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'BioReady' city holds doors open for biotechnology industry

Date: 5/13/2009

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD -- The city is holding the doors open for the biotechnology industry at multiple locations within its borders.

The Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MBC) and MassEcon named Westfield as one of 44 "BioReady" communities in the Commonwealth last month. The city is one of only six municipalities in Western Massachusetts to receive the designation.

"We're excited that we're among the top candidates to host the biotech industry," Mayor Michael Boulanger said. "Westfield is ideally located in the middle of the Pioneer Valley knowledge corridor, literally surrounded by some of our country's top higher education facilities, and along with having both land and buildings available, there exists an infrastructure that boasts land, rail and air transportation facilities that are both complimentary and convenient.

"We'd welcome biotech industrial facilities in our city with open arms," he added.

Sites on Ampad Road, Progress Avenue, Southampton Road and Campanelli Business Park are readily available to the industry, according to Peter Abair, director of Economic Development at MBC.

He explained that the city received a gold rating -- second only to platinum -- on the basis of site readiness and accessibility and proper zoning and permitting processes.

"This initiative is about helping maintain the Commonwealth's competitiveness as the global leader in biotechnology by increasing the inventory of real and potential biotechnology properties in its cities and towns," MBC President and CEO Robert Coughlin said. "Moving innovative treatments quickly from the bench to the bedside is critical for patients facing unmet medical needs," he continued. "We have no clearer demonstration about the capacity of Massachusetts to achieve this speed than the commitment of these 44 BioReady-rated communities to work in a proactive way to support biotechnology facility opportunities."

Abair said the biotech industry can bring much-needed jobs to communities.

There are 42,917 biotechnology employees in Massachusetts. They earn an average salary of more than $100,000 and are responsible for over $5 billion of in-state payroll, according to the United States Census Bureau.

Abair explained that readily available manufacturing and lab spaces are critical to the biotech industry as time without those facilities means "money lost."

Chicopee, Easthampton, Greenfield, Northampton and Springfield are the only other communities in Western Massachusetts to be deemed BioReady.