'Serious contender' in MBTA railcar bid still hot on Berkshires location
PITTSFIELD -- At least one manufacturer, described as a "serious contender" to make railcars for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, remains interested in setting up its facility in the Berkshires, officials say.
Officials declined to name the company, but an individual involved in the negotiations said the manufacturer has expressed a serious interest in this area. The manufacturer was one of four to tour the Berkshires as they scouted potential sites in Massachusetts.
"This one group seemed very interested in the Berkshires," said Douglas Crane, a consultant and retired Crane vice president who has helped spearhead negotiations. "I think it's a very serious contender."
The MBTA recently extended by two weeks its deadline to May 15 for companies to submit proposals to conduct the work. The bid is expected to be awarded in December.
"It may very well be that others are considering sites in the Berkshires, but we're just not sure," he said.
Last week, Pittsfield Economic Development Authority Executive Director Corey Thurston said he was "cautiously optimistic" that "we still may have" one company "that has an interest in building and doing this project in the Berkshires."
Bidders are required to select manufacturing sites in their proposals, but Crane said more than one site can be listed.
"I think this company is putting in multiple sites," Crane said. "As far as we believe, it's two sites."
Berkshire County is one of several areas in the state that have expressed an interest in being the site for a manufacturer to build 226 new vehicles for the MBTA's Orange and Red lines, with an option to construct 58 additional Red Line cars. Between eight and nine railcar manufacturers are expected to bid on the project, local officials have said.
The $1 billion contract stipulates that final assembly of the vehicles has to take place somewhere in Massachusetts. Officials have said the project could bring between 200 and 250 jobs to the Berkshires depending on the amount of work that needs to be performed here. State officials have said Western Massachusetts is the primary area that railcar manufacturers have been looking.
Possible sites in the Berkshires include the William Stanley Business Park in Pittsfield, the former Beloit-Jones facility in Ashuelot Park in Dalton, the Renfrew Center Building in Adams, and the former Schweitzer-Maudit Greylock Mill in Lee. Three of the four sites have existing buildings, while the Stanley Business Park has a 120,000-square-foot foundation that PEDA has described as "ready to build."
Between them, PEDA and the City of Pittsfield have offered $2 million in incentives for any manufacturer that is interested in coming to the Stanley Business Park.
Thurston said officials have also put together a "vendor list" of local companies that could act as suppliers for a rail car manufacturer whether or not that firm comes to Berkshire County.
"We wanted to introduce them to all the potential suppliers that exist in Berkshire County that may have an opportunity to take part in this venture regardless of where the rail car ended up," he said.
"Hopefully, some of these folks will get some business out of this project."
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