The Eruptor: High-tech research center advances in Amherst

  • Backers of The Eruptor Lab have a purchase-and-sale agreement on land in North Amherst near the Mill District.

  • A artist’s rendering shows the 80,000-square-foot building that will house the technology and manufacturing incubator, which will bring together businesses, UMass researchers and scientists.

Staff Writer
Monday, May 03, 2021

AMHERST — Three-dimensional printing, laser technology and other sophisticated manufacturing equipment, to be housed in a large building in North Amherst, will provide incubation space for companies to build, develop, test and improve their products.

“This is consistent with the intellectual capital that is the backbone of the Amherst economy,” said former State Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, a principal with nuForj LLC of Springfield that is planning The Eruptor Lab, a project aimed at diversifying the town’s economy, improving its tax base and bringing 75 high-paying jobs to the region.

The vision for The Eruptor, Rosenberg said, is to have national and multinational companies, along with start-ups and University of Massachusetts researchers from the Amherst campus, coming together in a “first-of-its-kind, state-of-the-art, world-class research facility.”

“This brings into reality a project that focuses on the town’s economic power: the colleges and university,” Rosenberg said.

Joined by Scannell Properties of Indianapolis, nuForj is looking to construct an 80,000-square-foot building on land owned by the Mitchell family between Sunderland and Montague roads. The company announced that it has secured a purchase-and-sale agreement for the site, which has been mostly used for agricultural purposes over the years but is in the town’s professional research park zone.

Springfield resident Rudy N. Vogel, founder and managing principal of nuForj and creator of The Eruptor, describes it as “Manufacturing 4.0,” where people will learn how to produce high-quality products and parts, and through this will create jobs by growing regional manufacturers and supporting spin-offs.

“Our vision is to create a public-private partnership between academics and businesses, enhancing the surrounding community, and helping our local and national economy enter the new world of ‘Manufacturing 4.0’ using the most advanced technologies available,” Vogel said.

Clients will conduct research and development, and Eruptor staff will assist with designing, building, testing and perfecting prototypes of products and parts using advanced manufacturing technology and processes.

If plans move forward, the building will have a 10,000-square-foot tool hall that will feature various high-tech machines alongside a 2,000-square-foot “multi-sensory, immersive, mixed-media workforce development and product realization center.” Rosenberg said some of those working inside will use lab space, as others around the globe might be building and testing their products remotely.

The remainder of the intended 80,000 square foot space will contain offices, labs and meeting spaces to serve researchers from UMass and businesses.

While Rosenberg said The Eruptor is in the same family of enterprises as the Berkshire Innovation Center in Pittsfield, though it will be significantly larger.

Rosenberg said nuForj already has memorandums of understanding with significant national and multinational companies interested in using the space to develop products and learn about how to improve what they make through data collection and advanced computer software.

UMass is also planning to locate one or more research centers in the building, as a way to generate and identify research opportunities. The staff would work with faculty members who may need technical assistance and to find ways to commercialize their work, Rosenberg said.

The property has been designated by the state and federal governments as an opportunity zone to encourage economic development.

The costs of construction, which are not being made public, will be paid for through the private sector, though U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern has identified some possible money through the federal Economic Development Agency. State tax credits could also be used for financing, along with a state bond bill filed in 2019 that includes $1 million for the lab.

Rosenberg estimates the project will take 18 to 24 months to construct and outfit following permitting.

The Mill District, featuring the North Square Apartments and shopping and services, is the closest location to the proposed site.

Tony Maroulis, vice president of real estate and community development for W.D. Cowls, which owns the Mill District, said The Eruptor will enhance both the village center and Amherst as a whole.

“We’re excited for the opportunities that this project will bring and look forward to creating connections with The Eruptor,” Maroulis said.