PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Local economic development officials are trying to attract a major rail manufacturing operation that could mean hundreds of local jobs should an $800 million MBTA contract end up being sited in the Berkshires.
At a meeting of the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority on Wednesday morning, board member Douglas Crane updated the organization on efforts being made not only to land the lucrative subway car construction, but also explore additional benefits for other local industry that may be able to cash in on the supply side of the new state transportation initiative.
"The reality is that in Berkshire County, we have a range of businesses that are capable of producing close to 100 percent of the materials and assembled parts that will be needed," Crane said, noting that 1Berkshire, with which PEDA is working to advance the project, is in the process of organizing a cross-county meeting of potential suppliers.
As part of a long-awaited transportation project, the state will spend upward of $800 million on more than 200 new cars for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's Orange and Red lines, with the stipulation that their manufacture take place within the state. The contract promises around 250 jobs over 10 years and could lead to more permanent rail car manufacturing beyond that.
PEDA has already met with at least one of the small number of companies that could potentially be awarded the contract, and is in the process of marketing a parcel at the William Stanley Business Park — with a rail-accessible site that comes with a $1 million incentive to build — along with other potential locations in the county.
"We're working at a breakneck pace, because the schedule on it is pretty tight," said Crane, with initial bids due at the end of next month. "But we're trying to leave no stone unturned."
Executive Director Corydon Thurston noted that in addition to the commonwealth's stipulation that primary final assembly of the rail cars take place in Massachusetts, where there are currently no such facilities, some preference will also be given to bidders looking to construct on challenged sites such as the former GE brownfield site, and to locations with higher unemployment, both of which could work in Pittsfield's favor.
The Pittsfield site the agency is marketing is a three-acre parcel of William Stanley in what's known as the 40s complex, once containing 40s-numbered buildings of the sprawling former General Electric plant, which were demolished during the early 2000s. Also known as Site 7 of the qausi-public owned business park, this area across from PEDA's offices on Kellogg Street was remediated and then transferred
to the economic development agency by GE in mid 2009.
"It's an exciting prospect. It will be a challenge," said Thurston. "But we're going to keep working throughout the process to convince them that we have sites that are better suited for it than others."