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Pittsfield Allocates $1M To Close Berkshire Innovation Center Funding Gap

William Stanley Business Park
Jim Levulis
/
WAMC

The city council in Pittsfield, Massachusetts has approved $1 million to help close the funding gap for the nascent Berkshire Innovation Center. 

Plans for the Berkshire Innovation Center started developing a decade ago under then-Governor Deval Patrick. In 2013, a Pittsfield study changed what was intended to be a life sciences incubator into a research and development facility.

The city found the William Stanley Business Park most suitable for the project, to utilize the small to mid-sized advanced manufacturing companies already in the community.

City Councilor Melissa Mazzeo says Pittsfield was charged with building and operating the center.

“As it went out to fruition, it became apparent that there became a funding gap when it took a while to get the documents done, delaying construction costs,” Mazzeo says.

The center has been facing a $3 million funding gap.

At Tuesday night’s city council meeting, Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer said the goal of the BIC is as clear as ever.

“The innovation center will provide vital infrastructure needed for these businesses to succeed as they seek to create new products, to undertake the research and development of ideas, and to build a pipeline of highly trained workforce to meet the employment demands of these business that are here in our city now and the ones we hope to recruit in the future,” Tyer says.

Councilors unanimously approved allocating $1 million from the city’s Economic Development Fund, money received after General Electric shut down operations.

The council touted how the BIC has attracted the support of 20 area companies and organizations since becoming a non-profit in 2015 – including Berkshire Community College, which supplied the center with $1 million for equipment. Eight of the companies pay dues to the not-yet-opened center.

The state is expected to kick in an additional $2 million – on top of the Massachusetts Life Science Center’s $9.7 million commitment.

“The state is committed,” Tyer said. “We have had a number of lengthy conversations with both Secretary Ash and Lieutenant Governor Polito. They are committed to this community, they are committed to this project.”

Tyer was referring to Jay Ash, the state economic development chief.

Pittsfield’s Director of Community Development Deanna Ruffer says the city plans to terminate its agreements with the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority, which holds the property’s lease, and the funds from the state will also be transferred to the BIC.

Ruffer says in turn, the non-profit will take responsibility for its own lease, construction and ownership of the buildings.

“The non-profit entity can be more nimble and more flexible than we can be in public procurement process, and in the manner of which it approaches construction,” Ruffer says.

The project has racked up another $1 million in costs due to delayed construction and dwindled operating funds, according to BIC Director Rod Jane.

“But once we secure that operating fund, it will be at least 18 months before the doors would open on the center,” Jane says.

The city expects to receive $2 million from the state by October 10th.

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