If you build it, they will fund, is the argument for beginning construction on the Berkshire Innovation Center (BIC). It's a bold plan, but a risky one.
The project for the William Stanley Business Park in Pittsfield was put on hold after bids came in higher than anticipated and a $3 million funding gap emerged (Eagle, August 18). The state pledged $9.7 million for the project and the appropriate elected and appointed officials and BIC board members have been lobbying Beacon Hill for the additional funding. The belief is that if construction begins, renewed interest may attract new members for BIC and additional funds.
That may happen, as the BIC plan has attracted about a dozen local manufacturers as members, as well as the participation of public schools, colleges and universities within and just outside of the Berkshires. BIC promises sophisticated equipment, training and programming related to advanced manufacturing, as well as the opportunity for manufacturers, instructors and students to come together to explore new concepts.
But will Governor Baker and the legislative leadership be more willing to provide additional funding for BIC because ground has been broken? Beacon Hill had reason to believe that the initial funding provided was sufficient for the project. The state is also looking at a $629 million revenue shortfall for fiscal 2017 because tax collection projections fell short of reality.
Old school, General Electric-style manufacturing is gone from the Berkshires but there is a foundation of advanced manufacturing here to build upon. Tying the sound BIC concept to a new building precludes using a current building or a portion of a building to make BIC a reality. If funding doesn't emerge, the city could have its eggs stuck in a partially built basket.