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PEDA looks to construct life sciences facility

PITTSFIELD – A plan is underway to stimulate the life sciences industry in Berkshire County, but the project needs funding before it can move forward.

Through the Pittsfield Life Sciences Initiative, the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority (PEDA) is looking to construct a 20,000-square-foot facility at the William Stanley Business Park to house start-up companies in the life sciences industry.

The project is part of a broader statewide initiative to expand this industry in Massachusetts by way of a 10-year, $1 billion expenditure announced by Governor Deval Patrick in 2008.

The Massachusetts Life Sciences Bond Bill included a $6.5 million earmark for the City of Pittsfield, described by PEDA Executive Director Cory Thurston as “essentially a placeholder for funds.”

The funding is not guaranteed, but as Mr. Thurston explained, “If Pittsfield could make its case and provide a valid project, the hope was that we would get funded.”

According to Mr. Thurston, over the last five years, manufacturing has declined in Massachusetts by some 30-34 percent. In that same five-year period, the life sciences industry has grown by about 25-27 percent.

“Even if we didn’t have the earmark, looking at where your odds might be the best based on statewide growth, [life sciences] certainly remains a high category,” he said.

Still, the earmark remains the basis for this local initiative.

“The reason the last year or so we’ve been pushing hard for this life sciences facility is because of that earmark,” said Mr. Thurston. “And it’s a way to essentially create a new building here in Pittsfield…and hopefully stimulate some new industry in the city and in Berkshire County as a whole.”

The overall plan is to provide a space where start-up companies can go to test the commercialization of their products.

“After some careful study, we think that our niche will be a facility where start-up companies that are just coming out of what might be considered the incubator stage of their development need a place to go next where they can test their product,” explained Mr. Thurston.

“There’s a lot of incubators in the state that have been funded, and we think there’s a ready market for those companies that need to go to the next phase.”

The next step for PEDA, which is spearheading this project, is to conduct a feasibility study to confirm that this “niche” makes sense.

“We’re looking to hire the consultant to do that validation,” said Mr. Thurston.

The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center is in charge of allocating funding for the state’s life sciences initiative. PEDA presented to the board of the Life Sciences Center in Waltham on Wednesday (June 26) asking for $55,000 based on a request for proposal (RFP).

According to Mr. Thurston, PEDA should know shortly thereafter whether they are granted this initial funding, and then they will contract with the consultant to do the study.

Mr. Thurston added both Berkshire Community College and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts cooperated in supporting this project, since it will help create not only internship opportunities for students in the sciences but potentially permanent jobs as well.

“Anything we can do to stimulate the industry will be helpful to all of us,” he said. “We want to make sure that it is truly a collaborative effort and not a competitive one.”

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Posted by on June 27, 2013. Filed under Community News,News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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