Mayor Daniel Bianchi met with economic development leaders in his office on Thursday.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — From mentor programs to angel investment groups, the county's economic development leaders are hoping to set the base for a booming life science and modern manufacturing economy.
On Thursday, Mayor Daniel Bianchi met with Douglas Clark, the city's director of community development, Berkshire Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Michael Supranowicz and Dave Curtis of 1Berkshire to receive updates on a variety of initiatives.
"The earmark is there. It is ours to lose," Clark said.
Soon the city will have to follow up with the next phase of cost analyses and a business plan, he said. A study is being done by the Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Corp., which Clark says will help the city further develop the plans. That study, he said, is looking at ways to capitalize on the industry and tie in with upstate New York.
"We don't need [that report] but it might help," Bianchi said.
The life science center is eyed to be a major boon to developing the William Stanley Business Park, and finding occupants for the park is a goal economic agencies are focused on. Clark said economic development agencies and at least six plastics companies are coming together next week to discuss that industry.
Supranowicz said MassDevelopment is also holding a meeting in Adams at which the keynote speaker will be talking about the life science industry. The half-day workshop will share resources available for companies to grow.
Those are just two of the upcoming gatherings eyed to prepare the business community for a potential life science industry. Additionally, Curtis said he has been in conversation with a group of investors who want to form an angel investment group for Berkshire and Columbia (N.Y.) counties.
The Berkshires does not currently have an investment group so the task is rallying both businesses and investors to start one that would provide seed and expansion money for local businesses.
"These are people who want to invest in businesses that they see, touch and feel," Curtis said. "There is a large need for a small angel investment group."
Curtis said the county needs to help get the businesses involved in investing in the community rather than relying on assistance from elsewhere. Supranowicz said that once the right project comes together, "we'll get the support."
Clark is also now hoping to find space downtown to establish an membership-fee based office to foster creative, artistic and industrial growth. The goal would be a rented space with technology and equipment that members could use as needed, thus reducing the startup costs for new businesses by providing the space and tools.
The group all thought that a research and development area like that could be a good fit at the business park but Clark wants to get the space opened sooner and is looking for at least some space downtown to get it started.
"We do have the space. We could move it along. We just need the right program," Bianchi said.
The city would need somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500 square feet of space at a "reasonably affordable cost to keep membership fees down."
Supranowicz said there are also new mentoring programs in the works. The chamber has been working with Berkshire Community College and other potential partners for two programs.
One mentoring program would be eyed for schools and would attempt to find the students with an entrepreneurial mind and help develop that.
"We are trying to create a youth entrepreneurial program that would likely run out of Pittsfield but include youth from all over the county," he said. "It was a project the chamber looked at a while back but didn't have the resources to do."
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