PITTSFIELD The City Council is considering a request from Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi for $250,000 from the Pittsfield Economic Development Fund to help prepare for the launch of the Berkshire Innovation Center.
After a presentation Tuesday from officials involved with the project, councilors referred the funding request to their Community and Economic Development Committee, which will meet next on Aug. 26.
The fund was created as part of a settlement leading to an environmental cleanup of former General Electric Co. property in the city. The land now includes the William Stanley Business Park off East Street, where the new center will be located.
Construction of the 20,000-square-foot facility with the help of a $9.7 million capital grant from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center is expected to begin in 2015, with a center opening planned by July 2016.
The state grant is expected to cover building and equipment costs but not expenses to get the center's operational structure and programming up and running. Bianchi is seeking another $250,000 toward the start-up costs -- expected to come from the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority, the quasi-public agency that is developing the business park.
The mayor, Stephen Boyd of Boyd Technologies, chairman of the center's board of directors, project consultant Rod Jane of New England Expansion Strategies, and others spoke during the presentation to councilors.
Boyd stressed the opportunities he sees for access to research and development information and equipment and for collaboration and conferencing that the center will offer, which should spur manufacturing development and increase good-paying employment in the Pittsfield area.
The Innovation Center is planned as an accelerator facility that will allow local companies providing products for the life sciences industry access to advanced equipment, enabling them to improve their rate of innovation and product development.
Job training in new technologies and educational opportunities also are planned at the nonprofit center, which is expected to collaborate with institutions of higher learning, research facilities and other organizations.
Start-up tasks and expenses include the formation of a membership list, fulfilling legal requirements of forming the nonprofit organization, establishing training programs and setting up collaborations.
The city has received letters of intent from 19 firms interested in participating in the center. A number of institutions of higher education, including Berkshire Community College, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, the University of Massachusetts, are expected to participate, along with vocational high schools in the area.
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