PITTSFIELD -- The Berkshire Life Sciences Innovation Center at the William Stanley Business Park, once it is built, will be operated by a nonprofit organization staffed mostly by representatives of the companies who are interested in using the facility.
Both the city of Pittsfield and the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority, which is charged with the business park’s development, will help create the new nonprofit, but won’t be directly involved in the 20,000-square-foot building’s operations.
"The users have to be in control of it to work effectively," said PEDA’s Executive Director Corydon Thurston following a meeting last week of the quasi-public agency. "It’s as much a retention group for existing companies as it is an opportunity for developing companies."
Thurston said he hoped the nonprofit could form "within a month," and that PEDA’s "primary focus" will be on that task, so that the life sciences project at the 52-acre site can stay on track. The development of the Berkshire Life Sciences Innovation Center is considered crucial to the park’s future development.
In May, the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center awarded the city of Pittsfield a $9.7 million capital grant toward the construction of the Berkshire Life Sciences Innovation Center, filling an earmark that had initially been awarded to the city in 2008. The city isn’t expected to receive the actual funding until 2017, although its possible some leftover funds from similar projects may be available by fiscal 2015, which begins on July 1.
Thurston said the formation of a nonprofit corporation to run the Berkshire Life Sciences Innovation Center wasn’t required by the MLSC, but under the legislation only a municipality or a nonprofit would be eligible to receive donations to help run the facility.
"PEDA and the city don’t want to be in the business of being landlords or operating businesses because that’s not our role," Thurston said.
The nonprofit intends to seek legal status as a 501(c)3 organization under the Internal Revenue Code, which is the most common form of nonprofit organization, Thurston said. Under that designation, the nonprofit could operate as a charitable organization that is eligible to receive tax deductible contributions.
PEDA and city officials are expected to lay the groundwork for the nonprofit to attain 501(c)3 status by building its bylaws, and filing a new corporate name with the state of Massachusetts, Thurston said. It’s possible the nonprofit’s board of directors will include some local officials.
"The bulk of the board, we expect, will be from the companies that we’re focused on that are going to be members," he said.
According to a feasibility study conducted by project consultant Rod Jane, 20 of the 85 companies that he approached regarding their interest in the Berkshire Life Sciences Innovation Center provided him with a letter of intent, meaning they would be willing to pay a $10,000 annual fee to have access to the building.
The city and PEDA are targeting local companies that supply materials to the life sciences industry, along with firms that already do business in that sector. Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi, who is also a PEDA board member, said the project has attracted a great deal of interest from firms located in New York’s Capital Region, adding that area may be more fruitful for the project to pursue than greater Boston.
"I think the western focus is going to have a real impact," Bianchi said. "Just because there’s a New York state border doesn’t mean we’re not allowed to cross it. ... It may be a more reasonable approach than going the other way for 150 miles."
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