Space chamber incentives win unanimous support from Pittsfield City Council

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PITTSFIELD — For those behind an electromagnetic services company with eyes toward a space hub in Pittsfield, city incentives were mission critical.

On Tuesday, the City Council unanimously approved about $206,000 in financial incentives for Electro Magnetic Applications, or EMA. The company plans to place an aerospace testing facility at the Berkshire Innovation Center, which is scheduled to open in January.

In the package approved by councilors, Mayor Linda Tyer proposed spending $140,000 from the city's Economic Development Fund to subsidize an initial $600,000 investment by the Colorado-based company.

Justin McKennon, principal scientist for EMA, moved to Pittsfield for a job at General Dynamics and has lived here with his wife since 2013. He said Pittsfield seemed like "an ideal location."

EMA leaders and city officials have said the testing facility would draw in teams of people from leading aerospace developers, like NASA, the U.S. Air Force and SpaceX. They also have said EMA could serve as a foundation to a space industry hub in Pittsfield.

"I think this is the type of company we really want to recruit here," said Michael Coakley, the city's business development manager.

Tim McDonald, EMA's president and chief scientist, told councilors his company has been doing work in the field since the Cold War, when a discharge event killed soldiers. EMA scientists were called in to investigate the cause, he told them.

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He said the planned Pittsfield facility would allow the company "to test like you'd fly."

"We have to, in a vacuum chamber, create the same conditions that we have in space," he said.

In response to questions from Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi about whether EMA had the support of BIC leaders, Executive Director Ben Sosne said it does.

"Not only am I comfortable, I'm excited," he said of EMA's future home at the innovation center.

Councilor at Large Melissa Mazzeo praised EMA leaders for answering questions raised about lab safety and about the company's finances.

"I hope that this is a long partnership," she said.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.


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