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Baker Kicks Off Second Term With A Visit To The Berkshires

Josh Landes
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker meets with the heads of Berkshire Sterile Manufacturing and local politicians in Lee, Massachusetts.

One day after starting his second term, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker was in the Berkshires today.

Berkshire Sterile Manufacturing lies just off the Mass Pike in Lee, in a vast warehouse space outside of town.

“A year ago we were approximately 60 employees. We’re 90 today. We’ll be up to 100 by the end of this month, so we’re growing very rapidly," said Dr. Shawn Kinney, the company’s CEO.

Now in its fifth year of operation, BSM offers drug and medical device manufacturing for companies working to bring their products to market under the strict guidelines of the federal government. Kinney says BSM has enjoyed a healthy relationship with the commonwealth.

“We’ve just completed the $2 million financing supported by MassDevelopment to help us expand our manufacturing capabilities, which is part of the reason for the growth and the hiring of additional employees,” he told WAMC.

Some of those employees come from another state entity.

“Well we’ve taken advantage of the Mass Life Science Initiative and have hired many of our workers through that,” said Kinney.

Kinney estimated that BSM’s investment in the facility has been around $15 million, “much of which has flowed to local trades to do the work that we have here. Our payroll currently is at about $5.6 million, so all of that is going directly into the local economy,” he told WAMC.

“There’s a lot of technology and a lot of science all over Massachusetts," said Governor Charlie Baker. "It doesn’t all exist within four square blocks in Cambridge.”

Baker toured BSM Friday afternoon, his first visit to the Berkshires in 2019. Speaking for its public and private investors, the Republican offered the company a glowing review.

“Everybody’s expectations for all intents and purposes with respect to where this organization would have been – where they were when people got involved in making some of these investments – the company has exceed, in a fairly big way, and has a huge opportunity in front of it,” said the governor.

He touted BSM as an example for the state’s efforts to emphasize science, technology, and advanced manufacturing jobs. Baker also praised its use of the Mass Life Sciences internship program as a public-private collaboration.

“Usually what we’re doing is, we’re in the business of providing employers – particular in high-demand areas where there is significant opportunity – with what I would describe as almost stipends for some of the folks that they bring on board to serve particular kinds of jobs and positions," said Baker. "This internship model is a bit different than that, and it makes me wonder if we should be thinking about how we can be doing that in other places."

Baker told reporters his administration has big plans for passenger rail to Berkshire County – a much sought after infrastructure goal for Western Massachusetts leaders like State Senator Adam Hinds.

“We’re certainly going to be pursuing what will be probably be the most comprehensive study that’s ever been done on that issue,” said the governor.

Asked about his priorities for a county that struggles with violent crime, the opioid epidemic, limited public transportation, aging infrastructure, and unemployment, Baker seized on the latter.

“Now there’s a lot of pathways to that," he said. "There’s public private partnerships like this, there’s voc tech, investments to build skills that we’ve made in a number of other institutions out here, there are opportunities to invest in community colleges and other academic institutions so that they can expand programs that seem to be successful in creating work and opportunities for people.”

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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