A group of Berkshire business leaders are pitching the county as the perfect place for a railway car manufacturer to perform final assembly tasks on new vehicles that will be constructed for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. The $1.3 billion initiative could bring between 200 and 250 jobs to the Berkshires, depending on the amount of work that has to be performed, according to those familiar with the project.
It's hard to tell what any of this means yet because the state is still soliciting bids, and other areas of Massachusetts -- all of them closer to Boston than Berkshire County -- are sure to be interested in this proposal. The contract only stipulates that the final assembly of the new MBTA rail cars has to take place somewhere in Massachusetts. But in these still economically depressed times, it's hard to find fault with a project that contains the potential of bringing that number of jobs to this area all in one shot.
The members of this group of business leaders, Pittsfield Economic Development Agency Executive Director Cory Thurston, 1Berkshire Economic Development specialist David Curtis, Pittsfield's Community Development Director Douglas Clark and recently retired Crane Vice President Douglas Crane deserve kudos for seeing the potential in this project and deciding to swiftly take action. The group itself has already met three or four times, according to Curtis. Meanwhile Thurston attended a pre-bid meeting in Boston, and met with another railway car company in Pittsfield on Tuesday afternoon. Just attempting to attract a manufacturer of this type to the Berkshires requires quick decision making when the county is competing with the rest of the state. Indecision, regional concerns and squabbling have no place here.
1Berkshire, the county's leading economic development agency, was founded in April 2010 to provide a single port of entry for people who wanted to do business in the county. The idea behind 1Berkshire was to streamline the economic development process for people interested in the county who often didn't know which agency to contact. The railway car manufacturing proposal is one of the biggest initiatives 1Berkshire has been faced with since its inception, but so far it has handled the issue smoothly and efficiently, which is what the organization was supposed to do.
There's still a long way to go before we know if a railway car manufacturer will take the Berkshire bait and come here, but presenting a united front, and getting everyone to move in the same direction is both a necessary step in the process and good to see.