PITTSFIELD — General Dynamics Mission Systems has expanded every year since it came to Pittsfield in 1997. But now the company needs more space to house those additional employees.

Three years after the company first moved into General Electric's former administration complex at 1 Plastics Ave., General Dynamics has added more space by expanding further into the cavernous collection of buildings.

Company and local officials gathered Thursday in the entryway of the complex's main building to hold a symbolic ribbon-cutting ceremony in recognition of the latest expansion. The county's second-largest employer has added 25,000 square feet to the 40,000 square feet that it has leased from GE since 2017.

"The sun is really shining on Pittsfield today," said Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer, as sunlight streamed through the entryway's windows. "General Dynamics is an anchor institution on our city, and the city is proud that you make our city your home."

General Dynamics, which has 1,800 employees in Pittsfield when government employees are factored in, plans to move 100 current employees into the additional space, which the company began to occupy around the Christmas holiday.

"They were crammed into nooks and crannies," said Carlo Zaffanella, vice president and general manager for maritime and strategic systems at General Dynamics Mission Systems, who oversees the operation of the company's Pittsfield operations.

The company also plans to place some of the 100 new employees that it expects to hire this year in the new area.

"We're continuing to hire and we need some place to put them," Zaffanella said.

The company's net expansion last year was 200 employees — 350 were hired and 150 left due to retirements and other issues, according to Zaffanella.

General Dynamics had 450 employees when it opened its Pittsfield operations 23 years ago, and despite the yearly expansions the company was able to house all of them in its other building at 100 Plastics Ave., near the intersection of Merrill Road.

GE's former administrative complex, built in 1984, became vacant when Sabic Innovative Plastics moved most of its local employees to Houston four years ago. The complex includes a total of 160,867 square feet, according to city records. Its size and proximity to General Dynamics other building made it a perfect place for expansion.

"It's one campus and it's right next to us," Zaffanella said, referring to the complex as a whole. "We can keep all of our people together but naturally growing without having to build a new building by simply refurbishing one that's already here."

The layout of GE's former complex also favors modern workplace conditions.

"It's really well suited for modern engineering development techniques," Zaffanella said. "That's a really big deal. We don't do things the way we did when I went to college. People want to collaborate, be together, share ideas in real time and that's what this does. "

It may also help with recruitment. General Dynamics' payroll in Pittsfield is $150 million, and the company annually contributes $320,000 to local community organizations, according to Zaffanella. But holding on to local employees is a struggle, he said.

"The hardest challenge we have is not bringing in really good talent, it's retaining really good talent," Zaffanella said. "The cost associated with losing good talent over the years is a cost we don't want to bear any more than we have to."

1Berkshire President and CEO Jonathan Butler said General Dynamics' success helps the Berkshire economy as a whole. The ripple effect caused by every new job created at General Dynamics leads to the creation of 3.8 new jobs in the Berkshire region, he said.

Tony Dobrowolski can be reached at tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6224.