Mayor Thomas Bernard walks down the stairs of the Berkshire Innovation Center with Gov. Charlie Baker.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Berkshire Innovation Center was celebrated Friday as a symbol of a "bright, bold future" for not only the city of Pittsfield but the Berkshires as a whole.
More than a decade in the making from concept to opening, the $13.7 million hub for technology, training and entrepreneurship was packed on Friday morning with business and community leaders, and state and local officials past and present who have helped shepherd the project over the years.
"Today, we officially open the doors to this amazing facility, but it is already serving as the intersection point for engineers and educators and thought leaders who are seizing the opportunities of tomorrow and who are eager to solve challenges that our generation and future generations face," said Executive Director Benjamin Sosne. "The evolutionary pace of technology is staggering.
"These changes translate into a range of opportunities and disruptions across every industry. Berkshire Innovation Center is a home for our community to congregate and navigate those changes and to position ourselves, the leaders in the industry tomorrow."
The center, perched on a hill with commanding views at the William Stanley Business Park, which once was the site of the sprawling General Electric complex, hosts labs, conference rooms, and high tech equipment for a membership that ranges from educational facilities to rocket scientists to investment firms to General Dynamics.
The project has been trundling along under three mayors, two governors and a number of state and local officials. Gov. Charlie Baker, who attended the groundbreaking in 2018, said he was convinced the entrepreneurship hub would work because its advocates told him how it would be great.
Nodding to Stephen Boyd of Boyd Technologies, president and chairman of the BIC board, Baker said it wasn't just the money but the time put into the project by those who believed in it.
"Steve, to you and the folks on the board, I just want to say that your willingness to spend a lot of time making the case with a lot of people in state government about not only why this could be good but how it could be great. And there's a big difference," he said. "I mean I have people come into my office every single day about why something would be good. ...
"The thing I listened for is how is it going to be great because an idea, without a plan that's believable and instead of goals and objectives that are possible, it's just an idea."
Baker had toured the facility earlier with Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Michael Kennealy and representatives from other governmental agencies that had been crucial in putting together the complex financial package that finally brought the center to life.
"What happens tomorrow, the day after and the day after is ultimately going to tell the story with respect to this particular innovation center," the governor said. "And I really do believe that this is going to be great, because I've heard this story about how it could be great."
Former state Sen. Benjamin Downing and former state Rep. Christopher Speranzo had first secured $6.5 million to build what was then conceived to be a life sciences incubator building at the William Stanley Business Park. Baker delivered that final piece in 2018.
The 20,000 square-foot facility is mostly supported by the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center. The city contributed $1 million from the General Electric Economic Development Fund and the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority added $300,000. MassDevelopment, another state partner in the project, contributed an additional $400,000.
Mayor Linda Tyer thanked the Pittsfield City Council for its approval of funding to ensure the center came to fruition.
"This is really powerful, really powerful. We all come together today to celebrate another extraordinary milestone here in the city of Pittsfield," she said to the packed reception room at the BIC. "And as we pass this milestone, we build a stronger city, a city with a new identity and a city with a bright, bold powerful future. It's the old is reinventing itself, and saying farewell -- honoring our past and welcoming our bright new future."
Keannaly, who Polito joked was the bookend to former secretary Jay Ash, who also attended the ribbon cutting, said it was a question of who Massachusetts can "accelerate the pace of scientific discovery and company creation and truly remain a leader."
State Sen. Adam Hinds thanked everyone involved for getting the project through. State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier thanked their fellow Berkshire representatives for supporting the project even though it was in Pittsfield.
Mayor Linda Tyer with Stephen Boyd, Gov. Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito.
"This is not called the Pittsfield Innovation Center," she said. "This is the Berkshire Innovation Center that happens to be in the heart of the Berkshires, but it's with my colleagues from the Legislature who really understood from the beginning that this was about a whole Berkshires."
Farley-Bouvier also saw the center as one of the solutions to workforce development, a critical issue that she's heard about from numerous businesses.
"We have a lot of things that we have to do to help with workforce here, but this is part of the solution," she said. "And whenever we can be part of the solution, we're having a good day."
The center has been mostly open since November and is the home of both investment firm Mill Town Capital and aerospace company Electro Magnetic Applications Inc.
"There are amazing people and ideas for ideas forming is entrepreneurs, teachers, designers, makers, thinkers and technologists convene here, thought leaders and rising stars are already doing more together in this space to flood our region in with opportunities and growth," said Boyd. "Here, local people are solving local problems in ways that address global challenges like human health, pollution, poverty, and the environment. Here, we can do more together."
The BIC board, stakeholders and state officials gathered on the central stairway cut a blue ribbon just before noon officially opening the Berkshire Innovation Center as a gateway to new ventures.
"Remember collective wisdom always wins," Boyd said. "Pivot with me toward spring, a harbinger for exciting things ahead."
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