PITTSFIELD -- Pittsfield Economic Development Authority officials say they will have to work quickly, but are optimistic, that a transit car manufacturer building new vehicles for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority could establish a facility in the Berkshires.
"We’re working at a breakneck pace because the schedule on this is pretty tight," said board member Douglas Crane at Wednesday’s PEDA Board meeting. He added that the state deadline for manufacturers to submit initial bids on the $850 million proposal is the end of February.
"It’s challenging trying to locate them in this time frame," said PEDA’s Executive Director Cory Thurston. "But we won’t stop."
The state is planning to select a transit car manufacturer to provide 152 new vehicles for the MBTA’s Orange and Red lines, and Berkshire County is one of several areas in the state that have expressed interested in the proposal. The contract stipulates that the final assembly work has to be completed in Massachusetts. Crane said the contract will last at least 10 years and contain "the ability to extend it further."
Thurston said the state is expected to choose the manufacturer in the fall of 2014, and award the funding by next December or January.
The project could bring between 200 and 250 jobs to the Berkshires, depending on which company is selected and how much work they would have to perform here. Crane said between eight and nine transit car manufacturers are expected to bid on the project, and they may all have different needs. Some of the prospective bidders already have facilities in the United States, and some of them don’t.
"We have to recognize that eight or nine companies could have eight or nine sets of objectives, and we could have eight or nine discussions on what’s appropriate for different folks," Crane said.
"We feel very good about Berkshire County’s chances here," Crane said. "There are, of course, many other sites in Massachusetts. We feel practical about that, but our objective is to put our best foot forward and make a real compelling argument."
PEDA is charged with developing the 52-acre Stanley Business Park of the Berkshires, which is one of the three county sites under consideration. Ashuelot Park in Dalton and the former Schweitzer-Maudit Greylock Mill in Lee are the others.
All three locations have access to rail, but the Stanley Business Park is the only location where a new building would have to be constructed. It’s possible a new building could be constructed on an existing foundation left behind by General Electric before turning ownership of the 52-acre business park over to PEDA, but Thurston said it could be difficult to accomplish that feat under the project’s current deadlines. PEDA has offered a $1 million incentive for a manufacturer to come to the Stanley Business Park.
"We’re not sure we can get the new construction up in time," Thurston said on Wednesday.
Crane said the Berkshires also contains plenty of businesses that could provide materials to a transit car manufacturer if it decided to locate here. He said William Curtis, an economic development specialist at 1Berkshire, has already scheduled a meeting with potential local suppliers.
"We have a range of business that could produce close to 100 percent of the materials that are needed by the bidder," he said.
The MBTA’s transit car project is included in a 10-year $5.2 billion transportation investment proposal that the state officially announced on Tuesday. The legislation also includes $113.8 million to rehabilitate track, signals and structures between Pittsfield and the Connecticut state line to support future passenger rail service on the Housatonic Railroad between Pittsfield and Danbury, Conn.
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