Our Opinion: Building it in the park in hope they will come
The long-anticipated, much-heralded Berkshire Innovation Center is evidently on its way to becoming a reality at the William Stanley Business Park in Pittsfield. While its potential is considerable, it comes with no guarantees, and will be what the city and region make of it.
It has been six years since the $6.5 million state earmark was awarded the city. The delay in signing off on the grant played to the city's advantage financially, if not time-wise, as the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center board of directors Tues-
day signed off on $9.7 million following a request for an additional $3 million from city officials based on the results of a recent feasibility study. That study, and the vote of confidence from the Life Sciences Center board, should boost optimism about the project's eventual success.
Pittsfield leaders and officials from the Pittsfield Economic Development Auth-
ority originally saw the center as an incubator for start-ups in the thriving life sciences field. After evolving into a facility for firms that were farther along in the process, the feasibility study recommended it focus on local firms that supply the life sciences industry. The center's purpose may evolve yet again as the industry evolves and officials will need to be flexible enough to adjust.
Under the terms of the life sciences initiative, the MLSC is not expected to release funding until 2017, which would mean another three years of waiting for a project approved in 2008 to lift off, which is difficult to defend. Some money may come available next year, but the city should at least be able to use the grant as leverage to borrow money for construction of the 20,000-square-foot building.
Pittsfield Mayor Daniel Bianchi believes the project "will have a tremendous impact on our region," and indeed the much-maligned business park is important to the Berkshires, not just Pittsfield. The center is a "if you build it they will come" project, but the right facility and aggressive recruitment of the right businesses could make a huge difference to the city's and region's economies in the decades ahead.