Saturday, Oct. 31
PITTSFIELD -- The Pittsfield Economic Development Authority has signed a letter of intent to enter into discussions with a career-training organization that is interested in developing a new campus for a two-year private technical college at the William Stanley Business Park of the Berkshires.

Premier Education Group, a career training organization that serves more than 10,000 students at 25 campuses from Delaware to Maine, is interested in constructing a 20,000-square-foot building at the Stanley Business Park that would serve as a new campus for Salter College of West Boylston, which is one of the institutions that the organization runs.

PEDA is a quasi-public agency that is charged with developing the Stanley Business Park, which is located on 52-acres of General Electric's former power transformer facility. PEDA was formed 11 years ago. If the deal goes through, Salter College would be the park's first tenant.

The announcement came on the same day that Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Gregory Bialecki met with city and state representatives at the PEDA offices on Kellogg Street to discuss the progress of the park.

Bialecki said the ongoing infrastructure improvements at the Stanley Business Park are an important component of the overall development of the parcel in making the site more attractive to potential clients.


Advertisement

The letter of intent allows PEDA to begin negotiations with Premier Education Group on the construction of the facility. But PEDA's interim Executive Director William M. Hines Sr. said there's a good possibility that an agreement will be reached before the end of this year.

"There's a strong indication that it's going to go forward," Hines said.

Hines said Premier Education Group would like to have the facility constructed so the new campus can open next fall. Salter College would probably have 10 to 15 employees on staff in Pittsfield, who would be hired locally, Hines said. Student enrollment would be between 400 and 450 pupils, he added.

Mayoral candidate Daniel L. Bianchi, who has been highly critical about a lack of progress at the PEDA site, found the timing of the announcement "very interesting" considering it came four days before the mayoral election.

"I know that just a few weeks ago Bill Hines was quoted as saying that we had a couple of needle-in-the-haystack type projects which seemed like million-to-one shots to me," he said.

"Obviously, I'm happy to have any projects at that site," Bianchi said. "I guess I'll take a wait-and-see attitude and be hopeful."

Gary Campbell, the president and CEO of Premier Education Group, could not be reached for comment on Friday. But in a written statement, Campbell said that Berkshire County, Pittsfield, and the Stanley Business Park fit the organization's business model to continue to expand its education program throughout the Northeast.

"A new campus for Salter College makes sense for the Pittsfield area, and this site is a great location for development," Campbell said. "We are excited about this opportunity and looking forward to finalizing it."

According to Hines, GE is willing to waive a stipulation in its Definitive Economic Development Agreement with PEDA that prohibits educational institutions from being located at the Stanley Business Park.

Salter College provides technical training programs for a number of professions including accounting, office administration, medical assistance, massage therapy, the culinary arts, and HVAC technology.

Hines said the culinary, HVAC, and medical assistance programs are some of the initiatives that would be located in Pittsfield.

PEDA has two other projects in the works: The CornerStone Telephone Co. of Troy, N.Y., has expressed an interest in locating a $5 million, 13,000-square-foot data center and office structure at the Stanley Business Park, if the federal government approves $3.7 million stimulus grant for the project.

The Stanley Business Park is also one of eight sites that the Western Massachusetts Electric Co. has chosen as sites for large scale solar power facilities in its coverage area. Hines said the solar proposal is "moving along very quickly," while Community Development Director Deanna L. Ruffer said construction should begin next year.

Earlier this week, the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council certified the city of Pittsfield as a BioReady Community. Through cooperation with the Department of Community Development and PEDA, the city has met multiple criteria in order to receive the gold, or highest rating, from the Massachusetts Biotechnological Council.

To reach Tony Dobrowolski:

tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6224.