Congressman Neal says there are more than 133,000 Massachusetts residents employed by small businesses in the state.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — General Dynamics Mission Systems gathered around 75 small businesses and professional organizations at the Berkshire Innovation Center on Monday for a day of making connections.
The event titled “Innovating for The Future” sought to expand the company’s supply chain in the state and further GD’s relationship with the community by strengthening the local industrial sector.
“I think one of our main objectives today is to make connections. Make connections between General Dynamics and all of the folks we have here representing the various companies, we have several of the General Dynamics companies represented,” Vice President of Supply Chain Management Ann Rusher said.
“So getting our message out as to what our needs are and what would be important for small businesses to be able to support us and making the connections than with the small business, what are their capabilities and where do they want to go, everyone’s on their own respective growth journeys, and then how do we make the connection so that we can follow up and actually find ways to work together and to help each other and collaborate on the hard problems that we are facing right now.”
Vice President and General Manager of Maritime and Strategic Systems Carlo Zaffanella said that the event is also aimed to expand accessibility for small businesses who may find the pre-requisites to work for GD intimidating.
He explained that there are regulations involved when working for the U.S. Department of Defense and that over the last few years, cyber requirements have drastically changed. For small businesses, this can be a lot to deal with and one aspect of the event was to offer help in this situation.
“If you’re a small business, you’re like ‘I don’t want to hire an IT expert,’ well, let us help you,” Zaffanella said.
“Let us help you get to where you can meet the requirements without a lot of pain because we need you. So let us help you.”
The day began at 9 and concluded at 5. Presenters included the GD Innovation Sourcing Network, the Procurement Technical Assistance Center of Western Mass, the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Berkshire Black Economic Council, and 1Berkshire. There was also a demonstration of the BIC Manufacturing Project.
U.S. Rep. Richard Neal highlighted the fact that GD could use hundreds of new hires and said they are already a “terrific” employer. He went through employment trends since the beginning of the pandemic and spoke on the impact of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding.
“It’s March 11, 2020, (U.S. Chief Medical Adviser Anthony Fauci) gave us his warning. March 11, that’s the specific date,” Neal said.
“In three months, America lost 22 million jobs and no real path as to how we’re going to go forward so the federal government did what it was supposed to do. It absorbed risk and debt to get people back to work. So here we are two years later, and I think we forgot this because of a lot of competing messages that we hear, here we are two years later, every job has been returned to the American economy.”
He added that there are 11 million job vacancies in America, meaning that there are two jobs available for every unemployed person in the nation.
Neal’s staff put together a small-business profile for the state from Dudley to Richmond that showed nearly 13,000 small businesses and about 133,000 small-business employees.
Mayor Linda Tyer thanked the congressman for his work as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee on COVID-19 response packages. Pittsfield received nearly $41 million in ARPA funding.
“I want to thank you again for the American Rescue Plan Act,” she said. “Communities like Pittsfield have benefited in amazing ways in terms of how we’re putting money to work in our community.”
Tyer expressed a shared concern among mayors that the Congress may cut back on COVID funding but Neal said he cannot see a chance of that happening.
Afterward, Neal said he learned just how pleased Tyer and the rest of the attendees were with the CARES Act, as there was applause when it was mentioned.
“What’s come of it is clearly the role that General Dynamics and the Berkshires are going play in the defense ecosystem of the country,” he concluded.
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