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If built, Holyoke computer center promises many jobs

Date: 6/16/2009

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

HOLYOKE -- Although many of the details of what was described as "a world-class, high-performance computing center" have yet to be finalized, Holyoke Mayor Michael Sullivan believes the coalition between Gov. Deval Patrick, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston College, the University of Massachusetts, EMC and Cisco Systems demonstrates the serious nature of the proposal.

Patrick made the announcement that Holyoke would be the site for the proposed center on Thursday at the Holyoke Library. Sullivan told Reminder Publications that discussions about the center began in October 2006 and started in earnest in 2008.

"Innovation is our calling card in Massachusetts, and this partnership with MIT, the University of Massachusetts, Boston University, EMC and Cisco Systems will usher in the next generation of high-performance computing and set us apart from our competitors," Patrick said. "The potential for breakthrough technologies and research is enormous, and both the center and this collaboration will undoubtedly serve to lift up the City of Holyoke and regional economies throughout Western Massachusetts."

The parties in this collaboration signed an agreement committing to work over the next 120 days to create an action plan to build the new facility and forming the statewide research agenda.

The proposed price tag for the center is $100 million, but the source for the funding has yet to be determined.

"This initiative represents an excellent opportunity for our universities, industries, and the Commonwealth to combine our strengths to develop a state-of-the-art computational resource and to collaborate in research and development that will drive the state's economy, and keep Massachusetts in the forefront of information technology," Boston University President Robert Brown said.

While Sullivan said the number of jobs that would be created by the center was reported in "the thousands," he added that the nature of the jobs -- direct or indirect -- was not clarified at this time.

Sullivan said the process of deciding on a site was very competitive and he believes some people will be surprised that Holyoke and Western Massachusetts won out. Among some of the partners, other states were also considered, he added.

"A lot of due diligence has been done," he said.

What tipped the scales in Holyoke's favor was reliable, affordable electricity and availability of water to be used for cooling purposes, Sullivan explained.

He added that Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Gregory Bialecki told Sullivan the project would be the largest economic development project in the state.

Sullivan's administration and the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission will be part of the coalition working out the details of the project.

Sullivan, who is not running for re-election after five terms, said one person asked him if he now regretted that decision considering what this project could do for the city.

He said with a laugh his reply was "not all days are like this one."