Following the tour of the facility, Baker has lunch with company officials, interns, and local elected officials. The governor was sworn into his second term of office on Thursday and was leaving to attend events in Holyoke, Springfield and Worcester.
LEE, Mass. — Gov. Charlie Baker blitzed the commonwealth this week as he kicks off his second term in the corner office.
On Friday, Baker visited Berkshire Sterile Manufacturing where the state had played a role in helping the company both expand and bring on interns.
Baker toured the facility, met with the interns, heard from company officials about future plans, and highlighted it as an example of the good work his administration has done while citing the need to continue building.
The trip the day after his inauguration was to spotlight elements of his "Moving Massachusetts Forward" that included economic development and housing.
"There is a lot of great stuff going on here and we hope we have an opportunity over the next four years to go forward on a lot of it and to build on the successes and the platform that had been developed over the last few," Baker said.
Berkshire Sterile recently secured a loan from MassDevelopment to expand the facility and has participated in the Massachusetts Life Sciences Initiative internship program to help train a younger generation. The company, which formed in 2014, has been continually growing.
"We've enjoyed great success with the help and support of many, including the state of Massachusetts, MassDevelopment, Mass Life Science Initiative, Berkshire Bank, all of our employees, suppliers, and more," CEO Shawn Kinney said. "Berkshire Sterile Manufacturing has been a significant contributor to the local community."
The company specializes in manufacturing small-scale injectable drugs for clinical trials and does so with an isolator that ups the quality of the clean-room product. Kinney said the company contributes greatly to the local economy.
He said Berkshire Sterile has a $5.6 million payroll, provides 90 high-paying jobs, has spent $2.5 million with local trades on the build-out of the facility, made a $12.6 million capital investment into the building, brings customers into the area who stay in hotels and eat at restaurants, had 14 employees purchase homes, hired 25 recent graduates keeping young people here, and donated 10,000 square-feet of space to the Lee Youth Association for day-care programs. Kinney jokingly said the employees are also helping the declining population with eight babies born or soon to be born in the last two years.
State Sen. Adam Hinds remarked that Berkshire Sterile is a great example of taking an idea and turning it into something that actually stimulates the economy.
"We have to thank the governor and the administration for investing in a company like this," Hinds said.
Berkshire Sterile already has further expansion in mind.
"2019 is set to be a great year for Berkshire Sterile Manufacturing and what better way to start it off than hosting a very special guest today," Kinney said.
Baker said if Berkshire Sterile Manufacturing chooses to expand again in a couple years, the administration will be available to help.
"They've exceeded most of the aspirations and goals established when the MassWorks program got involved and MassDevelopment and Berkshire Bank got involved. Because of that, they expect and anticipate they will be looking to do some expansion again in a couple years from now. If they head down that road, I'm sure we'll hear from them and we'll be looking for ways to partner with them," Baker said.
Baker said his trip focused on three objectives. First, he wanted to learn more about the company and check in with how the state's investment is panning out. And he said he wasn't disappointed with Berkshire Sterile's progress.
He also wanted to hear from those in the internship program and he said those interns were enthusiastic about the experience and feel like they are going on the right road.
And finally, Baker wanted to use the company as an example that the life science industry has a stronghold throughout Massachusetts that can be built upon.
"There is a lot of technology and a lot of science all over Massachusetts. It doesn't all exist within four square blocks in Cambridge," Baker said.
In all, Baker believes the focus on life sciences and technology is going well. But, he believes there is still more work to be done.
Baker had last been to the Berkshires for the groundbreaking of the Berkshire Innovation Center and he said there is still work there to get that up and running. He also mentioned Wayfair, which received a state tax incentive to expand and which will lead to a new service center in Pittsfield with 300 new jobs. Baker said he wants Wayfair to get involved with the BIC.
CEO Shawn Kinney already has further expansion in mind.
"I think there is still work to do with some of the stuff we already have moving forward. We are obviously going to seek opportunities to partner with both local communities and businesses here," Baker said.
Baker also reaffirmed his support for expanding broadband, calling it an "unfinished element" of his first term.
"It was stalled when we took office and we got it kickstarted again. But we still have a bunch of communities out here that don't have a fundamental part of infrastructure that is going to be necessary to play and thrive and compete in a 21st-century economy," Baker said.
His top priority for the Berkshires remains employment. He said the state's help comes in a number of forms, from transportation to education to programs like that offered to Berkshire Sterile Manufacturing.
"The No. 1 priority is employment. There are a lot of pathways to that. There are public-private partnerships like this, there are voc-tech investments to build skills, there are opportunities to invest in community colleges and other academic programs so they can expand programs that seem to be a success," Baker said.
Joining Baker on the visit were Secretary of Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Mike Kennealy, Hinds, state Reps. John Barrett, Tricia Farley-Bouvier, and William "Smitty" Pignatelli, Mass Life Sciences Center President Travis McCready, Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer, North Adams Mayor Thomas Bernard, and Sheriff Thomas Bowler.
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At the tail end of last year, I heard a story about a young man who had passed away of an opioid overdose. This story hit many nerves for me, in particular, because it involved a first responder who arrived on the scene while the young man was still alive, but was unable to take action to save his life because he was not carrying an opioid antagonist.
Opioid antagonists work by blocking receptors in the brain interacting with opioids causing the overdose and preventing the body from responding to them. The most common and easily accessible antagonist at this time is naloxone, usually referred to by its brand name, Narcan. We know that Narcan works and we credit it with saving hundreds of Massachusetts lives a year.
In fact, Massachusetts issued a Narcan standing order for all pharmacies across the state through last year's CARE Act, allowing it to be readily available to anyone who has a need for it; we as a state created the Department of Public Health's Overdoes Education and Naloxone Distribution Program (OEND) to better understand how to make the medicine more easily accessible; and we created the Municipal Naloxone Bulk Purchase Trust Fund (BPTF) through legislation in 2015 to help make the substance more affordable for communities to provide to their first responders.
For these reasons and more, I was floored to learn that first responders in Massachusetts are not required to carry Narcan on their persons or in their vehicles while they are on duty. Knowing full well that we are in the midst of an opioid epidemic that is gripping the entire nation, knowing that any call coming in through an emergency line could be reporting an overdose situation, and realizing that the lack of an opioid antagonist by the responder who was the first professional to arrive on the scene is why that young man is not here with us today all prompted me to take legislative action on this dire issue. After months of research and discussion with public safety officers, legislators, healthcare advocates and providers, my office introduced H.1747, An Act helping overdosing persons in emergencies, otherwise known as the HOPE Act.
Madison Ross took home a gold medal and two second-place finishes, and her Mount Greylock teammates won the mile relay to close the meet as the Mounties placed second at the Central/Western Massachusetts Division 2 Championships at Westfield State University. click for more