PITTSFIELD -- Four of nine transit railway car companies expected to bid on a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority project have already visited the county, Pittsfield Economic Development Authority officials said on Wednesday.
The fourth firm visited the county on Tuesday, while a fifth may visit next week, according to PEDA's Executive Director Cory Thurston.
In addition to the visits, PEDA Board member Douglas Crane said local business leaders have spoken to "all but one or two" of the expected bidders.
"Two haven't returned our phone calls," Crane said. "The group that came in (Tuesday) came in because we called them."
Thurston declined to identify the four previous visitors, but said three of the four visited county sites in Adams, Dalton, Lee and Pittsfield that are being suggested as possible locations for a transit rail car manufacturing facility.
"One only had interest in one industrial site," he said. "The others looked at every site in our package."
Berkshire County is one of several areas in Massachusetts that have expressed an interest in being the site for a manufacturer to build new vehicles for the MBTA's Red and Orange lines.
The contract stipulates that final assembly of those vehicles has to occur somewhere in the state. The project could bring between 200 and 250 jobs to the Berkshires depending on the amount of work that would need to be performed here. The deadline for companies to submit bids with the state was originally Feb. 27, but has been moved to May 1.
On Tuesday, the City Council unanimously approved a $1 million allocation from the GE economic development fund as an additional incentive to lure a manufacturer to the William Stanley Business Park in Pittsfield. PEDA, charged with overseeing the 52-acre business park, is also offering a $1 million incentive. The Stanley Business Park is the only one of the four county sites without an existing building.
PEDA officials praised the council's action at Wednesday's meeting, noting that Pittsfield now has $2 million to offer a manufacturer to locate within the city limits.
"We're in the game," Thurston said.
In other business, Pittsfield Economic Development Director Douglas Clark said the city has received "letters of intent" from 11 of the 15 businesses contacted by consultant Rod Jane during the second phase of a study being done to determine the feasibility of constructing a business innovation center in the business park. If the study is approved by the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, the city could receive a $6.5 million state earmark to build the 20,000 square foot structure in 2017.
Clark also suggested that the city and PEDA pursue a proposal with MassDevelopment that would provide additional funding for planning issues, and comprehensive economic development programs.
As an example, Clark cited the condition of the park's 16-acre teens parcel, which contains a jumble of building foundations left behind by GE.
"It's unmarketable right now," Clark said.
He suggested the city, PEDA and MassDevelopment should split the $54,000 cost for the first phase of the project three ways, but said PEDA could assume the city's share because the fiscal 2015 budget hasn't been drawn up yet.
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