Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito joined state and local officials to break ground on the $13.7 million Berkshire Innovation Center (BIC)
As part of her annual state-of-the-city address recently, Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer praised the arrival of Wayfair — the fastest-growing e-commerce home-décor company in the world — on a number of levels.
Berkshire Innovation Center to support region’s small- and mid-sized enterprises in life sciences and advanced manufacturing
For immediate release: 9/25/2018
• Governor Charlie Baker | Lt. Governor Karyn Polito
• Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development
• Executive Office for Administration and Finance
• Governor’s Press Office
PITTSFIELD — Today, Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito joined state and local officials to break ground on the $13.7 million Berkshire Innovation Center (BIC), which will catalyze and accelerate innovation and growth of new and existing companies that will spur economic growth, job creation, retention and investment in Western Massachusetts.
The BIC will provide advanced capabilities to manufacturers in the Berkshires, primarily small and medium-sized companies in life sciences, the life sciences supply chain, advanced manufacturing and technology. The 20,000 square-foot facility will include training facilities, biotech wet lab space, clean rooms, office and event space for small to medium-sized life sciences companies to support economic growth, jobs and private investment in the region.
The Baker-Polito Administration has committed nearly $12.5 million towards the project through a $12 million allocation from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center and the approval of $450,000 from MassDevelopment. This funding leverages an additional $1 million commitment from the City of Pittsfield and $300,000 from the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority.
“Our administration is focused on ensuring the benefits of Massachusetts’ thriving life sciences sector are experienced throughout the entire Commonwealth,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Investing in the Berkshire Innovation Center will help expand the capacity and capabilities of this region’s entrepreneurial community to drive job creation, retention and outside investment in Western Massachusetts.”
“This investment will provide new opportunities for the people and businesses of the Berkshires by unlocking new economic and educational potential,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “We will continue to partner with municipalities and support public-private partnerships across the Commonwealth to build a world class talent pipeline and remain a global innovator and leader in the life sciences.”
Governor Baker and Lt. Governor Polito were joined by Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash, Administration and Finance Secretary Michael J. Heffernan, MassDevelopment President & CEO Lauren Liss, Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer, Congressman Richard Neal, members of the state legislative delegation and Berkshire County business, education and community leaders to celebrate the BIC’s next major milestone at the future site of the life sciences innovation hub.
“The Berkshire Innovation Center will serve as an anchor institution for the Western Massachusetts region, strengthening connections between the life sciences and advanced manufacturing industries and education institutions, creating jobs and shaping the next generation of homegrown innovators,” said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash. “The Baker-Polito Administration’s commitment to the BIC has been a watershed moment for a project that was many years in the making and in keeping with economic development investments made in the region since 2015. We are pleased to be part of this moment and look forward to seeing the BIC’s impact on our innovation economy.”
“This new center represents the promise of new jobs and economic growth in Western Massachusetts; new support for life sciences innovation, training and advanced manufacturing; and the expansion of the Commonwealth’s life sciences talent pipeline,” said Administration and Finance Secretary Michael J. Heffernan. “As an Administration, we make it a priority to invest our capital dollars in growth-oriented programs and initiatives – those that promise a strong return on the Commonwealth’s investment over the long term. The Berkshire Innovation Center fits that profile nicely.”
“A cornerstone of our mission as we enter the next generation of the Life Sciences Center is to remain steadfast in our support of the growth and development of the life sciences throughout Massachusetts,” said Massachusetts Life Sciences Center President & CEO Travis McCready. “Our investments in the Berkshire Innovation Center and across Western Massachusetts will enable the region to leverage dynamic programming and innovative infrastructure and make its own mark as part of the Commonwealth’s thriving life sciences ecosystem.”
“MassDevelopment was proud to join a partnership of agencies supporting the development of the Berkshire Innovation Center,” said MassDevelopment President and CEO Lauren Liss. “This institution will accelerate the work of companies in key industries in western Massachusetts, such as advanced manufacturing, technology and life sciences, and we look forward to seeing all that is accomplished through the work of this landmark innovation hub.”
“Today marks the beginning of many good things to come in our community. In the Berkshires, we are home to a growing and thriving advanced manufacturing industry. The Berkshire Innovation Center at the William Stanley Business Park in Pittsfield will change the landscape for advanced manufacturing R&D and increase the pipeline of highly trained employees,” said Mayor Linda M. Tyer. “We’re deeply proud of the city’s role in further catalyzing advanced manufacturing in Pittsfield and throughout the county. I am exceedingly grateful to Governor Baker, Lt. Governor Polito, Secretary Ash and the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center for their unwavering support and commitment to furthering an endeavor that will continue to grow a powerful and rising sector of our local economy.”
Nearly 5,000 jobs in Berkshire County are in the manufacturing sector, making it the fifth largest industry in the region. Manufacturing represents a key industry base in Berkshire County and is comprised of small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs), which play a critical role in maintaining and growing the manufacturing strengths of Massachusetts economy.
The BIC will bring advanced capabilities to its member companies including shared access to cutting-edge research and development, prototyping equipment, customized training programs, student internship programs and collaborative opportunities with the BIC’s research and education partners.
“I’m thrilled to be breaking ground with so many engaged BIC stakeholders,” said BIC Chairman Stephen Boyd. “The leadership of the Baker-Polito Administration has fostered our community to becoming a significant part of the statewide innovation ecosystem and this milestone marks another significant step forward in our realizing its promise. The start of construction of the BIC facility signals the beginning of a new chapter that pairs our programmatic and building design and advances our mission. Now the BIC can really start to make an impact and accomplish our vision to spur innovation across the region and within our community.”
“I am so grateful for our team and the PEDA board for the years of hard work and dedication in advancing the Berkshire Innovation Center from concept to reality,” said Mick Callahan, Chairman of the PEDA board. “This exciting project will bring the most advanced manufacturing technology to Pittsfield and advance the opportunities for existing businesses to grow and create new jobs. The BIC will also advance educational opportunities for young adults to train for jobs in the advanced manufacturing sector, further the region’s ability to attract new entrepreneurial businesses and ultimately improve the overall economy in Pittsfield and the Berkshires.”
“Berkshire Community College is so proud to partner with the Berkshire Innovation Center and celebrate this momentous day,” said Ellen Kennedy, President of BCC. “The BIC will allow our region to retain its high-quality manufacturing jobs while also creating new job opportunities for the students and residents of the Berkshires.”
Numerous federal, state, and local leaders were on hand for the BIC project launch and joined in the chorus of praise to celebrate this important milestone:
“The life sciences industry in Massachusetts is booming, and with the establishment of the Berkshire Innovation Center, the western part of the state will be able to claim their stake in this great field,” said Congressman Richard E. Neal. “I am excited to see the shovels in the ground today. The potential for future growth for Pittsfield and the entire region is astronomical. Congratulations to all those involved.”
“Reinventing and reinvigorating our regional economy requires strategic investments,” said State Senator Adam G. Hinds. “This innovation center is just what we need to support local businesses, attract new companies and position the Berkshires for further growth in a modern economy.”
“The Commonwealth’s investment in the Berkshire Innovation Center comes after years of work bringing together the many stakeholders,” said Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier. “This Center will be fertile ground to the seeds of collaboration and innovative that are the hallmark of the Berkshires.”
“The Berkshire Innovation Center represents a hub of opportunity for our Commonwealth and I want to congratulate all those involved in helping the project get to the finish line,” said Representative Smitty Pignatelli. “As a co-sponsor of the original $6.5 million earmark included in Governor Patrick’s life sciences bill almost 10 years ago, it’s incredible to look back on the journey this project has taken to see where we are now. I am looking forward to the city of Pittsfield and all of Berkshire County to benefit from what’s to come.”
“I am pleased to see this long-awaited project get underway,” said Representative Paul W. Mark. “Upon completion, the state-of-the-art BIC will display the economic and technological ingenuity of our region, which is incredibly important as our legislative delegation continues to search for ways to reduce the economic isolation we often face in the Berkshires.”
“Today marks the beginning of what will be the catalyst which will drive the Berkshire economy forward for many years to come,” said Representative John Barrett III.
This past June, Governor Baker signed An Act providing continued investment in the life sciences industry in the Commonwealth to invest up to $623 million in bond authorization and tax credits over five years in education, research and development and workforce training. This legislation will serve to reinforce the Baker-Polito Administration’s commitment to ensuring Massachusetts’ leadership in the life sciences sector.
About the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center
The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) is an economic development investment agency dedicated to supporting the growth and development of the life sciences in Massachusetts, home to the most verdant and productive life sciences ecosystem in the world. Through public-private funding initiatives, the MLSC supports innovation, research and development, commercialization, and manufacturing activities in the fields of biopharma, medical device, diagnostics and digital health. Since its creation in 2007, the MLSC has strategically deployed over $700 million in Massachusetts, through a combination of grants, loans, capital infrastructure investments, tax incentives and workforce programs. These investments have created thousands of jobs and propelled the development of new therapies, devices and scientific advancements that are improving patient health and well-being in Massachusetts and beyond.
MassDevelopment, the state’s finance and development agency, works with businesses, nonprofits, financial institutions and communities to stimulate economic growth across the Commonwealth. During FY2017, MassDevelopment financed or managed 377 projects generating investment of more than $4.3 billion in the Massachusetts economy. These projects are projected to create about 9,488 jobs and build or rehabilitate 1,863 residential units.
About Consigli Construction Co., Inc.
Consigli Construction Co., Inc. is a leading construction manager and general contractor with offices in Boston and Milford, Massachusetts, Washington, D.C., Portland, Maine, Hartford, Conn. and New York State serving clients throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. A fourth-generation family-led business, Consigli is recognized by the Boston Business Journal as the second-largest construction company in Massachusetts and by Engineering News-Record as one of the 100-largest in the country and has received numerous awards and recognition for its craftsmanship and employment practices.
Brenda Moss, Press Secretary, Governor’s Office
By Andy McKeever
March 9, 2018
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — It was in March 2008 when former Sen. Benjamin Downing and former state Rep. Christopher Speranzo secured $6.5 million to build what was then conceived to be an incubator building at the William Stanley Business Park, spurring the life science economy.
“It is important that Western Massachusetts carve its own niche in the commonwealth’s emerging life science industry,” Downing said at the time.
But now, both Downing and Speranzo are out of office. That 2008 earmark has floated through three different mayoral administrations, two governors, two congressmen, and many city councilors.
But that desire to carve out a niche has not wavered.
On Friday, Gov. Charlie Baker and other state and local officials announced the final piece of funding to make the research and development center a reality and a groundbreaking for the $13.7 million project is expected this fall.
“We have accomplished an amazing collaborative effort with so many people who believe in our city, believe in our region. The William Stanley Business Park is going to change in not only what it looks like but in how it delivers for our advanced manufacturers here in Pittsfield and the Berkshires,” Mayor Linda Tyer said.
The center tackles some of the city’s biggest economic needs. It provides support for small and medium-sized businesses by giving them a facility to use high-tech equipment the company may never be able to purchase on its own. A number of businesses have signed on to become members of the non-profit Berkshire Innovation Center, Inc. and their annual memberships give them access to cutting-edge equipment to test and develop new products.
“The life sciences is a sector, is a culture, throughout the entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It is not just in Cambridge and Boston. But there are opportunities for economic development within this high tech cluster throughout the entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” said Massachusetts Life Sciences Center President and CEO Travis McCready.
“If you discover here, you ought to be able to make it here.”
The 20,000 square-foot facility is mostly supported by the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center. The city contributed $1 million from the General Electric Economic Development Fund and the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority added $300,000. MassDevelopment, another state partner in the project, contributed an additional $400,000. The $13.7 million will cover construction, equipment, and soft costs associated with the organization.
“It is definitely a milestone but it is not the finish line. It is not a victory lap. It is the start of the real work we need to do to build the center and continue with the mission of the Berkshire Innovation Center,” said BIC Chairman Stephen Boyd.
The second piece to the economic puzzle is workforce development. There has been a longstanding gap between the available jobs and the skills the workers in the county possess. The BIC includes a component in which education institutes, from the local high schools to state colleges to RPI, have all added to it. Those will use the center to develop programs that closely match what the employers in the region need.
“This is an incredibly exciting day for the entire Berkshires. This is what we’ve been looking for, to create this shared R+D facility and to provide opportunities for so many people at some many different levels of the workforce to up their game, up their skill level, and to provide those connections to allow our businesses to grow,” Berkshire Community College President Ellen Kennedy said.
“We’re really connected now with so many of the businesses and what their workforce skills needs are. We can develop short-term things, longer-term things, bringing different people to the table.”
Kennedy called Friday’s announcement a “gamechanger” in matching the skills an employer wants with the skills a college graduate has. That is expected to help create a pipeline from high school or college into high paying, skilled jobs.
“The opportunity to leap forward into the next generation of advanced manufacturing and life science, and to be able to build on a history and knowledge base and transform it into the next generation of jobs and products and companies, is a very real and significant one,” Baker said.
In advanced manufacturing, it has been estimated that 100,000 new jobs will be opening in the next decade. The sector has been cited as one of growth for the state of Massachusetts, but not all of the jobs are being filled right now.
“There are 6 million jobs in American every single day the Department of Labor says goes unfilled. In New England, the smallest geographic region in the country, right now 18,000 precision manufacturing jobs go unfilled. Stunning when you look at the reality of what that means,” U.S. Rep. Richard Neal said.
Neal said the BIC project hits a “structural” issue with the economy when it comes to worker participation rate. He said those numbers continue to be low nationwide.
“The best poverty program is still a good job. It is transformative,” Neal said.
Ever since General Electric left the city, many have said that manufacturing left with it. But in 2013, the UMass Donahue Institute published a study, funded by the Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Corp, which showed manufacturing remains a strong piece of the local economy.
“Manufacturing remains a critical part of the economy of Berkshire County. Key strengths reside primarily in paper manufacturing, plastics and rubber products, printing, chemicals, minerals, fabricated metal, and machinery,” the Berkshire Advanced Manufacturing Study reads.
“In terms of total wages, manufacturing is the second largest industrial sector in the county. Despite shrinking over time, manufacturing remains a crucial part of the Berkshire County economy and the economic base of the state.”
The study did also cite a struggle to fill those positions, reading “one firm estimated that 40 percent of its staff would need to be replaced due to retirements or age by the year 2020, while another assessed that young workers cannot immediately fill the jobs of the pending retirees because of their largely inadequate training in STEM discipline.”
That report had emphasized the potential impact such a project would have to Tyer and what led her to make closing the funding a gap a priority in her administration.
“What really convinced me was the Berkshire Advanced Manufacturing study, that showed there is a growing and thriving section of advanced manufacturing in the Berkshires. And it was the business leaders who said to me, we need a place where we can have access to cutting-edge equipment for research and development to design and engineer new products,” Tyer said.
“It is a powerful and growing sector of our economy.”
Tyer had taken on the project after being elected and was the third mayor to work on it. At the time she took office, there was an estimated $3 million funding gap. Tyer met with Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash multiple times after taking office and her administration looked to heighten the workforce development piece.
“This is an investment in Pittsfield’s future. It is an investment for the next generations of your sons and daughters who will find more opportunity and a reason to stay here,” Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said.
Mayor Linda Tyer picked up where two prior administrations left off on the project and now a groundbreaking is expected this year.
Prior to Tyer taking over the project was former Mayor Daniel Bianchi. Bianchi inherited it from former Mayor James Ruberto. One of the first tasks Bianchi did when getting the earmark of $6.5 million was to hire Rod Jané, of the firm New England Expansion Strategies, head the project. Jane reviewed all of the literature and studies and ultimately determined that an “incubator” wouldn’t necessarily the best for the Berkshires.
Jané then led the development of the Innovation Center concept, one that focused on the small and medium businesses and education. He saw helping the existing businesses as a better way to build that economic cluster.
“We are a long way from the finish line on this but this is going to access tremendous opportunities for the youngsters of Berkshire County, to really give them exposure to cutting edge technology and innovation. But it is also going to provide a lot of the businesses here in Berkshire County with access to technology that comes from places like RPI, the nanotechnology center, UMass Lowell, UMass Amherst and their expertise with polymer sciences. And it is going to be all under one roof,” Bianchi said on Friday.
The Massachusetts Life Science Center supported the new plan and upped its commitment to $9.7 million. The Berkshire Innovation Center was formed and a groundbreaking was set. The membership included the likes of Apex Resource Technologies, Synoco Plastics, Cavallero Plastics, Boyd Technologies, Intertech, Onyx Specialty Papers, and Berkshire Steel & Manufacturing, as well as many regional educational institutions such as State University of New York’s College of Nanoscience, Albany (N.Y.) Medical College, MassMEDIC, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Lowell, Berkshire Community College, McCann Technical School, Berkshire Community College, and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
New equipment was ordered and stored at Taconic High School. The BIC started running training programs and workshops. And then in 2015, the bids for the project came in too high. The BIC cut the project down but still couldn’t make the numbers work.
“Every one of the members signed up with the project that would have already been up and running at this point. We originally thought about a 2017 ribbon cutting,” Boyd said.
Bianchi said, “it was very concerning that the funding wasn’t what it should have been. So it is great to get that funding together now so this project can actually happen. It appears to be adequate amounts of capital support to make it a reality and to bring the technology that is required.”
But most of the members stuck with the project. Boyd and BIC staff repeatedly made trips to Boston, asking Ash and others to invest more into the project. He recalled meeting with Baker and Polito two years ago to talk about the project. Tyer repeatedly pitched they project to state officials. State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier and state Sen. Adam Hinds made phones and met with officials.
And that continual push worked. More than a year after the gap was identified, the state is now again upping its commitment to make the center a reality.
“I think it speaks to the commitment of the region, to collaboration, to innovation, and the value of the equipment it has – the economy of scale it provides to the local manufacturers,” Boyd said.
With Friday’s announcement, Boyd said the project is expected to break ground this fall and open a year later. He hopes that now the funding is all in place, even more, companies and educational institutions will be joining.
“The Berkshire Innovation Center is real. It is here to stay and we want to bring more members into the fold,” Boyd said.
City Councilor Melissa Mazzeo has been a long time supporter of the project. She has stood firm on the position that the new comprehensive high school in Taconic and the Berkshire Innovation Center will be key turning points for the city of Pittsfield.
“I’m absolutely thrilled. I’m thrilled for Berkshire County in general. I’ve been telling people when things don’t look like they are going well for Pittsfield to hang tight, that Taconic and the Berkshire Innovation Center is going to be our turnaround,” Mazzeo said. “We might have to wait a few years to get this up and running but we are going to see this come back for our future generations. Pittsfield is going to be on the map.”
Mazzeo credited the Tyer administration for seeing the value in the project and pushing for it.
The 20,000 square-foot building will be at the William Stanley Business Park, near East Street.
Farley-Bouvier said few of the officials at the Fridays announcement were there when the entire project started. But, that is what she means when she says “team Pittsfield.” It isn’t just who is there now working on the project, but who is going to continue to push for the city in the future, she said.
“Team Pittsfield doesn’t end today. This isn’t the end of this story and certainly not at the end of this project. Team Pittsfield is the people who come afterward,” Farley-Bouvier said.
That’s the kind of long-term vision she sees with the BIC. She said in all of the discussions about it, there was always an eye to make sure the project was done right for years to come.
“What we really care about is our grandchildren. And that is what this project is. It is going to be good for them,” Farley-Bouvier said. “We want to be able to have a strong economy for our grandchildren.”
That strong economy is also what officials hope for the future of the William Stanley Business Park. The BIC is eyed to help attract new companies to develop the industrial land formerly owned by General Electric.
“The succession of that property has a rich history. And Pittsfield has a rich history of not only innovation, and our future is certainly bright there, but also in our workforce,” PEDA Chairman Mick Callahan said.
The business park has been overseen by PEDA and efforts have been ongoing for years to redevelop it. Only a few parcels have been developed so far and there is plenty of acreage left.
“It will be stunning both outside and inside and will certainly be a catalyst for change for the park and attract more employers to be there,” Polito said.
The park is what is left of a massive piece of the city’s history, from the day William Stanley moved here to start Stanley Electric, which later became GE and employed thousands. But the company left and left a void in the center of the city.
“I love the fact that it is blossoming on the soil of the GE site because absent that next GE we know, the studies show, that it is the investments in those small and middle-sized companies, making sure they have everything they need in technology and training, it is the right strategy. It is the right industry and it is the right location,” Hinds said.
Baker said, “the part I find particularly poignant about this is that Berkshire County has a long and cherished and significant history in manufacturing.”
All involved know the work is far from over. But, Friday’s announcement caused quite a lot of excitement among city, county, state, education, and federal officials who have eyed this coming to fruition for years.
“We are extremely excited about the possibilities with this,” Baker said, but, “for me, the real exciting day is going to be the day when this starts translating to real jobs, real opportunities, real new businesses.”
Among the numerous elected officials, school personnel, and business leaders present were North Adams Mayor Thomas Bernard, former North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright, McCann Tech Superintendent James Brosnan, MCLA President James Birge, Pittsfield Schools Superintendent Jason McCandless, Sheriff Thomas Bowler, and City Councilors Peter White, Christopher Connell, Anthony Simonelli, Melissa Mazzeo, Kevin Morandi, Earl Persip, Donna Todd Rivers, Helen Moon, and John Krol.
BY TONY DOBROWOLSKI
The Berkshire Eagle
PITTSFIELD — After 10 years and twists and turns too numerous to mention, the project that became the Berkshire Innovation Center appears poised for construction.
With all additional funding commitments now in place, federal, state and local officials gathered at City Hall on Friday to celebrate the launch of the $13.8 million workforce training/equipment center that has been on the drawing board since 2008.
The mood was buoyant as officials took turns commending the unique collaboration among various boards, agencies and levels of government to get the long-stalled project back on the rails.
But Stephen Boyd, the BIC’s board chairman, urged those in attendance to temper their enthusiasm because the project has a long way to go.
“We very much believe that this is the starting point for something,” Boyd said as he addressed the standing- room-only crowd that gathered in the City Council chambers. “But it’s not a victory lap; it’s a battle cry.”
Officials hope to break ground this summer on the 20,000-square-foot structure, which would be built adjacent to MountainOne Financial in the William Stanley Business Park on East Street in Pittsfield. The goal is to complete the project by the third quarter of 2019, Boyd said.
Project consultant Rod Jané said it will take three to six months to put the project out to bid for a second time.
The city originally put the project out to bid four years ago, but this time the process will be overseen by the board of the nonprofit BIC. The Pittsfield Economic Development Authority last week approved a change in the lease that switched the oversight of the bidding process from the city to PEDA, the quasi-public agency charged with the development of the 52-acre business park.
The BIC is considered to be a key to the business park’s development and a way to tie the Berkshire region, which is often isolated by geography and demographics, into economic opportunities in the eastern end of the state.
The state-of-the-art facility will enable shared research, allow for early-stage production and commercialization efforts, and provide room for workforce training. The building will have room for training facilities, biotech wet lab space, clean rooms, and office and event space for small to medium-size life sciences companies to support economic growth, jobs and private investment to the region.
“This is an investment in Pittsfield’s future,” said Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito. “It’s an investment in the next generation for your sons and daughters to stay in Pittsfield and get good-paying jobs.”
She said this investment will allow the innovation economy that is prevalent around the seaport area of Boston to “bookend the commonwealth.”
“We thank you for helping to close the economic disparity gap in Massachusetts that exists between both east and west,” said PEDA board Chairman Maurice Callahan.
“Thank you for your generosity in funding this bold new initiative,” said Mayor Linda Tyer, noting that planning for the project had spanned three mayoral administrations.
Funding for the project was originally contained in a $6.5 million earmark that the city received in Gov. Deval Patrick’s $1 billion life sciences bill in 2008. When the project finally moved forward in 2014, the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center provided an additional $3.2 million, bringing the total state commitment to $9.7 million.
Construction was scheduled to begin in 2015, but the project had to be put on hold after bids came in $3 million higher than anticipated.
Local and state officials have been working since then to close that gap.
In December, Boyd told the PEDA board that the state had agreed to chip in an additional $2.3 million toward the construction costs if PEDA would approve an additional $750,000 toward the operating costs. That gap was filled when MassDevelopment chipped in an additional $450,000 to complement last week’s $300,000 allocation by PEDA.
The project almost didn’t happen, Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash said.
“It hung in the balance for a long time,” he said after the news conference. All of the parties involved had to “buy in” to the visions of what the BIC represented before the additional funding came together.
“A lot of people needed to step up and decide to play to pull this off,” said Gov. Charlie Baker.
“When we come together and collaborate, we do our very best work,” said state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield.
Business Editor Tony Dobrowolski can be reached at [email protected] or at 413-496-6224.
Photo credit: Regina Burgio
September 27, 2017
By Andy McKeever
PITTSFIELD, MA — The city is putting forth $1 million from the GE Economic Development Fund to jump start the stalled construction of the Berkshire Innovation Center.
The City Council unanimously approved using the money to help cover a $3 million funding gap for a 20,000 square-foot facility at the William Stanley Business Park. The remaining $2 million is expected to come from the state.
The Massachusetts Life Science Center had already committed $9.7 million, and an additional $2 million will bring the total state support for the research and development operation to $11.7 million.
“We know that advanced manufacturing is a key sector for growth opportunities in Pittsfield and the region,” Mayor Linda Tyer said in advocating for getting the project off the ground.
The project dates back to 2008 when the first $6.5 million was earmarked for the city to build a life science incubator at the park in a bond bill put forth by former Gov. Deval Patrick.
In 2013, the city launched a study to make that incubator happen. The Pittsfield Economic Development Authority hired Rod Jané to plan out the center at the park.
What Jané found was that an incubator in the traditional sense didn’t seem to fit the area, which lacked many opportunities for new startup companies. Under former Mayor Daniel Bianchi, the city re-envisioned the use of the earmark to instead focus on the small to mid-sized advanced manufacturing businesses that are already here. The new concept of a research and development center came to the forefront.
In 2014, the Massachusetts Life Science Center allocated another $3 million or so to bring the total earmark up to $9.7 million. The Berkshire Innovation Center was born and Jané and others began to create the new institution. The Berkshire Innovation Center model is subscription based in that companies pay dues to use the state-of-the-art equipment being made available. Dozens of companies and educational institutes have signed on to become members and use it for research and development.
The BIC became a non-profit in 2015 and had some 20 letters of intent from companies wanting to use the facility and equipment. Through another grant with Berkshire Community College, $1 million worth of equipment was purchased. PEDA and the City Council each approved a quarter of a million dollars to help the newly organized non-profit off the ground. The groundbreaking was all but set.
And then the bids came in too high.
The organization and the city scaled back the design but couldn’t make the numbers work. The 20,000 square-foot building that was set to break ground that October now remains an empty site with a “coming soon” sign starting to fade.
The BIC identified a $3 million funding gap between what it wanted to build and what it had.
At the same time, Bianchi was ousted from office and there were changes in state administration. Jané told the City Council on Tuesday that much of the time since has been catching those new officials up to date, teaching them about the project, and then looking for a funding source.
“We’ve been considerably engaged working with the city and the state to obtain those funds,” Jané said.
Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash was the key partner for both Bianchi and Tyer. Tyer had pitched the project to Ash during a tour of the city but the secretary told her to look at current buildings that could be retrofitted instead.
Tyer and BIC officials looked at the now vacant SABIC facility on Plastics Avenue and another space downtown, to see if either of those were more economical. They weren’t, according to Tyer.
“New construction at the William Stanley Business Park is the right strategy,” she said.
The idea cycled back to the former General Electric land on East Street. PEDA, which manages that land, has been involved with the project since day one and had believed that that’s where it should be located anyway.
“It belongs as an innovation center people can point to and can see and come to and not hidden away in some old building that requires retrofitting,” Executive Director Corydon Thurston said.
But the financial picture hadn’t changed. The BIC was still $3 million short of building what it envisioned and has depleted the $700,000 — $250,000 from PEDA, $250,000 from the city and $200,000 from memberships — in startup operational costs.
The membership hasn’t changed either. There are still 20 letters of intent signed from companies and 10 had actually signed on — eight of them paying into the center alongside some larger donations. None of those companies have walked away from the project.
“All 10 of those members are still members. We literally had a two and a half year delay from when the doors were supposed to open and they will if this funding is approved,” Jané said.
The BIC continues to operate even without a home. It used its equipment to launch certification training programs, seminars, and allowed companies access to the equipment. The workforce training component had actually grown to become a larger focus of the organization.
There are numerous educational facilities on board with the project and with the state’s urging, a deeper level of commitment to providing those opportunities was incorporated into the plan — tackling an issue many companies face in the inability to find employees with the skills needed in their fields.
“We have an obligation to try to find ways to train the workforce for the jobs that are available,” Tyer said.
That took all of that work back to the state and Tyer says state officials have all but promised $2 million if the city would put in $1 million to cover the gap.
“The city’s expected to almost immediately trigger a $2 million investment from the commonwealth,” Director of Community Development Deanna Ruffer said.
On Tuesday, the City Council unanimously decided to pull that $1 million from the GE fund — a pool of money given to the city years ago as part of the settlement when General Electric left.
That brings the state’s investment — as long as it actually does provide that $2 million that is expected on Oct. 10 — to $11.7 million.
Thurston said he is excited with the next steps. He’s been hoping for a groundbreaking for years and trying to get the park developed.
“We cannot, as a community, let an $11 million gift — it was $9.7 before now it looks like it is up — we’ve got $11 million plus gratis on the line here,” Thurston said. “We’ve got to do something with that money and we will.”
PEDA Chairman Mick Callahan said development at the park will help spur other investments and that was the idea behind the incubator to begin with.
“We’ve always been confident that any development brings new opportunities. In this case, the synergy of the BIC operation gives us the opportunities to advance some of those other parcels, specifically on the same quadrant,” Callahan said.
From the city’s perspective, it will address both the workforce development piece but also help local companies expand. Those involved often aren’t able to purchase machines that can be used to develop and take to market new products.
“The most important job of our time is to ensure our very own successful, locally grown, and often unrecognized businesses continue to thrive,” Tyer said.
Jane said construction will take about 18 months.
But, alas, the work isn’t done yet. Despite closing the $3 million funding gap, Jane says the BIC still needs to figure out how to cover what is expected to be increased construction costs because of the delay to the tune of about $900,000 and replenish the organization’s operating funds. Only then will it be able to start the construction process.
“It has been two years so the capital construction costs don’t stand still,” Jané said.
Jané said the organization is cutting half of its budget for equipment — from $2 million to $1 million — to address the rising construction cost. He said the organization has prioritized the more important pieces for opening day and will seek to buy, or find grants, the others later.
A change to the agreement between the city, PEDA, and the BIC will help sidestep public procurement process that Jane hopes will help lower construction costs. The previous agreement was that the city would build the center for the BIC to use. PEDA owns the land and had signed a lease with the city for the land.
Now, the city is terminating its agreements with PEDA and the BIC will now sign new leases and take responsibility for constructing and owning the building. The earmark from the state will also switch over to the BIC.
“It can be more nimble and more flexible,” Ruffer told the council of the decision to switch agreements.
From PEDA’s perspective, the structure seems to just make more sense.
“We’re very happy with the structure based on the tweaking that went on to improve the whole thing. I think we have a solid agreement that was put in place by a lot of good people and the PEDA board has supported the BIC front the start,” Callahan said.
The unanswered question remains about operating costs. Jane said once all the construction funds are secured, the organization will be in a better position to attract new companies. And there are still 10 letters of intent still out there. Thurston echoed those sentiments saying once it is “real” the operational concerns will evaporate with the newer interest.
The city, however, doesn’t want to see its money be spent like that. The agreement for the $1 million specifies that it should be used for construction and only if construction moves forward in a timely fashion will the money be dispersed.
“We will see that it is moving forward before our funds are expended,” Ruffer said.
Jané said once that operational problem is solved, he gives it 18 months before a ribbon cutting.
July 4, 2017
Tony Dobrowolski, [email protected]
PITTSFIELD — The city of Pittsfield has received $75,000 from a program associated with MassDevelopment to conduct further testing on a parcel at the William Stanley Business Park of the Berkshires for a possible tenant.
The state funding from the Site Readiness Fund will pay for extensive engineering and structural examination of the large concrete foundation at what is commonly known as the 40s complex, a 7-acre parcel located across Kellogg Street from the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority’s administration building. It is named after the 40s, the numbers of three buildings that were located on that site when the property belonged to General Electric.
A plastics manufacturer from Orlando, Fla., with ties to the Berkshires has expressed interest in building a facility that could bring 100 manufacturing jobs to Pittsfield on that parcel, which now houses building lots 7 and 8 at the Stanley Business Park. Work on the site may begin as early as next week, said PEDA Executive Director Corey Thurston.
The foundation was left behind when GE demolished those structures before turning the land over to PEDA, which is charged with the 52-acre business park’s development, in 2011. In some areas of the business park, such as the teens parcel where Walmart has expressed an interest in building a Supercenter, the concrete foundations that GE left behind are too ragged to build upon. But the foundation left behind in the 40s is not.
“We’re going to use the money to further explore the actual engineering details of the slab from a structural standpoint,” Thurston said. “We’re going to dig deeper into the slab, take a ground-penetrating radar device to look for where there might be voids and structures underneath the concrete so we can do a better analysis of what areas are weaker than others to make sure that if a building is constructed there we can stay away from a weak spot.”
Buildings 42 and 43, constructed in 1912 and 1913, respectively, were massive multi-story structures that formed a U shape, and at one point made up one of the largest industrial spaces in Western Massachusetts. The single-story building 44 was built in 1940, sandwiched between the two sides of the U that was created by the four-story building 42 and five-story building 43.
GE turned the 40s parcel over to PEDA in February 2011, but Thurston said the quasi-public agency hasn’t done any major work in that area since then.
“GE had to do a lot of testing on that slab for when the EPA signed off on the final completion report,” Thurston said, referring to environmental and geological assessments of the entire park that GE was required to complete, and the Environmental Protection Agency required to approve, before the land could be turned over to PEDA. “We’re going to add to those tests, because we want to know the specific points to know. Since the property has been deeded to PEDA we’ve done nothing but maintain it.”
The strength of the stormwater and sewer lines on the parcel also will be tested. Further environmental testing of the 40s parcel is not included in the parameters of the site readiness grant, Thurston said. But because further test borings of the land are allowed, Thurston said some of those samples will be probably be tested for possible chemical contamination.
“We’ll probably take advantage of the drill rigs” that will be used for boring, Thurston said.
The city of Pittsfield is one of 14 recipients across the state to received funding in the inaugural round of the Site Readiness Fund program, which is administered by the administration of Gov. Charlie Baker. A total of $1.8 million in funding awarded to 11 communities through 14 grants during in the inaugural round of funding.
The program enacted with the administration’s 2016 Economic Development Bill, authorizes $15 million to provide vital resources to municipalities, developers, and community development corporations to increase the inventory of development-ready sites across the state.
“The city of Pittsfield is thrilled to receive this grant that will help to advance economic development pursuits at the William Stanley Business Park,” Mayor Linda M. Tyer said in a statement. “Economic development is at the forefront of the city’s priorities and collaboration such as that between the city and PEDA are critical to this work.”
The city and PEDA applied jointly for the funding earlier this year. PEDA’s board voted to give Thurston authorization to accept the grant on the board’s behalf at its June 21 meeting.
Reach Business Editor Tony Dobrowolski at 413-496-6224.
June 15, 2016— Waterstone Retail Development has announced Woodlawn Crossing, a complete redevelopment of the Teens Parcel of the former GE property at the William Stanley Business Park. The Phase One portion of this redevelopment proposal (Walmart Supercenter) alone will generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in new revenue and create hundreds of jobs. Currently, there are over 2,000 unemployed people in Pittsfield.
“We look forward to stimulating the future growth of the William Stanley Business Park with the improvements Woodlawn Crossing will bring,” stated Waterstone Retail, out of Needham, Massachusetts. “Our aim is to bring new energy to the currently dormant site to help solidify Pittsfield’s path to prosperity by bringing over 350 construction jobs and 85-100 quality full- and part-time jobs for a total of 300 jobs with just the Walmart alone for the City.”
Woodlawn Crossing will transform the existing 16-acre concrete slabs on the property into a productive re-use as part of a mixed-use project that will eventually bring space for medical offices, life sciences, retail, light manufacturing, and research and development. Waterstone intends to pursue adjacent parcels outside of the WSBP where appropriate to accommodate these additional uses. The Phase One retail portion includes plans for a new Walmart store with a full line of groceries as a relocation of the existing Pittsfield Walmart. This transformation requires a substantial investment by Waterstone to rehabilitate the site before construction can begin.
“We invite community members to take a look at the details and drawings on our new website and at our upcoming Community Open House this summer to help create a broad understanding that virtually any other use for this land is not economically viable, given the vast oversupply of comparable vacant industrial buildings and the amount of developable land available at literally a fraction of the cost of this development,” Waterstone stated. “We want the community to know we are here to listen and answer questions about what we believe to be an exciting opportunity for economic development in Pittsfield.”
Residents are invited to learn more about the new Woodlawn Crossing proposal on Tuesday, June 28th at an informal Community Open House event, during which community members can learn more about the traffic improvements, environmental cleanup, new streams of revenue and jobs that will result from the proposal. This event will be held at Hotel on North in “The Hall,” and guests are invited to attend anytime between 5-8pm.
Waterstone has set up a website www.woodlawncrossing.com for community members to learn more about the proposal, and a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/woodlawncrossing) has also been created for supporters to join.
About Waterstone Retail Development
Waterstone is a privately owned real estate company specializing in the creation and repositioning of commercial properties throughout the United States including a growing portfolio of retail shopping centers, stand-alone retail sites, residential buildings, industrial properties and medical facilities. Waterstone has 50+ properties in Eastern U.S. including more than 1 million square feet of retail space under development. With a portfolio of more than 250 national and local tenants, Waterstone prides itself on maintaining longstanding relationships with our retailers and being an active participant in our surrounding communities to be local in service, national in scope. Waterstone’s strategy includes ground-up new development, acquiring stabilized assets and purchasing retail centers in need of repositioning/redevelopment. Waterstone’s headquarters in Needham, MA with a satellite office in Spartanburg, SC. For more information, please visit www.waterstoneretail.com.
Today’s approval by PEDA of a Letter of Intent with Waterstone Retail is a necessary first step in the process that allows Waterstone the opportunity to pursue development of the site, including submitting applications to the appropriate boards and departments in the City of Pittsfield for consideration of necessary permitting and approvals that will be required for this project.
As an economic development agency, PEDA has a responsibility to bring all qualified opportunities to the City that put the properties of the William Stanley Business Park back on the tax rolls with quality investments that create jobs but the special permit will be up to others.
This project proposal meets that obligation and this Letter of Intent simply sets the basic terms for the lease / sale of the land to Waterstone contingent upon it receiving the necessary permits.
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.
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
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