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iBerkshires.com Columnist Section

Sue Bush
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Pittsfield:Moving At The Speed Of Business

By Jen Thomas
07:58PM / Monday, May 21, 2007

from left, Gregory P. Bialecki, state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, and Pittsfield Mayor James M. Ruberto at a morning media event that announced a $150,000 grant for the city.[Photo by Jen Thomas]
Pittsfield - City Mayor James M. Ruberto announced today that the city has received a $150,000 Technical Assistance Grant from the state Executive Office of Economic Development, as part of a Massachusetts General Law Chapter 43D expedited permitting program.

Critical Aspect Of Competitive Business

The funds, slated for use in accelerating the permitting process at the William Stanley Business Park, are a catalyst for better business prospects for the city, said Ruberto, Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D- Pittsfield), Representative Christopher N. Speranzo (D-Pittsfield) and state Permit Ombudsman Gregory P. Bialecki.

"Expedited permitting is a critical aspect of being a competitive business in today’s world," Bialecki said. "We respect the work the city has done. Not only is the community eligible for the Technical Assistance Grant, but it also means the community is entitled to priority consideration for state infrastructure money, etc."

"We are really using this as a tool to identify communities that have done their homework and are ready to commit to business," Bialecki continued.

MGL Chapter 43D is a program that allows communities to designate priority economic development sites as eligible for streamlined permitting approval. The initiative grants local permitting authorities flexibility to make decisions on these sites within 180 days and provides a one-time grant of up to $150,000 to help foster the permitting process.

Active Development Strategy

"It’s just another tool in an active economic development strategy," said Downing. "We need to be out there competing for the jobs of the 21st Century economy, by making smart investments, but by also having the tools so that, when we attract those businesses who want to grow, we can make that happen consistent with the values of our community."

“One of the things that prevented businesses from growing was that we didn’t have permitting that moved at the speed of business,” said Speranzo.

The William Stanley Business Park is a ready-to-build business redevelopment project on a 52-acre site formerly owned by the General Electric Co. Named for Berkshire native and inventor William Stanley, the site plans to offer office, industrial and research buildings, along with a proposed on-site employee training center.

“The William Stanley Business Park Project will spur economic growth and create more local jobs,” said Downing in a statement released this morning.

"We Take Investing Very, Very, Seriously"

More important than this specific project are the opportunities for future success of business endeavors in the city.

"When a community designates an area - in this case, the business park - they are entitled to apply the grant to improving processes there," said Bialecki. "In this case, Pittsfield is using the money to improve processes generally and apply what they’ve learned across the city."

"I view this as a work in progress - a signal to the investment community," Ruberto said. "Come to Pittsfield because we take investing very, very seriously and we’re going to do our best to keep preliminary investor costs to the most efficient level they can be."

Fourteen communities across the state have adopted expedited permitting programs and identified sites for development and 40 other communities have plans to do so in the future, including Adams. Pittsfield is only the second community in the state to granted funds for the expedited permitting.

Jen Thomas may be reached via e-mail at jthomas@iberkshires.com or at 413-663-3384.
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