PITTSFIELD — A tax incentive proposal for a planned aerospace testing facility won unanimous support from the City Council's Finance Committee on Thursday.
Electro Magnetic Applications, or EMA, aims to install an aerospace simulator at the Berkshire Innovation Center, which is scheduled to open in January.
Under the package that councilors preliminarily approved Thursday evening, the city would forgive $65,774 in personal property taxes, while EMA would otherwise be on the hook for $103,727 over its first five years in operation. Under the plan, the company still would pay $37,953 in taxes over that period.
The tax forgiveness is part of a roughly $200,000 incentives package proposed by Mayor Linda Tyer and her administration. She also proposed spending $140,000 from the city's Economic Development Fund to support the company's testing chamber. Councilors on the Community and Economic Development Committee voted unanimously in favor of that measure last week.
Both portions of Tyer's proposed incentives package will return to the full council for final votes during the Oct. 22 meeting.
During the meeting Thursday, company leaders also worked to quell concerns about the possible use of strontium-90, which three residents brought up during a different subcommittee meeting last week.
Greg Wilson, EMA's senior scientist, told councilors that he and his colleagues must decide between using strontium-90 or a particle accelerator, which is more expensive but has more precise energy control than the hazardous isotope.
"So, they both have their pros and their cons, and we're weighing which one," he said.
If they do decide to use strontium-90, company leaders said they would be regulated heavily by state and federal agencies and would use it with care.
"It is in our best interest to make sure that this is absolutely safe — period," Wilson said. "No matter what."
Justin McKennon, EMA's principal scientist, said existing Pittsfield companies use the isotope, and the use of it would subject the company to training requirements and periodic safety checks.
EMA leaders call the planned chamber the first of its kind; it would create six new jobs with average salaries of $60,000 per year.
As the space industry commercializes, McKennon said it makes sense for manufacturers to hire a third-party company like his to independently evaluate materials that they are launching into space, especially since the failure to properly do so already has proved disastrous.
The company was founded in the 1970s and has a long-standing history of electromagnetic work, he said.
Amanda Drane can be contacted at email@example.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.