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Mastex site selected for new computing center

Date: 8/10/2010

Aug. 11, 2010

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

HOLYOKE -- The wait is over. Gov. Deval Patrick made the much-anticipated announcement Monday morning that the Holyoke High Performance Computing Center (HPCC) would be built on the site off Appleton Street once occupied by Mastex Industries.

Patrick said that ground will be broken this fall and University of Massachusetts (UMass) President Jack Wilson added the center should be open in two years.

Making remarks outside of Holyoke Heritage State Park visitor center, Patrick, flanked by a group of children from the Holyoke Boys & Girls Club, described the center while looking at the children as "a brand new vibrant economic engine for you."

The selection of the Paper City reflected the "confidence in the future of Holyoke," Patrick added.

Wilson explained the Mastex site was evaluated by "engineers from all over the country" and was determined to be the location because it offered the most opportunity to grow at the greatest cost efficiency.

UMass, Harvard University, Northeastern University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Boston University are part of the consortium that is behind the project, along with private companies EMC and Cisco and the state of Massachusetts.

Wilson explained the HPCC would be used by the educational members of the group for research on such issues as climate change and the human immune system. It will employ about 15 people initially, although the construction of the $100 million project will generate several hundred jobs.

The state's community colleges would also benefit from the center, Wilson said.

He added New England is the only region in the nation without such a computing center, but this one is planned to "leapfrog over the others." One key difference both he and governor said would be the center's "green" construction and the fact the electricity used will be generated from a green source: the Connecticut River.

Noting the initial announcement of the center was just over a year ago, Wilson said, "We've come a long way in a short time."

Kathy Anderson, director of the city's Office of Planning and Economic Development, explained the Mastex site is actually composed of several parcels of land. The plant, which had produced textiles for airbags, closed in February 2009. The complete site is between six and seven acres in size. Part of the site had gone through foreclosure, she said, while another part is in the foreclosure process. Holyoke Gas & Electric owns part of the site and will turn it over to the city to be used for the center.

The other location under consideration was Open Square and owner John Aubin said, while he didn't get a reason from state officials why his building was passed up, he is still happy. The reason he cited is Open Square has 500,000 square feet of "just the kind of space technology companies are looking for."

State officials have said over the past year the HPCC will attract private technology companies to the area. City officials have created an innovation district that encompasses both sites that will offer advantages to companies that come there.

"The announcement of a final location for the Holyoke HPCC brings us one significant step forward towards the economic development and jobs that this project will mean for Holyoke. I'm proud to stand with Gov.Patrick as he makes this announcement, and am grateful that his administration continues to invest in projects, such as this, that create jobs now and lay the foundation for a strong economy for years to come," State Rep. Michael Kane said.

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