CEO Pat Muraca shows Gov. Deval Patrick the steps the companies goes through in testing new biomarkers.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Giving companies like Nuclea Biotechnologies seed money to grow is exactly how Gov. Deval Patrick believes he is "intentionally" creating jobs in the life science field.
The governor toured the facility Tuesday afternoon to see where $510,775 in state tax incentives are going. The company is using those incentives but must create at least 25 new jobs by the end of the year.
"You do it intentionally. You encourage the pioneers like Pat [Muraca] at Nuclea. You create the kind of environment that enables the biotech industry," Patrick said of how to create the life science jobs in Berkshire County.
"Out here, those kind of investments are going to involve things like broadband access and enhanced educational opportunities like the life science center at MCLA. PEDA is also working on having an incubator for early stage companies. That is very much like the formula that has worked in other parts of the state."
The state is investing $1 billion over 10 years to support the industry and so far $330 million has been awarded to capital projects to create educational, research and manufacturing facilities. The funds are overseen by the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center and another $6.5 million is earmarked for an incubator building.
The Pittsfield Economic Development Authority is trying to reel in those funds for the William Stanley Business Park. Nuclea is also looking to move a manufacturing facility it recently purchased in Cambridge to Pittsfield.
CEO Pat Muraca said the Berkshires works for him because it is in between Boston and New York City, where the investor base is located. Although Nuclea has been able to attract employees to come to the area, Muraca said, there needs to be more biotech companies to retain them.
"We're looking at a growth over 18 months of 35 to 40 people. We have new products that are being manufactured and we're outgrowing our facility," Muraca told the governor.
Nuclea currently employees 70 people, 43 of them located in the Berkshires. The grant will help the company grow as it enters the production and manufacturing fields after first focusing on research only. The state grant accelerates the hiring by providing the seed money for 25 employees.
"I think this is really a good place to grow these types of companies. We call it a creative economy, which is usually artistic. But it is also innovation and that's one of those things we'd like to portray. We are definitely an innovative area," Muraca said. "We're sometimes forgotten out here. But we're here and we're really ready to grow."
The city's next step would be to build a building for smaller biotech companies at the business park, where Nuclea could expand space. According to PEDA Executive Director Corydon Thurston, the building would be for companies in their early stages but not quite a "true incubator" because there aren't research universities around here to spark them.
The city's Community Development Director Douglas Clark told the governor about the city's push to build an incubator at the William Stanley Business Park.
Still, it builds on the county's strengths, he said.
Patrick said incubator buildings have made a "high impact" in other parts of the state.
"We have a very deliberate strategy to grow jobs and opportunities. It is invest in education, innovation and infrastructure," Patrick said. "It's a strategy that is working. We are growing faster than our neighbors, twice as fast as the national growth rate."
Earlier this week, the governor emphasized that strategy when he announced that the state grew more jobs in 2013 than it had since 2000.
"Our biotech sector is one of the fasting growing in the world. Our clean tech sector is seeing double-digit job growth and we have trained more than 100,000 people for jobs in these and other innovative sectors," Patrick said, earlier Tuesday afternoon when he met with state and county business leaders.
"Manufacturing is growing more than 50 percent faster than the nation as a whole and seven times the rate it did during the previous administration."
While the state's job growth was boosted by large biotech companies moving operations to the eastern part of the state, the Berkshires have yet to see the the industry take off. Patrick said his focus is to expand the life sciences industry across the state and not just in the Boston area. He outlined a number of programs the Berkshires have participated in to set the groundwork for industry growth.
"We are trying to do our best to govern for the whole commonwealth," he said.
Thurston said the expansion of broadband throughout Berkshire County is one Patrick initiative that has really paid dividends here. If it weren't for that connectivity, Thurston said Nuclea would not be able to stay in the Berkshires. He added that it goes a long way toward helping PEDA attract even more companies.
As the Legislature takes on the state's next budget, Patrick said his focus is to continue focusing on "education, innovation and infrastructure" and he will continue to push that strategy until his final day in office.
"We proposed a responsible and balanced budget. It deals with the fact that there is not enough money to do everything," Patrick said of the budget. "It puts money again in those areas of education, innovation and infrastructure where we know we are going to get multiple returns."