Berkshire Eagle, The (Pittsfield, MA) – July 24, 2005
Pittsfield needs to start focusing on industry and technology rather than just entertainment. On economic development generally, we need to control taxes that are driving businesses out of town. We need to catalog the available commercial real estate on Pittsfield’s Web site, shamefully not done by now. We also need to list economic developments and valuable commercial data useful to employers on the city’s Web site. We need to create a planned tax incentive program for industry and technology and make it freely available on the city’s Web site. We also need to develop (and post on the Web site) a specific incentive program for the PEDA cite itself. With an informed public all our citizens can refer to our plan when talking to potential technology/industrial employers. In addition, prospective businessmen will know precisely what they are entitled to rather than relying on an unsystematic or politically charged quagmire.
Critically, we need to create a central authority for one-stop shopping to handle licensing and permitting issues with a goal of a 75-day maximum on the permit process. We need to host quarterly public hearings on economic development to maximize community input.
The city’s best opportunity for economic development is the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority (PEDA). Unfortunately PEDA’s present organizational structure, staffing, accountability, and public education and awareness efforts are inadequate. We need to develop a “Team Pittsfield,” by making a team of the Pittsfield City Council, PEDA, and the public, rather than have an independent agency largely operating out of public view, without public accountability, and without a working relationship with the council or the public. We need to overhaul the PEDA ordinance so that PEDA is publicly accountable with regular progress, financial, and expense reports that are properly filed, and freely available. We need to insure that this project is equipped with individuals that have a background and education related to developing industrial parks and economic development.
We need to televise PEDA meetings on local television, schedule PEDA meetings during the evening, list PEDA meetings in the “upcoming meetings” section of Pittsfield’s Web site, list PEDA meetings on their own Web site, and publish the minutes of PEDA meetings on the Web. PEDA’S calendar should list future and immediate goals and objectives. PEDA should be reorganized to require PEDA to report to the council at every council meeting on leads, follow-up, needs, developments, progress and failure.
We need to develop an up-to-date PEDA Web site that accurately lists PEDA’s members, provides timelines for available property in an easy to read format. The Web site should catalog PEDA’s amenities, incentive packages, and critical data needed for prospective employers.
We need to increase the number of PEDA board members to include a broad representation of the community. We need to prohibit multiple year contracts to the director of PEDA. We need accountability. We need to make PEDA everything it can be — its importance to this community cannot be understated.
RINALDO DEL GALLO, III
Another letter to the Editor is included on PEDA, published August 22, 2005
To the Editor of THE EAGLE:
The following quote is taken from the Eagle story of July 27 entitled “PEDA lines up four tenants.” “Once completed, GE turned over 25 acres of the 52-acre site to PEDA in May. With that land in hand, and several incentive packages to back him up, (Thomas) Hickey finally had a marketable product to show potential customers.”
This quote is misleading. Incentives and space were available since October of 1997, the month of the consent decree between the city and General Electric. The decree states that “GE will make a redevelopment fund in the amount of $15.3 million available to PEDA. PEDA may use the fund…as part of economic incentive packages to attract owner occupants…GE has promised to make 100,000 square feet of interim space available to PEDA in the event that PEDA secures a tenant prior to when appropriate space on the transferred property is ready for that tenant. GE will lease the interim space to PEDA rent-free for up to six years…”
The article quotes a GE manager as saying, “until (Hickey) had the property in his hands, it was tough to show people where they would go.” Can you imagine a real estate agent or developer telling someone interested in buying industrial or residential property, existing or proposed, this “It’s tough to show you where you would go until I have the property in hand.”? I don’t think that person would have a job for long.”
Even more disturbing is the lack of information about businesses that were lost and why. We learned over a year ago that the authority had 16 leads from the Nanotech company alone. What happened to them?
According to an article in “Empire State Development news” of Feb. 18, 2004, Clinomics Biosciences “will relocate their facility from Pittsfield to Watervliet…(creating) 40 news jobs…The company will invest $303,000 in relocation costs, facility build-out, new machinery and equipment, and leasing costs. Where was PEDA?
The Albany Times-Union reported on July 24 that Anthony Hynes, a Pittsfield native, will build a robotics company in Schenectady that will employ 30 engineers and technicians. Ironically, he said he chose the Schenectady site because “the city reminded him of his hometown.” Aren’t the citizens of Pittsfield entitled to know why 70 high tech jobs slipped through the hands of PEDA, as well as what happened to the leads, inquiries and negotiations to date?
Rinaldo Del Gallo III has submitted several petitions to the Pittsfield City Council that range from requiring PEDA to televise its meetings to requiring PEDA director Hickey to make periodic reports to the City Council. The council failed to act by filing or referring them to PEDA where no response has been the end result. PEDA needs to be reformed and the sooner the better for the citizens of Pittsfield.
Pittsfield, Aug. 12, 2005
Another letter to the Editor is included on PEDA, published August 3, 2005
To the Editor of THE EAGLE:
The Pittsfield Economic Development Authority started in May of 1999. Its Web site states, quoting the General Electric consent decree, that “GE will make a redevelopment fund in the amount of $15.3 million available to PEDA … PEDA may use the fund … as part of economic incentive packages to attract owner-occupants to construct new buildings on land leased by PEDA.” In addition to 100,000 square feet of rent-free space and $15.3 million of incentive money, there was also the possibility of tax incentives.”
Only recently, six years after PEDA’s creation, has PEDA gone to the city asking for tax incentives. Petitions by Rinaldo Del Gallo filed last year for the creation of a planned tax incentive schedule as other communities have has been languishing in the mayor’s office. PEDA is not being aggressively marketed and there are no planned incentive packages. It is not equipped with a full-time professional with a background in industrial park real estate and economic development.
The recent article, “PEDA lines up three more tenants” only raises more questions than it answers. What three tenants? The story does not tell you. In a section entitled “competitive incentives” not a word is dropped on what incentives packages are being offered to the three nameless companies, or to other companies. Maybe incentives will be based upon whom you know and what campaign contributions will be made.
Responding to a Del Gallo criticism that there is no real listing of incentive packages listed on the Web site during the Dan Valenti show, PEDA added a link named “incentives.” But almost nothing is there. It mentions Mass Development. Also, mention is made of a proposed (not actually existing) “Jobs First” economic development plan of the governor. As for a local incentive package — the information that matters most — we are just told to contact the director of PEDA. That’s pretty darn underwhelming, and if I were looking for a place to locate my business, I would quickly move on to locals aggressively marketing their industrial cities with known incentive packages.
Del Gallo is right. PEDA needs to be restructured so that it reports to the city and is accountable. This is a battle between the “Team Pittsfield” approaches with a working relationship with between the council and the people, and being left in the dark. Who is coming to PEDA? Who was interested but did not come here? How are leads being generated? What are the incentive packages being made available? What approaches worked and did not work? What were stated reasons for companies not moving here? These are questions without answers.
But most importantly the people of Pittsfield should be involved in their economic future and not told after the fact through press releases what is going on. People should know that eight political appointees are doing what they please with $15.3 million of the citizens’ money.
ANTHONY T. PISACANO III
Pittsfield, July 30, 2005