Berkshire Innovation Center will have on-site venture capital partner

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PITTSFIELD — When the Berkshire Innovation Center officially opens in January, it will have an on-site tenant that can provide information for members who are interested in obtaining capital for business investments.

Mill Town Capital of Pittsfield, an impact investment firm that has invested in several city businesses and properties, will be expanding its operations to the $13.8 million business development/equipment center at the William Stanley Business Park.

The firm will occupy a 500-square-foot space at the BIC and is expected to move in by the end of this year, after the city issues a certificate of occupancy for the two-story, 23,000-square-foot structure, according to Mill Town managing director Tim Burke. The construction of the BIC, which began last fall, is expected to be completed this month.

Mill Town will serve as the BIC's on-site venture capital partner, meaning it will reserve investment capital to fund the growth of BIC-affiliated businesses and entrepreneurs. But it will not serve as the BIC's sole source of that funding, according to Ben Sosne, the facility's executive director.

"They're going to be there watching what our members do and will have a firsthand look at companies to help their assessment in whom they might invest in," Sosne said. "They bring a level of expertise that will be a benefit to any company, no matter what the industry, I think.

"How it's going to work kind of remains to be seen,'' Burke said, referring to Mill Town's role at the BIC. "We'll reserve a pool of capital to invest in BIC enterprises if the scenario arises and it makes sense. "We'll be providing guidance and expertise to BIC members, in addition to being a capital source."

Mill Town also has committed sponsorship dollars to the BIC at the highest, or platinum, level. General Dynamics Mission Systems is the facility's only other platinum-level sponsor.

The BIC is a private-public partnership between the city of Pittsfield and the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority that is run by the Berkshire Innovation Center Inc., an independent nonprofit organization. The BIC has several member organizations, including private businesses and higher educational institutions. Its members include 10 private sector companies.

"For a new company that's attempting to grow, having a company like Mill Town in the facility working with BIC members is a huge asset," Sosne said.

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"It's another great step forward," BIC President Stephen Boyd said in a statement. "The BIC's mission of economic development is rooted in establishing an innovation platform that galvanizes deal flow and regional collaboration with three important catalysts: knowledge and ideation, funding, and executive/business acumen."

Referring to the funding piece, Boyd said, "Mill Town provides venture capital and access to smart money for BIC entrepreneurs in both pre- and post-seed rounds."

Mill Town, which Burke formed with business partner Dave Mixer in 2017, is headquartered at Framework, a coworking site on North Street.

Burke said the company, which has five employees, will continue to maintain a presence at Framework but will be moving most of its operations to the BIC.

"Our team's growing as we commit to do more in the Berkshires," Burke said. "There's more space, and this is a great opportunity as a location to expand our team.

Mill Town, which has signed a three-year lease, is the first tenant to officially commit to the BIC. Electro Magnetic Applications of Colorado has announced plans to install an aerospace simulator at the BIC, but the City Council has yet to approve a tax incentive package that would allow the project to move forward. The full council is expected to consider that measure at its next meeting Tuesday.

Once the construction of the BIC is completed, officials will begin moving the facility's high-tech equipment to the business park from Berkshire Community College, where some of it has been housed since 2016.

Sosne said a grand opening ceremony is scheduled to take place in January, but the date for that ceremony is being coordinated through the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, which provided the majority of the project's funding.

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


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