Bianchi proposes $1 million incentive in effort to land MBTA rail project


PITTSFIELD -- A fourth Berkshire County location has emerged as a possible site for a transit rail car manufacturer, while a second financial incentive is being suggested as a way to bring that company to Pittsfield.

The Renfrew Center Building on Print Works Drive in Adams has joined sites in Dalton, Lee and Pittsfield as possible locations for a transit rail car manufacturing facility, officials announced Tuesday during a meeting to discuss the proposal with possible suppliers at Berkshire Community College. The one-hour meeting attracted 66 people, the majority of them representatives of county manufacturers.

Meanwhile, Pittsfield Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi asked the City Council Tuesday to approve a $1 million allocation from the city's Economic Development Fund as an additional financial incentive to lure a manufacturer to Pittsfield.

At their meeting, councilors expressed strong support for the idea but voted unanimously after a lengthy discussion to refer the proposal to the council's Community and Economic Development Committee for further review. The committee plans to meet Tuesday at 7 p.m. and could make a recommendation in time for the council's Feb. 11 meeting.

Some councilors also expressed support for adding additional money from the fund to the incentive, saying the opportunity is great and calls for decisive action on the part of the city.

The Pittsfield Economic Development Authority, charged with developing the 52-acre William Stanley Business Park of the Berkshires, already has offered a $1 million incentive to a manufacturer who will locate in the park, which is the proposed site in Pittsfield.

Berkshire County is one of several areas in Massachusetts that have expressed an interest in being the site for a transit railway car manufacturer that will build new vehicles for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's Orange and Red lines.

The contract stipulates that the final assembly of those MBTA transit cars will have to take place somewhere in Massachusetts. The project could bring between 200 and 250 jobs to the Berkshires, depending on the amount of work that needs to be performed here.

"This is a very important project," Bianchi said during the meeting. "Obviously, if this was to land in the William Stanley Business Park it would be a home run. If it landed anywhere in the Berkshires, as far as Pittsfield is concerned, it's a triple."

Pittsfield's economic development fund was created from a $10 million settlement that the city of Pittsfield received from the General Electric Co. as part of the PCB cleanup agreement that was finalized in October 2000. Under the terms of that agreement, GE provided $1 million annually to the city of Pittsfield over the decade that ended in October 2010.

Bianchi said the possibility of a transit rail car manufacturer locating in the Berkshires justifies the offering of economic incentives.

"It meets all the criteria," he said.

At 79,500 square feet, the Renfrew Center building is much smaller than what the three other sites can offer. But 1Berkshire economic development specialist David W. Curtis said it was recently put on the list when a potential manufacturer indicated their company may be interested in a smaller space.

"In the beginning, when we were talking to companies, it was too small," Curtis said. "Most wanted 100,000 to 200,000 square feet and many were in the 150,000 to 200,000 range. There's a parcel adjacent to that building which can be used for expansion, and it directly abuts the rail line. We started to put it out there. Some potential bidders came to us and said they were no longer looking for a large space, but 85,000 to 100,000 square feet."

PEDA's Executive Director Cory Thurston said the deadline for companies to respond to the project's Request For Proposal, or RFP, has been extended from the end of February to May 1, and that the state is expected to award the $850 million contract in late December.

The meeting was held to inform possible local suppliers for a transit rail car manufacturer the parameters of the proposal. If the manufacturer decides not to locate in the county, Curtis said 1Berkshire plans to provide the company with a list of local suppliers no matter where it chooses to settle.


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