Bio-pharma firm aims to bring 90 'high-end' jobs to Berkshires
Berkshire Sterile Manufacturing, which officially incorporated this week, has spoken with officials in both Pittsfield and Lee, and has also been in contact with MassDevelopment, said Andrea Wagner, one three Boston-area shareholders who established the company.
Wagner said the company hopes to have a facility in the Berkshires up and running within 15 months after financing is completed. The firm has verbal commitments from equity investors, and is currently working with local banks, including Berkshire Bank, Wagner said.
If successful, Wagner said BSM could bring as many as 90 jobs to the Berkshires within five years. "They're high-end jobs," Wagner said. "There are some manufacturing tech jobs, but they're not minimum wage jobs."
Pittsfield Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi said the city has been working on developing an economic incentive package that could bring BSM to the city. Wagner said the group has looked at buildings in the Downing Industrial Park on Merrill Road, but is not interested in the William Stanley Business Park because it would have to build its own structure. "I think that we've put together a good package for them to consider," Bianchi said. "I think there's property that they are looking at while possibly not absolutely perfect for them at this point, is something they can work with and grow in the future.
"I think we've got an even shot," of landing them, he said.
In Lee, David Bruce, the president of the Community Development Corp., said he has spoken with BSM, and gave them a tour of the town, but declined to go into specifics. Wagner said BSM has looked at a couple of structures on Route 102.
At MassDevelopment, spokeswoman Kelsey Abbruzzese said the state agency has had "preliminary" discussions with BSM.
"That's kind of it at this point," she said.
According to Wagner, BSM intends to address the risks that are associated with drugs manufactured by small sterile drug manufacturing companies that lack adequate modern facilities and equipment and rigorous quality systems.
In Massachusetts, these concerns became magnified in May 2012 when the New England Compounding Center in Framingham shipped thousands of vials of supposedly sterile methylprednisolone acetate that killed 40 people and caused hundreds of cases of fungal meningitis. BSM plans to alleviate these concerns by using state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment, isolators, flexible sterile filling equipment, and modern cleanroom and terminal steam sterilization capabilities. The group is planning to spend between $4 million and $6 million on equipment and retrofitting a facility to their needs.
Wagner and her partners, Shawn Kemp and Paul Souza, all have extensive experience in the bio-pharmaceutical and life sciences fields. The trio previously started and managed another sterile pharmaceutical company, Hyaluron Inc., in the Boston area, which they sold in 2010.
Wagner and Kinney both own second homes in Lenox. Wagner said the workforce for bio-pharmaceutical companies in the Berkshires is below the level that it is in other parts of the state. But Wagner said the county has a history of manufacturing, and what she described as a "captive workforce."
"One problem we felt we had in Boston was we would train people for two years and they would leave," for bigger companies, she said. "Training is long and hard and expensive, and having a turnover rate like that makes it hard to make a business attractive."
Wagner said the group is interested in finding a building of roughly 40,000 to 60,000 square feet that contains enough land so that it could be expanded to 100,000 square feet over time. "One of the problems we had before was that we were landlocked and couldn't expand," she said.