PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Federal and state officials are expected to announce funding for the Berkshire Innovation Center on Friday.
Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash, Administration and Finance Secretary Michael Heffernan, and U.S. Rep. Richard Neal are planning to join local officials at 10:30 a.m. Friday for the announcement.
The project has quite a long history. It started years ago with a $6.5 million state grant to build an incubator. However, in 2013, a feasibility study changed the concept. Instead of being aimed for startup business, the innovation center became focused on supporting small existing applied manufacturing businesses. It also brought in educational organizations to address workforce challenges by allowing the students to train on the equipment, creating a pipeline of qualified candidates to work with those companies.
As time went on, the costs increased. The Life Science Center later upped its commitment to $9.7 million for both construction and equipment. The city and the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority pitched in to provide the "soft costs" of getting the new non-profit organized.
When the project went to bid in 2015, however, the bids came in too high. BIC officials scaled back its design but couldn't make it work. And the project stalled with what was an estimated $3 million financial gap.
BIC officials then cut its equipment budget, which ultimately will just cover increases in construction from 2015 until now. The City Council agreed to contribute another $1 million toward the construction. And the operational costs to keep the non-profit running was provided through another grant from the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority to the tune of $300,000.
The BIC had also reached an agreement to switch the owner of the project from the city to the organization, a move eyed to save construction costs by avoiding the public procurement process.
Those additional commitments came with a verbal agreement from the state to cover the remaining construction costs. The state kept its word and a few weeks ago local officials were told the commitments had been made formally. Since then, it has been a matter of crossing the Ts and dotting the Is.
It is not clear exactly how much the state opted to increase the earmark by, but it is expected that the total grant will be more than $11 million. The project is expected to break ground this spring.
The project has been one of the city's top priority for years. Officials see the project as a key piece to the redevelopment of the William Stanley Business Park. The Berkshire Innovation Center will be located on the park, near East and Woodlawn streets.
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