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Siddharth Pannir, founder of GenH of Somerville, center, is presented a check of $40,000 from Lever's Sustainability Challanege for entrepreneurs.

Lever Celebrates $1M Mark in Grants, Sustainability Challenge

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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Executive Director Jeffrey Thomas says more than 100 companies and startups have competed for grants in Lever's entrepreneurial competitions.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Economic development non-profit Lever celebrated a milestone of granting $1 million to entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, and startups recently after concluding its sustainability challenge at Berkshire Community College.

GenH of Somerville was victorious over three other companies, securing a $40,000 innovation grant for its hydropower clean energy systems.

"It's an energy technology company to deal with the volatile climate," GenH founder and engineer Siddharth Pannir said on Dec. 2.

"And what that means is right now the only technologies that can deal with that is fossil fuels, like natural gas, coal.  Those are the only ones that provide stable power but they're not clean so we figured out how to do that for renewables."

GenH created what is called a "rapidly deployable and modular" hydropower system called Adaptive Hydro, which is designed to electrify non-powered dams and canal heads without fixed infrastructure.

Reportedly, only 3 percent of dams in the country are electrified.

Pannir said he was overwhelmed by the win — especially because the competition was tough. His company faced off against Prisere LLC of Boston, ModLEV of Medford, and CurbHub of Walpole.

Runner-up Prisere develops technology for the reinsurance industry to deal with climate challenges.

"So for example, if you have a super-insulated home and there's a power outage, if your home can retain the heat, which mine did, you're less likely to have pipes freeze and burst and cause water damage and file an insurance claim," founder and CEO Donna Childs explained, adding that if the software algorithm can quantify that benefit then the underwriter can figure out an incentive to offer.

Lever Executive Director Jeffrey Thomas has been "absolutely astounded" by the participation in the 21 entrepreneurial challenges that have been held. More than 100 companies from a range of industries have competed, with 27 winning grants.

"We get to have a lot of fun, that should be obvious, we get a front-row seat for emerging technology," he said.

"And the final surprise in this whole program that we've been doing is that we've learned that we can deliver valuable accelerated resources to entrepreneurs throughout the commonwealth of Massachusetts. That was unanticipated. That came up because of the pandemic."

The organization switched to remote challenges over Zoom during the COVID-19 pandemic and was pleasantly surprised by how well it worked, with some having more than a dozen companies in one cohort.

"I think most significantly, it's shown to me, at least, that Lever can deliver value to entrepreneurs regardless of where they're located," Thomas said. "And that's important for our ecosystem here in Berkshire County."

Several past challenge winners spoke of how the grants have advanced their companies.

Chris Kapiloff of LTI Smart Glass in Pittsfield, winner of the 2019 intrapreneur challenge, said the program allowed him to take an untested idea and work through its problems to help adjust a process that had been unchanged for years.

"The end result allowed us to make a better product, increase warranty time and compete more fiercely in a crowded marketplace," he said.

Kapiloff also spoke of the struggles of being a business owner or entrepreneur and the misconceptions that they take home huge checks and have unlimited free time.

"I think it's hard to be a small business owner and entrepreneur and innovator in general," said Lever Chairman James Birge, president of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

"Especially over the last few years in this changing environment of the labor force and the way that people are thinking about work, supply chain issues. It's striking to me the real challenges there are for entrepreneurs and the way that you will overcome those challenges is really quite impressive."

Tags: entrepreneurs,   lever,   

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Pittsfield to Unveil Plaque for Buddy Pellerin Ballfield

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A commemorative plaque will officially designate the Clapp Park ballfield for former coach George "Buddy" Pellerin.

The name change was approved about seven years ago after Pellerin passed away at the age of 77. The plaque's set be unveiled at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 14.

"Chairman [Cliff] Nilan has been involved with this effort to site a permanent plaque at the Buddy Pellerin Field which is of course the main baseball field and Clapp Park where Buddy Pellerin coached and played for many, many years," Park, Open Space and Natural Resource Program Manager James McGrath explained to the Parks Commission on Monday.

"And this is a permanent recognition of his contribution to the city."

The plaque, currently covered up, is just behind home plate on the backstop behind the walking track.  It was pointed out that the public is welcome to join the unveiling to remember a "literal Pittsfield giant."

Pellerin was head coach of the Pittsfield High baseball team for 19 years, leading the team to the state title in 1966 and taking the team to the 1974 title game. He also served as athletic director and head softball coach during his time at PHS.
He handed over the reins of the baseball team in 1982 but remained active in the sport. He went on to coach softball at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and the former St. Joseph's High as well as the city's Babe Ruth League all-star team. He was inducted into the Massachusetts Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1988.
The park has seen major improvements after the city partnered with the Rotary Club and the Buddy Pellerin Field Committee on a state grant.

During the meeting, it was also reported that the Berkshire County Historical Society has been working with the city to plant a commemorative elm tree in Park Square. It will replace the iconic one that was planted in the 1990s to emulate an elm that was admired by Pittsfield residents in the city's early days.

There will be a dedication ceremony on Thursday, Sept. 28, at 5:30 p.m. The event will fall on Nation Plant a Tree Day.

"This year we have been working with [McGrath] to plan a special planting of an elm to commemorate the elm that was obviously very famous here in Pittsfield and was chopped down but was first saved by Lucretia Williams," Executive Director Lesley Herzberg explained.

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