Berkshire Innovation Center early steel order dodged price spike from tariffs

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PITTSFIELD — A high-stakes project that faced delays due to money finally caught a break.

Structural steel that will arrive next month for the Berkshire Innovation Center was procured early enough to avoid tariffs, helping the $13.8 million venture avoid a surprise run-up in materials costs.

Stephen Boyd, chairman of the center's board, said a pre-construction team with Consigli Construction Co. put orders in early enough to prevent what could have been a 30 percent rise in steel costs.

"They did a good job getting into the market," said Boyd, who indicated that tariffs imposed by the Trump administration had raised concerns about their impact on the BIC's financing.

"We all worked hard to make sure we were efficient with our time," he said.

Work to create the workforce training and innovation center had already faced a three-year delay when bids in 2015 came in roughly $3 million higher than expected.

After new financing was found this year to close that gap, the project got the green light and ground was broken in October.

Boyd said Monday he did not have figures available on the exact cost of the structural steel that will soon rise atop a foundation being prepared at the center's site on Woodlawn Avenue near East Street.

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"Your guess is as good as mine," he said. "We're glad it worked out."

President Trump announced tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel from most countries in March, then extended them in June to include steel from Canada, the European Union and Mexico.

Pre-construction work began in June after the BIC hired a project manager and lined up Consigli, one of the largest general contractors in New England.

The 20,000-square-foot center will become a central element of the 52-acre William Stanley Business Park that stretches out across the former Pittsfield home of the General Electric Co.

Crews with the general contractor were on the BIC property Monday, continuing to prepare the site for the next step of raising the building's frame.

Cory Thurston, executive director of the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority, said concrete has been poured, following steps to compact soils underneath the site, and conduits are being prepared for underground utility lines.

He briefed members of PEDA's Finance Committee on Monday on the BIC's ability to sidestep tariffs on steel.

"Which was a big worry for all construction projects going on in the country," Thurston said. "Everything is full speed ahead."

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com, at @larryparnass on Twitter and 413-496-6214.


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