MassTech, MBI, Congressman Neal Highlight Grant Program to Support Berkshire Area Small Businesses

Wednesday, August 22, 2012
 
$150,000 Grant Will Help Area Small Businesses Grow through Broadband Adoption; Informational Meeting Slated for October 4th
 
PITTSFIELD – Through the Massachusetts Broadband Institute at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Corporation (PERC) recently received $150,000 in grant funding designed to support local small business broadband adoption. Last Thursday, Congressman Richard Neal joined Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi, leaders from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative and the Massachusetts Broadband Institute to promote this grant program, which will help Berkshire area small businesses grow and expand their use of technology.
 
The $150,000 in grant funding from the Massachusetts Broadband Institute will be used to enhance broadband adoption and support for small businesses and non-profit organizations. Hosted by the Berkshire Area Chamber of Commerce and PERC, Congressman Neal, MassTech CEO Pamela Goldberg, MBI Director Judy Dumont, Mayor Bianchi, and State Representatives Gail Cariddi and Tricia FarleyBouvier joined a meeting to promote this grant program Thursday afternoon.
 
“I am pleased to announce this initiative which was part of the larger $45 million federal broadband investment Congressman John Olver and I made,” said Congressman Neal. “Berkshire County will now be able to do business anywhere in the world with a click of the mouse.” 
 
“This grant will allow several Berkshire businesses to compete more effectively in a global marketplace,” said Pittsfield Mayor Daniel Bianchi. “It is my goal to pursue the expansion of broadband capacity throughout Pittsfield, thereby making Pittsfield and Berkshire County an outstanding option for businesses seeking new growth opportunities.”
 
In 2010, the Massachusetts Broadband Institute received supplemental funding from the National Telecommunication and Information Administration to create a technical assistance program that would help spur the adoption of broadband among small businesses across the Commonwealth. The Massachusetts Broadband Institute received this grant in the amount of $1 million as part of the State Broadband Initiative, a program created by federal funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Of the total funds, $600,000 has been allocated to support regional economic development needs through this grant program.
 
“The Patrick-Murray Administration is committed to connecting every part of Massachusetts to dependable, high-speed Internet access, and this grant will help small businesses in Pittsfield and the region get connected,” said Greg Bialecki, the Secretary of Housing and Economic Development. “The Administration’s long-term economic development strategy prioritizes making it easier to do business in Massachusetts, and empowering communities and regions to create new economic opportunities and connecting communities and business to high-speed Internet will help us achieve those goals.”
 
“As we work to expand broadband connectivity across the Commonwealth, we recognize that many small businesses lack the necessary technical resources to compete in the 21st century global economy,” said MBI Director Judith Dumont. “Providing broadband access, computer training and other digital technologies will help our small businesses to grow and provide new economic opportunities throughout Massachusetts.” 
 
Funds were distributed through a competitive selection process to four Community Development Corporations (CDCs) across the Commonwealth. Each recipient, including PERC, received $150,000 to provide technical assistance and resources for approximately 10 small businesses and non-profit organizations within their respective region.   In addition to the Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Corporation, grant awards were distributed to the Dorchester Bay Community Development Corporation, Community Economic Development Center of Southeastern Massachusetts in New Bedford, and the Quaboag Valley Community Development Corporation in Ware. PERC intends to use $60,000 to provide technical training and support to small businesses and nonprofit organizations in their service area for two years, and $90,000 to directly help small businesses purchase computers, software and gain broadband access, and implement long-term strategic and sustainability planning. As part of the grant program, each CDC and small business will provide 25 percent in matching funds.
 
As part of the grant program, PERC will host an informational forum on October 4th, 2012 entitled, “Making the Most of Broadband,” which will be targeted towards small businesses and not-for-profits. At the forum, PERC will demonstrate new broadband-based technologies and their benefits to small businesses. Participating businesses will be asked to share their perspectives on needs and opportunities. Businesses will then be invited to submit an application to be considered for the technical assistance grant. PERC will also be collaborating closely with the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce in this initiative. As specific details develop for this forum, information will be made available via PERC’s website, www.PERCloans.com, email notices, and the Berkshire Chamber newsletter.
 
“PERC is very pleased that the Massachusetts Broadband Institute awarded funding for the “Making the Most of Broadband” project. Key to the success of this program is that a local CDC with virtually no overhead can assure that all the funds are devoted to their intended purpose. This program fits perfectly with PERC’s mission of helping small businesses that create core jobs and enhance tax revenue in Berkshire County,” said Jay Anderson, PERC President.
 
“This is a great opportunity for the small business community in the region. The growth of electronic data continues to have a large impact on both productivity and outreach to new customers,” said Michael Supranowicz, President and CEO of the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce.  “It is more important than ever to be connected, be connected well, and be connected with the latest equipment.” 
 
“This initiative is a key example of the Commonwealth’s commitment to small businesses, which are so vital to our innovation economy,” said Pamela Goldberg, CEO of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative. “I’m pleased that we have the opportunity to offer this resource to help Berkshire County compete and thrive, both locally and globally.”
 
For more information about PERC or the October 4th forum, please visit www.PERCloans.com. For more information about the Commonwealth’s broadband initiatives, please visit www.massbroadband.org.