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Front:Hunter Richard, Ryan Mudawar, Patrick Muraca, and Robert Coughlin. Back: Benjamin Downing, Paul Tonko, Richard Neal, and Gailanne Cariddi.

Business, Education, Political Officials Eye Growth Of Innovation Economy

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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Front: Claire Christopherson of Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center, Jim Capistran of UMass, Monica Joslin of MCLA, William Mulholland of BCC. Back: Ross Goodman of the center for nanoscale science and technology, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, and state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Political, educational, and business leaders say the northeast is ready to grow a new economy based on science, technology, engineering, and math.
 
Berkshire County is just over an hour from one of the largest investments in the innovation economy ever in Global Foundaries, where more than 2,500 employees are developing and manufacturing semiconductors.
 
Officials in the industry, education, and politics all believe that economy can continue along I-90 all the way into Massachusetts. 
 
"We are in an innovation economy and if we don't invest, if we just have a cutting frenzy, we will fail the constituencies we hope to serve," said U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., said. 
 
Tonko said those words at the Crown Plaza Friday morning as he joined U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., an array of officials in all three of those sectors for a panel discussion.
 
The panel called for people to shed their ideas that manufacturing is dirty and dangerous and instead embrace the new, clean technology in manufacturing. 
 
The congressman says the federal government has seen the rewards in that economy and is ready to invest more. The two representatives are teaming up to bring that effort to the Northeast.
 
"A number of these initiatives coming from Washington not only require but get additional points for regional strategies. The collaboration you hear today, where everyone is talking about bringing their strengths together, from a business perspective of all sizes from academia and government is an encouraging note," Tonko said. "When we come together on the same page and speak with the same voice and connect with other regions are doing that, we offer the most powerful opportunity for building hope into these communities with a winning application."
 
Growing the economy starts with education to create the workforce. That sets the table for private enterprises to join with the public sector to build grow and attract businesses. 
 
"Berkshire Community College, MCLA, and others are going to be the ones that provide the workforce. When you talk about technological skills, they are not going to hire somebody who doesn't have the skills," Neal said.
 
Berkshire Community College's Vice President for Community Education and Workforce Development William Mulholland said "our deliverable is going to be an incredibly high capability" in workers.
 
Tonko said the advanced manufacturing sector that seemingly took off in his district grew because of those close partnerships with colleges.
 
Jim Capistran, executive director of the UMass Innovation Institute, said the college in Amherst does $200 million worth of research in the field annually. That leads to not only new products but also educates the students studying in the field. Both contribute toward helping businesses grow and creating new businesses.
 
The university will have a place at the Berkshire Innovation Center, which is eyed for construction this summer at the William Stanley Business Park. There, the hope is to create an incubator-like space for small and medium sized businesses. 
 
Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center in Holyoke provides and similar service on that end of the corridor, according to Claire Christopherson, of the center who also sat on the panel. 
 
"We have a special interest in education," she said. 
 
Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Life Science Center, funded through public dollars, has launched programs like paying for interns to work at small and medium-sized life sciences businesses. According to Ryan Mudawar, the center's manager of academic and workforce programs, says the organization has created more than 2,000 internships in more than 450 Massachusetts companies. He said the company is about to launch additional programs to reach middle school aged students to get them interested in the sciences.
 
"Massachusetts has really emerged as the global leader in life sciences," Mudawar said, as he served on one of two panels to discuss the issues.
 
Douglas Clark, Pittsfield's director of community development, speaking with U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko.
Businesses like Nuclea Biotechnologies are doing their part by letter young students come in and tour and take internships. According to CEO Patrick Muraca, the Berkshires does have trouble attracting the doctoral-level employees so growing the workforce internally becomes more important. 
 
Coupled with the efforts to boost job training, Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, which represents a collaborative of currently existing private businesses in the state to expand and provide those jobs.
 
However, he said any successful business growth in today's economy is coupled with efforts in the public sector.
 
"There has been been one success these folks in government haven't been apart of," Coughlin said. 
 
Hunter Richard works in the state office of International Trade and Investment. He says his job to attract foreign companies to invest in Massachusetts. Overseas companies like Saabic have a place in the innovation economy.
 
"We are really facilitating interactions," Richard said. "We want to make sure they don't just look in Boston."
 
The Berkshires is poised to put the pieces together that will build that economy, the two congressmen said, and it will yield positive things for the local economies.
 
"The best social program is a job. When people have a job, they've made the right decisions. There has to be some promise of the economic system continuing to grow so that they might be rewarded in that system for making the right decisions," Neal said of the public good in investing and growing that economy.
 
Both Tonko and Neal plead the case to invest more in research in hopes to bring those jobs to the northeast. Neal further calls for funding for the National Institute on Health and the National Science Foundation. He also calls for a "big science project" like the space race of the 1960s of the super conductor/super collider which met its fate in the 1990s. 
 
"We need to make certain that we invest in research. Rich [Neal] and I are champions of research because we are an innovation economy. Research equals jobs, good paying jobs," Tonko said.
 
The panels including others from the private, public, and educational sectors discussed the various efforts to boost the advanced manufacturing economy for four hours Friday morning.
 
Their efforts are coupled with a report from the New England Council that says New England "enjoys a competitively advantaged position with respect to advanced manufacturing, stemming from an intricate network for cross-sector relationships that have evolved over time."
 
That report says the region is ready for clusters of industries like navigation and optics, aerospace, defense, medical devices, semiconductors and complex electronics, and precision manufacturing. 
 
"We are ready to grow our economy," said state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, who moderated the panels and who was just appointed to the House Vice Chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies.
 
Coughlin says the region isn't poised to make the next cell phone game, but instead poised to cure diseases. 
 
Correction: changed on April 18, 2015, to correct the types of business and number of companies participating in internships through the Massachusetts Life Science Center.

Tags: business forum,   economic development,   Neal,   state officials,   STEM,   workforce training,   

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Pittsfield ConCom OKs Zebra Mussel Treatment

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Conservation Commission has OKed a zebra mussel pesticide treatment in Onota Lake if the invasive species are confirmed.

On Thursday, the panel approved a notice of intent application for the use of EarthTec QZ within a specified treatment area of the lake.  

"We're not entirely 100 percent sure that there is an infestation of zebra mussels at Onota Lake. Last September, a water sample was taken and the DNA of zebra mussel was detected in that water sample. This was a water sample taken near the boat ramp at Burbank Park. Subsequent water samples were taken later in the fall and very early this spring, there were still non-detects in those water samples for DNA showing the presence of zebra mussels," Park, Open Space and Natural Resource Program Manager James McGrath said.

"We continue to, most recently as this Tuesday, we are sampling for zebra mussel EDNA and we should know the results of those samples certainly by early next week."

McGrath addressed the commission with a sense of urgency, as the lake is currently around 52 degrees Fahrenheit and the zebra mussels begin to activate around 55 degrees Fahrenheit.  He described it as "an opportunity to take what could be a potential massively serious ecological issue at Onota Lake and nip it in the bud."

"What we're proposing here is a collaborative approach where there are many stakeholders involved," he said. "This is not Jim McGrath proposing the use of EarthTec QZ at the lake. This is something we have been very deliberative about."

The application was continued from the previous meeting so that it could be filed as a state Ecological Restoration Limited Project.

"Really what it means is that it's eligible, which I think this project meets the eligibility requirements, it affords the right to not have to comply with general performance standards for the resource area that's being impacted," Conservation Agent Robert Van Der Kar said.

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