” width=”300″ height=”225″ /></a> Photo by Andy McKeever

“We’re trying to get away from suburban sprawl and build compact neighborhoods,” said City Planner C.J. Hoss of the currently envisioned future of Tyler Street. “This was pitched as a connection from downtown to the William Stanley Business Park.”

Morningside’s future is seen as one where somebody could live, work, and play all within walking distance.

The state is bringing an array of additional tools to make that happen, according to Anne Haynes, director of the Transformative Development program. Those tools include loans for small businesses or even equity investments into properties.

Haynes said Pittsfield is the “front door” of the state and stood out among the applications.

Hoss said outside of the TDI program, the city has set aside money to start planning a streetscape project, is working with the University of Massachusetts at Amherst on revamping commercial design and zoning, and embarking on a survey of endangered historic properties. All of those, coupled with the TDI, conforms with the city’s master plan adopted in 2009, he said.

Meanwhile, the <a href=”http://tylerstreetpittsfield.com/” target=”_blank”>Tyler Street Business Group</a> is envisioned to play a major role in the planning. The group has already laid the foundations for revitalization.

Tyler Street Business Group President Diane Marcella said the group successfully got banners and holiday decor, created walking loops, launched business-to-business meetings and networking nights, is growing the Discover Tyler Street fair, hosts the Halloween Parade, and is helping small businesses grow.

The <a href=”http://pittsfieldeda.org/” target=”_blank”>Pittsfield Economic Development Authority</a> has two projects underway to set the framework for redevelopment of the William Stanley Business Park. According to Executive Director Corydon Thurston, the <a href=”https://williamstanleybp.com/william-stanley/site-3/”>Berkshire Innovation Center</a> is expected to break ground this fall and open in early 2017. That project is a $9.75 million construction of shared workspace for advanced manufacturing businesses and educational institutions.

City Planner C.J. Hoss said Tyler Street is envisioned as an area where someone could live, work, and play without every having to drive anywhere else. The Woodlawn Avenue bridge is being reconstructed now, which will link Tyler Street with East Street. Thurston said he anticipates new traffic patterns to increase visibility of the park as well as increase the feasibility of a company locating there.

“Both of these projects will bring new vitality to the area,” Thurston said.

Nagle said the planning process starts — and started on Wednesday — with finding out what is happening in the neighborhood and what people want it to be. On Wednesday, residents and groups posted notes on boards identifying ideas for property redevelopment and priority areas for focus.

Ultimately, Nagle says the company will come up with a “brand” for Tyler Street. That will then lead into focus on where the key pieces could be.

The process and concept isn’t unknown in the city. A similar plan was used for North Street. On North Street such projects as the <a href=”http://thebeaconcinema.com/accounts/100/homepage/” target=”_blank”>Beacon Cinema</a>, <a href=”http://www.berkshiretheatregroup.org/” target=”_blank”>the Colonial Theater</a>, and <a href=”http://barringtonstageco.org/” target=”_blank”>Barrington Stage </a>were elements to grow the arts and cultural economy and increase foot traffic on the city’s main thoroughfare.

Those projects were also coupled with a massive streetscape projects, which included renovation of Park Square. That streetscape project is now entering its final stages with construction planned to begin on the final section to start the first week in September.

Bianchi said the Tyler Street process is an extension of what the city has done with North Street.


Media Contacts:
Angus McQuilken, MLSC Vice President for Marketing and Communications
Phone: 617-921-7749
Email: [email protected]

Heidi Weber, Public Relations Manager, Berkshire Community College
Phone: 413-236-2116 / Mobile: 518-281-6062
Email: [email protected]

$500,000 to Berkshire Community College to Fund Education Tied to the Berkshire Innovation Center

Springfield, MA – March 27, 2015

The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) today joined elected officials and school leaders at Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) to announce more than $2 million in funding for life-sciences-related capital projects and nearly $400,000 in grants to purchase equipment and supplies for high schools and middle schools in Western Massachusetts.

“Massachusetts’ flourishing life sciences community has created opportunities and spurred economic growth in every region of the state,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “These grants from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center will further strengthen our workforce in order to meet the needs of this growing industry through enhanced training facilities and programs at our middle schools and high schools.”

The largest grant awarded today was $972,850 for Springfield Technical Community College (STCC).  The grant will be used to establish a Biomedical Engineering Technology associate’s degree program with two BMET (Biomedical Instrumentation and Biomedical Device Manufacturing) tracks and to enhance STCC’s existing Biotechnology associate’s degree program.  As the only technical community college in Massachusetts, STCC has an on-going need for up-to-date industry-aligned equipment and lab space for life sciences programs.

This investment will build on a $150,000 planning grant that STCC received in 2013 and a $136,000 grant awarded in 2011 to update its equipment and labs to align with the needs of life sciences companies.  The planning grant allowed STCC to conduct a study to identify the most appropriate equipment that will best deliver a life sciences education leading to employment in the field.

“We are very pleased to receive this funding from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, which will enable STCC to launch a new program to train individuals to repair sophisticated biomedical instrumentation,” said Dr. Ira H. Rubenzahl, President of STCC. “Graduates from this new program will help drive down the costs of repairs at area hospitals and other medical facilities while also providing our graduates with good paying jobs and meaningful work.”

Berkshire Community College (BCC) received $500,000 in funding to launch an educational underpinning that will support the development of the Berkshire Innovation Center (BIC).  Berkshire Community College plans to purchase state-of-the-art reverse engineering equipment and 3-D prototype printers, and develop new courses, which will help to establish a foundation to provide students with advanced learning opportunities. These opportunities will help students obtain the essential skills to undertake research and new product development that will ultimately take place upon the opening of the BIC. Construction of the BIC is being funded in part through a previously awarded capital grant from the MLSC.

“We are thrilled to receive this award from the Massachusetts Life Science Center,” said Ellen Kennedy, President of BCC. “The funding for this state-of-the art equipment will ensure that our students develop the innovative skills needed to help our advanced manufacturing and biotechnology companies thrive.  This award will dramatically increase the technical abilities of our students to support the new Berkshire Innovation Center.”

Bay Path University in Longmeadow received $500,000 to purchase science equipment and supplies that will enable the University to expand opportunities for collaborative student research and through the integration of new science equipment, better prepare young women for career success in the life sciences sectors. Last year, the MLSC awarded Bay Path a planning grant of $50,000 that allowed the University to engage key stakeholders from the life sciences industry, workforce development community, and educational institutions to identify the capital needs and other resources needed to fully implement this initiative in the sciences at the University.

“The MLSC grant will strengthen Bay Path’s commitment to increase the number of young women entering the life sciences,” said Carol Leary, President of Bay Path. “It is important that we provide a strong foundation through innovative programming and state-of-the-art equipment in order to support research and laboratory experiences that lead to career advancement in STEM fields.”

Holyoke Community College (HCC) was awarded $300,000 to purchase biotechnology equipment and supplies. This request is part of a larger capital project, for which HCC received a $3.8 million award from the MLSC in 2013 for 13,000 square feet of lab space and the creation of a Center for Life Sciences. This includes a clean room for the biological sciences, which will be the only clean room in Western Massachusetts to support training for students, faculty and industry partners.  The construction is expected to be completed during the 2017-2018 school year.

“We are grateful to the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center for its continued investment in HCC and in the economic development of our region in particular,” said Holyoke Community College President Bill Messner. “The equipment purchased with this award will support curricular innovation and allow students to be trained on industry-standard technology while gaining the skills needed to support the region’s growing biotechnology sector.”

“At the MLSC we are using our capital dollars to ensure access to state-of-the-art life sciences training facilities across the entire state, so that students, regardless of zip code, will be able to access careers in our state’s fastest-growing industry sectors,” said Susan Windham-Bannister, Ph.D., President & CEO of the MLSC.  “Springfield Technical Community College plans to use our grant to establish their new Biomedical Engineering Technology associates degree program, and to acquire up-to-date science equipment and lab space for their life sciences programs.  Similarly, our grants to Bay Path University, Holyoke Community College and Berkshire Community College, along with five high schools and middle schools in the region, will help provide students with access to cutting edge equipment and training facilities.”

“These grants will prepare students across the Commonwealth for the promising careers afforded by Massachusetts’s position as a global leader in the life sciences,” said Representative Joseph F. Wagner (D – Chicopee), House chairman of the legislature’s Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies and Co-Chairman of the Legislature’s Biotech Caucus.  “I am particularly pleased that this funding will allow Chicopee Comprehensive High School to prepare students for careers in critical local industries by using some of the most advanced equipment available.”

The equipment and supply grant recipients that were also announced today include vocational technical schools, a public high school and two public middle schools. Awardees provide an array of training ranging from general STEM education curricula to biotechnology.  The student population that will benefit from these equipment grants represents a diverse workforce.

The STEM Equipment and Supplies Grant Program, launched in 2011, has previously awarded more than $8.4 million to 61 different high schools and organizations throughout Massachusetts and leveraged more than $1 million in matching funds from the life sciences industry.

About the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center
The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) is an investment agency that supports life sciences innovation, research, development and commercialization. The MLSC is charged with implementing a 10-year, $1-billion, state-funded investment initiative. These investments create jobs and support advances that improve health and well-being. The MLSC offers the nation’s most comprehensive set of incentives and collaborative programs targeted to the life sciences ecosystem. These programs propel the growth that has made Massachusetts the global leader in life sciences. The MLSC creates new models for collaboration and partners with organizations, both public and private, around the world to promote innovation in the life sciences.

About Berkshire Community College
Berkshire Community College (BCC) is a public, fully accredited, community college offering associate degree and certificate programs, as well as various other educational opportunities, primarily to the residents of Berkshire County and surrounding areas. Visit BCC online at www.berkshirecc.edu.



By Christy Heady, originally published in the Berkshire Edge

March 12, 2015
Pittsfield, MA – Business executives are bullish on the future of Berkshire County.

There is a new spirit of collaboration and innovation at work, aiming to catapult the Berkshires and its surrounding region into a period of economic growth, accompanied by job creation and retention.

For Stephen Boyd, president and CEO of Boyd Technologies in South Lee, Mass. — and a graduate of Monument Mountain Regional High School — the possibility a dynamic and growing future for his hometown and home state excites and intrigues him. Despite the presence within Berkshire County and its surrounding region of many strong organizations, the lack of connectivity among companies and research institutions has stymied success. The solution? The Berkshire Innovation Center.

“If you take a look at the Berkshires, you’ll find promising activity in the development of medical devices and also in related research, yet within the immediate region there are no teaching or research hospitals nor academic support for technology,” he said. “The mission of the Berkshire Innovation Center (BIC) is to address this deficit.”

The Berkshire Innovation Center (BIC) is a 20,000-square-foot structure that will be built in William Stanley Business Park of the Berkshires, located in Pittsfield; its mission is to advance the manufacturing strengths of the region. The project is made possible by a state grant of $9.7 million from the Mass Life Science Center plus two start-up grants of $250,000 each from the Pittsfield’s economic development fund and the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority.

The impetus for the BIC came from a feasibility study conducted by Rod Jané, president of New England Expansion Strategies in Westborough, Mass. He obtained input from key influencers within the region, including private sector companies, universities, colleges, hospitals, venture capital firms, and the local government, to determine what was needed to spur economic development and the retention and creation of jobs.

What Jané initially discovered was that the existing life sciences industry – including biotech, pharmaceuticals and medical devices – was tiny. “Only a few companies and fewer than 100 employees,” Jané said. However, the study also revealed an important cluster of life sciences supply chain companies: 30 companies with more than 4,000 employees either supplying or capable of supplying the medical device industry. The clear opportunity to build on this existing strength, this cluster of life science supply chain manufacturers, strengthened the prospects that the BIC could make an important contribution.
With grant money from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, the study proceeded to evaluate how economic development money could be invested to yield the highest probability of success.

“There turned out to be broad industry support for an innovation center that could assist small- to medium-sized manufacturing companies, by allowing them access to advanced equipment, training, research partnerships and student internship programs,” Jané said. “These results from the feasibility study form the basis of the Berkshire Innovation Center.”

The site plan for the William Stanley Business Park of the Berkshires in Pittsfield, showing the location of the Berkshire Innovation Center (Site 3).

Ten companies have already signed formal membership agreements with the Berkshire Innovation Center. The members to date include Apex Resource Technologies, Boyd Technologies, Sinicon Plastics, Intertek PTL, General Dynamics, Interprint USA, Sonoco Plastics, MRA Laboratories, Berkshire Sterile Manufacturing and New Dalton Group.

Because he had already participated in helping to define the BIC’s mission and to grow its membership, Boyd recognized that it could help answer the strategic questions he had been asking himself for a while.

“In the midst of every business transaction I conduct, I wonder, what would happen if I did it differently or if I could take a step in a new direction,” said Boyd. “You try something, you test it, you try it again. That’s innovation.”

Pittsfield’s Director of Community Development Douglas C. Clark seconded Jané’s findings, stating that many people understand that a regional approach is essential to successful economic development.

“The City of Pittsfield or even Berkshire County alone are too small,” he added. “I look to the BIC’s becoming the hub of a network extending from Springfield to Albany in advanced manufacturing for the life science supply chain.”

Clark explained how the history of the area has shaped where the strategic thinking patterns lie today.

“In the days of General Electric, we had a huge employer that was able to fund its own R&D and workforce training programs,” Clark explained. “Intellectual property in slower changing times allowed the owner of that information to profit as long as he could protect that information. In contrast, our small to medium sized companies can’t self-fund the workforce training and R&D that are critical to remaining competitive.”

Also, because the pace of change is so rapid today, he said, “it is more about the flow of information than about the ‘stock’ of information. For this reason, it is increasingly important to collaborate and network with other firms and institutions.”

A UMass Donohue Institute study showed that the manufacturing sector still accounts for 10 percent of employment and 15 percent of all income and wages in Berkshire County. Jané said that the BIC is an economic development catalyst that can help small and medium-sized manufacturers innovate new products, train their work force in advanced manufacturing, and compete effectively with global competition.

The City of Pittsfield, Clark said, does not have the benefit of a large research institution. The collaboration provided through the BIC can fill that void, drawing on the resources of its institutional partners UMass Lowell, UMass Amherst, RPI and SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering.

“Public money is definitely seeding the project,” Clark offered. “But what I like is that this will be a private sector-led initiative and will benefit from the leadership and investment of time and effort of many of our leading local companies.”

For CEOs like Boyd, accessibility has proven a strong incentive for committing time, energy and money to the BIC.

“If I wanted to buy an electron microscope that I would use to take three-dimensional pictures of nano-fiber, I would spend $300,000 on that piece, at least,” Boyd said. “There is no way my business can justify that expense while using it once a week. It’s not a revenue-generating piece of equipment. With the BIC, it’s nice not to have to buy that on my own. The BIC can buy it. Then I and other companies can join the BIC and gain access to it and other equipment.”

Companies pay a membership fee to join. Annual fees range from $5,000 to $10,000. Firms with fewer employees can take advantage of reduced rates and associate memberships which allow access to networking opportunities and attendance at events on a limited basis.

“Membership allows access to video conferencing and meeting space, BIC workshops, industry-tailored training events, and access to state-of-the-art equipment,” Clark shared. “Membership also will allow access to equipment at other facilities that have signed on as part of a regional equipment-sharing collaborative.”

“An opportunity like this $10 million grant does not come along often,” Jané said and noted how the BIC will influence the economic future of the Berkshires. “It is vitally important that everybody be in the same boat and rowing in the same direction, to make sure that the Berkshire Innovation Center is successful and sustainable and makes a difference in the future of the Berkshires and its residents.”

Since innovation happens in little steps, as Boyd said, one of the first steps toward growing the awareness of the BIC was a speaking event held at the end of January.

On January 29, 2015, at the Berkshire Community College, 40 attendees participated – including representatives of eight BIC member companies – in the BIC event, despite the heavy snowstorm the day before. The event was co-hosted by MassMEDIC. Bruce Stanley, former Becton Dickinson supply chain executive, was the guest speaker. The main topic of the evening’s discussion was the MedTech program, which will connect BIC member companies to major medical device original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).

As the BIC moves forward, Clark added, he will be focusing on building a capacity for resilience into the economy of both the city and the region.

“In the face of technological change and global competition, I am interested in seeing how we can be resilient,” he said. “The BIC will allow us to innovate, develop our workforce, and stay competitive as we face an uncertain and challenging future.”

By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff

PITTSFIELD — The Pittsfield Economic Development Authority voted unanimously Wednesday to approve a new location for the Berkshire Innovation Center within the William Stanley Business Park of the Berkshires.

The new site is on a 4-acre parcel on the west side of Woodlawn Avenue, between the CSX Railroad tracks and East Street. On maps it is referred to as the third of the 52-acre park’s nine building sites.

The board previously considered constructing the 20,000-square-foot structure on a 2.1-acre parcel on the east side of Woodlawn Avenue that borders directly on East Street.

The BIC has been proposed as an accelerator facility that will provide local companies that supply products to the life sciences industry access to advanced equipment, and as a job training hub. The city received a $9.7 million state grant last year to construct the two-story facility, expected to open by the summer of 2016.

The PEDA Board’s Executive Committee approved the switch to the new parcel on Feb. 2. Both during and after the meeting, officials said the new site is better suited to the type of facility that the city hopes to construct.

“This site creates a new campus environment,” said PEDA Board Chairman Maurice Callahan. Over the long term, Callahan said the new site is more amenable to expansion and would allow officials to “build out in stages.”

“We feel the campus setting is a real win for PEDA and the park,” said Stephen Boyd, chairman of the BIC Board of Directors. The site is flatter than the one originally under consideration, Boyd said, and will allow for the construction of a “slightly wider” two-story structure.

That kind of structure will allow the heavy equipment that the BIC will house for reverse engineering and research and development to be located on the same floor, which will eliminate the need for freight elevators, Boyd said. He said two thirds of the new site could be utilized for additional development.

The previous site, located between East Street and a parking lot, was narrower, included a “capped area” that is prohibited from development, and was limited in width, said PEDA’s Executive Director Cory Thurston.

“It’s a better site to do more creative work,” Thurston said.

Boyd termed the date to begin construction of the BIC as “the $9.7 million question,” a reference to the state money the city received to build the facility.

He said the ground-breaking could occur in either May or June, but “certainly within the 2015 building season.”

The board on Wednesday also voted unanimously to allow Thurston to represent PEDA in lease negotiations for the BIC and the authority to negotiate a Tax Increment Financing agreement, or TIF, with city officials.

TIFs are programs the city offers to private businesses. Participating entities typically receive tax breaks from the city on a sliding scale over a fixed number of years, provided they satisfy both job creation requirements and a prearranged sum of private investment.

Community Development Director Douglas Clark said the TIF program for the BIC was “brought forward” because the BIC is a private-public partnership between the city of Pittsfield and PEDA. The building will be a municipal facility but is located on land that is maintained by PEDA.

Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi, a PEDA board member, abstained from the voting on the site change and the measures involving Thurston’s participation because the BIC is scheduled to be a municipal building.

Contact Tony Dobrowolski at 413-496-6224.

By Joe Durwin
iBerkshires Correspondent
February 18, 2016

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Bridge completion, breaking ground on BIC, three current tenant prospects and a new outreach campaign are among the pieces in play for the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority this year as it continues the ongoing slog to build up the William Stanley Business Park.

Identities of the three prospects that have emerged in recent months are being kept private for now, but discussions with them are ongoing, according to PEDA Executive Director Corydon Thurston.

“I’m not at liberty to publicize at this time, but that’s all good news,” said Thurston, who said the mayor and other new incoming public officials have been briefed on these leads.

Currently the park has two tenants leasing parcels; Eversource, whose solar array field rings the north side of Silver Lake, and Mountain One Financial Partners, which opened a new administrative center there in 2012. At least two other prospective tenants have seriously eyed the former General Electric lots for development in recent years — a regional headquarters for Action Ambulance and a big box retail operation by Waterstone Retail Development.

A third tenant will emerge with the eventual completion of the Berkshire Innovation Center, which is anticipated to move forward within the next several months despite short about $600,000 from the estimated cost needed for the construction of the center.

“There was a gap between what was set up a couple of years ago without any designs in mind,” explained board member Douglas Crane. “By the time it went out to bid, the construction industry had warmed a bit, and things cost more.”

“We’ve been diligently working with their engineers to redefine and analyze the bids and building design so that they can get a grip on the actual gap, funding wise, and make the ask,” Thurston told the board, who said he felt “confident” that such funds will be forthcoming from the Mass. Life Sciences Center.

Thurston said he anticipates a ground breaking for the Berkshire Innovation Center “sometime in the early second quarter.”

Even without a facility in place, the BIC is already active as an entity, working on a variety of programs that included sponsorship of last year’s Berkshire Robotics Challenge, an event which is the subject of one of the new videos produced as part of the BIC and PEDA’s outreach campaign to enterprises that may be lured to the park by opportunities stemming from the new center.

PEDA board Chairman Mick Callahan said the outreach program will “encompass stakeholders, site professionals, bankers, realtors, prospects, in a very targeted fashion.”

Board member Christina Barrett said there are more videos being developed that will highlight other aspects of the business park, along with continued social media and other advertising efforts.

“We’re spending as much time as possible on this,” added Thurston. “We’ll continue to grow that, to outreach to various key segments, or to try and leverage the Innovation Center and other activities that are going on in the market in support of new development and prospects for the business park.”

Another positive that PEDA hopes to highlight in publicity this year will be the completion of the Woodlawn Avenue bridge this spring. The opening of this bridge will mark the first time this route has been open to any traffic in ten years. The previous bridge was closed in 2006, and demolished in 2012. Once slated to be done by the summer of 2013, the bridge project has been plagued with a series of delays over the years.

With mild winter weather this year, work has proceeded swiftly throughout the season, and PEDA is looking to celebrate the finished bridge on a date to be determined this spring.

By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff

PITTSFIELD — The city has received final approval for $500,000 in startup costs associated with the construction of the Berkshire Innovation Center.

The Pittsfield Economic Development Authority (PEDA) on Wednesday unanimously approved a $250,000 allocation from the quasi-public agency’s funds toward the center’s launch. The City Council on Sept. 2 approved allocating $250,000 from its GE Economic Development Fund.

“It’s important to understand that our agreement to fund this runs with the city’s agreement,” board Chairman Maurice Callahan said.
An additional $300,000 in startup costs is expected to be raised by the center itself through grants and membership fees, according to PEDA’s Executive Director Corey Thurston.

In May, the city received a $9.7 million capital grant from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center toward the construction of the center, a 20,000-square- foot structure at the William Stanley Business Park of the Berkshires that is expected to supply training, and equipment for local companies who supply materials to the life sciences industry.

The center is considered crucial to the future development of the 52-acre business park, which is administered by PEDA. Construction could begin by next spring, according to project consultant Rod Jane, and is expected to be completed by July 2016.

The city was required to obtain additional funding in start-up costs because the capital grant only includes funds for the construction of the building and equipment.

Jim Therrien, Berkshire Eagle
September 5, 2014

PITTSFIELD – With all signs pointing to strong support, the City Council made it official this week by approving $250,000 in start-up funds for the Berkshire Innovation Center planned at the William Stanley Business Park.

Councilors OK’d the use of $250,000 from the GE Economic Development Fund to help cover startup costs for the 20,000-square-foot facility, which will be constructed with $9.7 million in state funding through the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center.

“This is exactly what the fund was set up to do,” said Ward 4 Councilor Christopher Connell. The money was set aside by GE for development and job creation in the city as part of a consent decree agreement 14 years ago that led to an environmental cleanup of former GE industrial sites in Pittsfield.

Other than a few unpointed questions about long-term prospects to bring in enough revenue to sustain the center’s annual budgets, councilors mostly offered glowing praise for the opportunity the facility presents for countywide job creation.

“To me, this is the most important vote we have taken so far this year,” said Councilor at large Kathleen Amuso.

Supporters of the request from Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi for the startup funding, including a number of local business leaders, turned out in force to reiterate details of the proposal — and express why they believe it could bolster the manufacturing revival here.

The nonprofit “private sector-led” center is expected to sustain itself through fees from member firms and organizations, grants such as for research, and income from training, video conferencing and other services.

Other revenue is expected from rental of sophisticated industrial equipment and testing facilities, which smaller companies could not otherwise afford.

City Community Development Director Douglas Clark said the “conservative” business plan developed for the center was unanimously endorsed by the Life Sciences Center board in deciding to provide the construction grant. If revenues are lower than expected during the first two startup years, he said, there is room for further adjustments on expenses and costs to address that.

In answer to councilor questions, he said the intention is to ensure the center is self-sustaining and not require further allocations from the development fund.

In addition to the $250,000 for startup costs over the next two years, the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority board is expected to match that amount this month. PEDA is a quasi-public agency charged with development of the Stanley Business Park.

“It took a lot to get here tonight,” said PEDA board Chairman Mick Callahan, but now, he said, the building “is going to go vertical at 901 East Street.”

Enthusiasm among the local businesses seeking to become members of the center is strong, Clark said, and that bodes well for the success of the facility. In addition to small manufacturing firms, a number of institutions of higher education from the region are expected to participate.

The intention is to have the nonprofit center programming ready to begin by the time construction is complete in 2016, and to have the organization’s structure completed and staff members hired.

The center, which originally was planned as an industrial incubator space, morphed into a collaborative organization offering a wide range of expertise, training for precision manufacturing procedures and specialized equipment to help speed research, design and product development for local companies.

Based in part on those changes, the state board upped an original $6.5 million grant promise to $9.7 million.

In praising the BIC concept, Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi said it offers the potential to bring in some much needed jobs, many of which are expected to be good-paying skilled manufacturing positions. In addition, he said, “This will put Pittsfield on the map” as a burgeoning manufacturing center.

Fruition of the center plan is an example of the community taking time to develop the best possible facility to become a spur for economic development, said Ward 6 Councilor John Krol.

Ward 5 Councilor Jonathan Lothrop lauded “all the hard work you’ve done on this,” adding, “I can’t wait to attend the groundbreaking.”
The council vote to approve the funding was greeted by sustained applause from supporters in council chambers at City Hall.

June 5, 2014

Rod Jané, President of New England Expansion Strategies, and consultant for the City of Pittsfield’s Life Science Initiative, has been invited to be a panelist at the 3rd Annual Capital Region Commercialization of Life Sciences Innovation Day on Friday, June 6, 2014. Sponsored by “Bioconnex” the event will be held at the Albany Molecular Research, Inc.’s Corporate Headquarters in Albany, NY.

The goal of the conference is to showcase life science research and bring together innovative biotechnology researchers and institutions, business executives, academics and possible collaboration partners from within the Capital Region. Last year, more than 130 people attended to hear from speakers on topics from Public Policy to Hot Life Sciences Research in the Capital Region and Venture Capital Funding.

“We are excited that Rod will be speaking at this prestigious conference and introducing the attendees to the mission of the Berkshire’s Life Science and Innovation facility at the William Stanley Business Park in Pittsfield,” said Corydon Thurston, Executive Director of the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority (PEDA). “We have had discussions with a number of businesses and institutions in the NY market and already have a half dozen committed to memberships for our new facility.”

Thurston believes that this opportunity is a reflection of the great work Rod has done in executing the feasibility study and building a strong marketing plan for the center.

“Jane will be sitting on the panel, Regional Biotechnology Development, which will give him the opportunity to reach out to a large industry sector in the Capital District and make them aware of who we are and what will be available for equipment access and collaborative partnerships within our new Life Sciences and Innovation Center here in Pittsfield.”

William Mulholland, Director of Economic Development at Berkshire Community College, will also be attending the conference as part of the Berkshire delegation along with Thurston and Jané, They are hopeful that the industry speakers and networking will help to cultivate new relationships, with various levels of industry participants, for the entire Berkshires.