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Candidate Kayyem Talks Development With PEDA
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff
03:41AM / Saturday, March 15, 2014

PEDA director Corydon Thurston and Juliette Kayyem met at the PEDA offices to discuss economic development.

PEDA Executive Director Cory Thurston explained to Juliette Kayyem what has happened and what is in the plans for the William Stanley Business Park.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Following what she believes was a good response at Democratic caucuses across the state, gubernatorial candidate Juliette Kayyem is ramping up her campaign to show the party that she is the voice of a new generation and the best person to take on the Republican candidate in the general election.

"The true winner in the caucus was the undecided. That is a fabulous opportunity for a candidate like me," Kayyem said on Friday. "The core of my party did not feel ready to commit and that's an opportunity for me and an opportunity to provide and discuss with the Democratic base on where we go from here."

Kayyem carries an underdog mentality into the race for state's highest office, coming in as a virtually unknown.

She doesn't currently hold an office. But, she has a resume that spans from being a civil rights attorney to the assistant secretary for intergovernmental affairs in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. She was the state's first undersecretary for homeland security and served on the National Commission on Terrorism.

"We need a new generation of leadership, a new approach to how we view politics," she said.

Kayyem is one of five Democrats seeking to replace Deval Patrick, who is not running for re-election. On Friday, she continued a tour of the state' gateway cities to get a better understanding of the challenges each face. Those trips are helping her craft what she'll emphasize in policies if she is elected.

"Here some of the solutions are coming out of this park — that you take a filthy place, that is an eyesore, that is making people feel like Pittsfield is not attractive to live and work and you turn it around," Kayyem said, after meeting with Pittsfield Economic Development Authority Executive Director Corydon Thurston. "You use a lot of agencies, a lot of cutting across the boundaries of state and federal government, of public and private sector to invest and lure businesses here."

And she believes she can be the one to help with economic development for the city through funding and supporting best practices. She is a supporter of the Brownfields Redevelopment Fund, which PEDA accessed to remediate the former General Electric property that is now the William Stanley Business Park.

But she heard from Thurston that there is more than just that fund in which she can help if elected.

PEDA has been trying to redevelop the land. So far MountainOne Financial has built  a center there and Western Mass Electric Co. has installed one of the largest solar arrays in the state. But there are 52 acres remaining for redevelopment.

Thurston said PEDA is making pitches to companies looking to apply for the multimillion state contract to construct new rail cars for the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority and has a $6.5 million earmark to build a life sciences center.

The biggest thing for Thurston is to create continuity among visions and not drastic changes in leadership.

"Things change, society changes, trends change. I don't know how you do it but it is very important," he said. "I think education from a standpoint of planning and a conceptual approach."

The planning to market the property needs to coincide with government officials' policies and they need to stick to it, Thurston said. Changes to opinions about development throws things off.

Juliette Kayyem is one of five Democrats seeking the office.

There has been a recent push for science and math education and that Thurston said needs to continue to reach an end goal.

Right now it is difficult to get young students interested in manufacturing, he said, because of the bitter taste in parents and grandparent's mouths from GE.

The state and the region need to stick with that push because the city is primed to reap benefits from a life science industry. Thurston said the business base needs to grow so the students can see the future of manufacturing.

"STEM has to go somewhere. It has to have continuity. We can't get to the edge of a cliff and then all of a sudden have it drop," he said.

Changes in opinion has created a nearly impossible situation when it comes to the property and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. GE and the EPA agreed to a cleanup of the land and a permit for a storm-water system was in place for when the property was redeveloped.

The land has switched to PEDA's hand at the approval of the EPA, but now that the storm-water permit is expired, the EPA wants a better system that could end up being a $6 million treatment center. PEDA is still working with the EPA on that issue.

"We haven't added to it and there is no ongoing industrial use," Thurston said. "That's tantamount to every dollar plus that we have for redevelopment purposes."

Thurston said there is an array of important initiatives put forth by Gov. Deval Patrick that the organization is "banking on." The primary one is the effort to expand broadband across the state.

"I see that as a huge opportunity for us and what we are doing at the park to seed new businesses. With that, you can basically be anywhere. We need that and we need access to it," he said.

The focus on transportation — both rail and public transportation — and the push for life sciences must continue with a new administration, Thurston said.

Many of those topics Kayyem has already taken a stand to support. She wants to continue those while using her experience at preparedness from Homeland Security to set forth long-term, sustainable growth for the state.

Friday was Kayyem's third trip to the Berkshire since entering the race.

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