Rolling out the red carpet: Mayor Tyer wants to make it easier to do business in Pittsfield

Mayor Linda Tyer holds a press conference on the city's new economic development strategy in the Pittsfield City Council Chambers.

PITTSFIELD — Chris Kapiloff is on the cusp of expanding his city-based company.

To make money, he will have to spend money, which could eat into his ability to compete. But a new move by Mayor Linda M. Tyer could help.

Kapiloff, owner of the LTI Group, is working with a group of business professionals newly assembled by Tyer.

Dubbed the "Red Carpet Team," the group is designed to make it easier for businesses to get established or expand in the city.

Surrounded by business leaders and business owners, Tyer announced the team Thursday during a news conference at City Hall.

It is the first of a three-part economic development strategy she said would help the city better compete for business.

Business owners will no longer need to meet with multiple city departments to get what they need. Instead, they will meet with the Red Carpet Team, which consists of Tyer, and six other economic development officials from the area, region and state, as well as the city's Community Development Office staff.

Kapiloff, whose company makes laminated glass and polymer products, discussed plans to hire additional employees and expand its Federico Drive facility with the Red Carpet Team in the past month or so.

One of LTI's products, a specialty glass that cracks upon impact but stays intact, has been installed in more than 400 schools across the country since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Kapiloff said it has contracts with at least 400 other schools. "We are as busy as we have ever been," he said of the work taking place at its Federico Drive facility.

He said he is optimistic the team will be able to connect his business with incentives that will bring the costs here in line with his largest competitor, located in Alabama.

Kapiloff noted he pays three times as much for electricity than his Alabama competitor, and the minimum wage here is $3.75 an hour higher than it is there.

"I'm hoping the city can help narrow that gap," he said. "And make the cost of expanding here equal to expanding elsewhere."

Tyer said she is committed to keeping Kapiloff's business and attracting others.

As part of the mayor's larger economic development strategy, the city also will launch a new job in partnership with the Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Corporation and the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority, which manages the William Stanley Business Park.

That post, a business development manager, will serve as an ambassador and technician for recruiting and expanding business in the city.

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"This person will have the pulse of Pittsfield's commercial real estate market and will create and lead a sales and marketing strategy," said Tyer. She said that person would "quarterback" the Red Carpet Team.

Mick Callahan, chairman of the development authority and a member of the team, said the efficiency it offers businesses will deliver results.

"We all have Pittsfield in our name and Pittsfield in our heart but we also have Berkshire County on our mind," he said. "We don't want to miss any opportunity for success."

1Berkshire has an economic development team, but Tyer said the joint position will not be a duplication of efforts.

"They will focus entirely on Pittsfield," she said of the Red Carpet Team.

The development manager would also be well versed in city procedures, eligibility for programs that help businesses, as well as incentives and services available locally and beyond, she said.

The salary for the position would be shared by the city, the development authority and the revitalization corporation.

The City Council will need to approve Tyer's request for about $25,000, the city's portion of the business development manager's salary.

Pending that approval, Tyer said she hopes to have the position filled by this summer.

At large City Councilor Peter White, who attended the announcement, said he's often heard from business owners who were unclear where to direct their questions or ask for help.

"We need one point of contact," White said. "This is the perfect way to tackle the frustrations we are hearing from businesses."

Tyer also announced that MassDevelopment will hold monthly office hours at City Hall. And that she has appointed Deanna Ruffer to lead its Community Development office.

Ruffer, who led the office from 2004-12, oversaw a number of major developments including the renovation of the Pittsfield Common and the redevelopment of the Rice Silk Mill apartments. She left to take a similar post in Chatham.

The City Council will consider Ruffer's appointment on Tuesday.

Reach staff writer Carrie Saldo at 413-496-6221 or @carriesaldo