Tautznik, One, Higgins, Zip
Red Tape Prompts Machine Firm
To Abandon City for Easthampton
By Mike Kirby
When I was driving through Northampton’ s Industrial Park the other day, I was surprised to see a large For Sale sign in front of the Bay State Machine shop.
Wondering what was going on, I dropped in on the firm’s owner, Frank Basile, and learned that his 30-person operation will soon have a new home in Easthampton.
Bay State Machine, which manufactures ordnance parts for the U.S. government, expects to add from one to five employees to its work force once the move goes through.
Basile said that his decision to move out of Northampton was a question of timing, "I wanted to stay in Northampton,” he said. “I was born and grew up here, and got my start as a machinist at Yankee Hill in Bay State. But I needed to get in some place by February.”
The firm, he explained, originally wanted to move up to the Village on Hospital Hill, and for a long time pursued negotiations with MassDevelopment to buy the old laundry building on Earle Street, which it planned to replace with a new building. Eventually, Basile said he had to face the fact MassDevelopment could not have a site ready for him in time.
"Look," Basile said, "I don't fault Teri Anderson of the Mayor's office. She really put herself out to help us, but the clock was ticking and we had to move somewhere."
On June, 16, 2005, Bay State Machine bought 6.3 acres of land and the empty Kleen-Bore machine shop on Industrial Drive in Easthampton, and opened negotiations with Easthampton Mayor Michael Tautznik and Stuart Beckley, the city planner.
On July 25th the city held a public hearing; on Aug. 5 Bay State Machine was granted a special permit; and in November it was able to break ground on a 14,925-square foot expansion that almost doubled the floor area of the Kleen-Bore building.
When I stopped in to see Mayor Tautznik, he showed me the hard hat he had worn to the groundbreaking. He told me the owners invited the Daily Hampshire Gazette to the event, but the reporter didn't show. No article ever appeared in the paper, even though the project went through a public hearing. The silence from Conz Street echoes the long three-year silence from the Gazette about the proposed Kollmorgen venture that never materialized. Perhaps, bad news for the Hospital Hill development is unwelcome news to the Gazette.
Bay State Machine is one more firm of many that once was interested in re-locating in The Village on Hospital Hill development, but now has either stayed put or gone elsewhere. VCA, a custom millwork shop in Easthampton, originally wanted the old laundry building on Earle Street too, and put a good chunk of engineering and planning money into the project before the state decided it couldn't fast-track their proposal.
The state’s Department of Capital Asset Management (DCAM) said it needed the developer to first prepare a full-scale master plan for the whole site. Then the Kollmorgen offer to build its new plant on Hospital Hill came along, and spiked the VCA proposal. Today, four years later Kollmorgen is out and VCA is still looking for a site.
The failure of MassDevelopment to make a go of Hospital Hill's commercial and industrial component to date has many local people scratching their heads. "This is what they (Mass Development) do, right?” a perplexed member of the Citizens Advisory Committee said to me. “This is their specialty, right?"
The answer to the delays may involve many factors - (A) The planning and the permitting process has been complex; (B) There have been substantial waits for state funding; (C) The extensive demolition has been costly and; (D) The need for new utilities and roads has produced land that is too expensive and lacks access to route 91.
For $1.3 million, Bay State Machine got the land and a relatively modern machine shop, and a town that was able to move quickly and deliver on its promises, all without dealing with a Boston-based bureaucracy.
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