Montigny Secures over $114K to Local employer for Training

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A New Bedford-based employer will receive over $114,000 to provide training to over 100 workers and establish new positions by 2021.

Senator Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford) announced Wednesday that Ahead USA, of New Bedford, will receive over $114,000 in workforce training funds from the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.  The grant totaling $114,800 will provide training to approximately 121 workers and help create a number of new positions by 2021.

“These grants provide the funding necessary for invaluable training of our local workforce.  Such investments in our community allow New Bedford companies to flourish and remain competitive in the marketplace while creating new employment opportunities,” said Montigny.

AHEAD is a leading supplier of headwear to the USGA, PGA of America, Ryder Cup, and numerous PGA Tour events in addition to more than 5,000 green grass and resort shops throughout the world.  AHEAD will use the grant to educate and train 112 of its employees.

In 1998 the legislature created the Workforce Training Fund to provide resources to businesses and job creators in Massachusetts to educate and train current and newly hired employees.  The resources provided through the legislature boost economic competitiveness and generate job opportunities for residents.   To date, thousands of workers and hundreds of business in the Commonwealth have benefitted from the Workforce Training Fund.

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$15M-plus building slated for Union Street in downtown New Bedford

Downtown is well on its way to getting a noticeable addition.

A proposal to build a five-story, $15 million to $17 million mixed commercial and residential building at the corner of Union and North Second Streets has received the necessary permits from the Planning Board, the Zoning Board of Appeals, and the Historical Commission, according to City Planner Tabitha Harkin.

“It’s a project we support because it adds residential density to the downtown, will add some retail space on the ground floor, and it has an architecturally appealing design,” said Mayor Jon Mitchell. “It remains to be seen whether the developer can finance the project, but it’s certainly one that we support because it fits with what we’re trying to do along the Union Street corner.”

Constructing the proposed 42,650-square-foot building would require the demolition of several single-story buildings currently located at the site on the corner of Union and North Second streets. The demolition permit still needs to be approved, said Harkin.

“All the one-story buildings on the property are just old retail buildings; they have no historical significance to them and they are in very poor condition,” said Michael Galasso, executive director of the New Bedford Development Corporation and the project’s developer.

The five-story building constructed in their place would have 42 residential rental units with a cafe/restaurant and coworking space on the ground floor, according to Galasso.

The residential units will include microunits, studios, and one- and two-bedroom apartments, said Galasso, and five of them will be completely handicap-accessible.

“This project is intended to provide housing for the downtown workforce, that is our main market,” explained Galasso, “We see that as a growing market.”

One of the reasons the market is growing, said Galasso, is because more office space is being leased downtown and the offshore wind industry will be bringing in new workers.

The rates for rent have not yet been decided, but Galasso said a portion of the building is going to be affordable housing and the rest will be market-rate.

When reached for comment about the project in her ward, Councilor Dana Rebeiro said, “I’m interested to see if the affordable housing is forever or just for the first three years and what they consider ‘affordable.’”

In addition to the affordability of the housing, Galasso has to consider how the building will fit in with the historic nature of the city’s downtown.

Galasso said the brick facade, the size of the windows, the scale of the building, and material they plan to use are all in keeping with the downtown aesthetic.

“We wanted a building that had some modern feel to it, but was done in a very historic way,” he said.

117 Union Historic Comm Presentation by Standard-Times on Scribd

The modern aspects of the building will include a contemporary design of the interior with a community kitchen and patio overlooking the harbor on the fifth floor, said Galasso, and microunits that are fully furnished with high-end amenities (including kitchenettes).

The design is also meant to encourage people walking by the building to come inside.

“It’s very important that the first floor is very transparent so people that are walking by would get excited and want to come in whether it’s the lobby area or restaurant,” Galasso said.

He referenced the Seaport District in Boston as inspiration for the design, that also includes outdoor seating for its cafe.

Another proposed modern aspect of the building is resident access to a shared electric vehicle and a bike-sharing program, said Galasso.

The current plan only includes the construction of one handicapped parking space, even though a residential building this size would normally require a total of 106 parking spaces.

The proposal received a special grant for reduction in parking, according to Harkin, because “there’s ample parking downtown” with the parking garages.

Rebeiro said she is also concerned about the effect of adding people in what she described as an already dense area, but she did say she likes the car and bike sharing ideas.

“I think it takes away from the problem of too many cars parking downtown,” said Rebeiro.

Mitchell said he doesn’t think parking will be a problem for residents, “The city in the weeks ahead will announce a new parking study that will really pave the way for better parking management in the long run, that will emphasize the use of the garages.”

Going forward the developer has to close the purchase of the properties on Union and North Second streets, which he said he expects to do by the end of this week, and look for financing for the project.

Galasso said the project includes redeveloping the Moby Dick building next door into 8 studio apartments and a restaurant. He still needs to go through the permitting process for that part of the plan.

Once the project is financed through a “combination of conventional financing using some tax credits and funds from the city and from the state,” which Galasso said will take six months, construction on the new building will begin.

Galasso said they’re aiming to complete construction by the end of 2020/early 2021.

“This is potentially a real catalyst for downtown to create millennial focused-housing… and activate a street corner that has been inactive for a long time,” said Harkin.

“We really wanted to set the mark high for future development in downtown and I think we’ve really achieved that,” he said.

Follow Kiernan Dunlop on Twitter @KiernanD_SCT

Original story here.

New Bedford launches online dashboard, NBCompass

The dashboard measures three major categories: Permits and Licensing, Economic Indicators, and Roadways and Public Spaces, allowing residents to view the number of various licenses pulled, trends in employment and growth, roadways repaired, and more. More metrics will continue to be added that are relevant to residents and visitors, and NBCompass lays the foundation for future data reporting, according to the release.

Annual year-end performance management reports are also available through NBCompass.

The dashboard is available at www.newbedford-ma.gov/nbcompass/.

New Bedford’s finance team has also achieved notable landmarks this year. The City was awarded the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award (2018), for the third consecutive year, for its current budget by the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA). Only 26 Massachusetts municipalities and districts, and 1,576 entities nationwide, received the award in 2017. Additionally, Standard & Poor’s Rating Service (S&P) reaffirmed New Bedford’s AA- bond rating, and the City has maintained the highest bond rating it has achieved in at least the last forty years. The AA- rating was first awarded to New Bedford in January 2014, and the reaffirmation of the rating puts New Bedford again among the top half of all issuers of municipal debt in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

New Bedford maintains favorable bond rating

South Coast Rail is now ‘full speed ahead’

Posted Apr 22, 2019 at 1:10 PM
Updated Apr 22, 2019 at 8:14 PM

BOSTON – A project to renovate and expand commuter rail lines to the SouthCoast cleared important hurdles after receiving a crucial federal permit and full state funding, officials announced Monday.

Department of Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack, speaking at a MassDOT board meeting, said the long-discussed South Coast Rail program will now proceed “full speed ahead.” State employees have already begun relevant infrastructure work and acquiring land that will go toward construction of new stations.

The project’s first phase will extend the Middleboro line to New Bedford and Fall River, bringing six new stations and two new layover facilities into the rail network. Officials also plan to reconstruct almost 30 miles of tracks along the New Bedford main line and the Fall River secondary line and to upgrade the existing Middleboro secondary track.

“Today’s capital funding announcement by the Baker-Polito Administration is further proof that rail restoration is coming to New Bedford and Fall River,” said State Rep. William Straus in a statement. “I compliment the governor for staying true to our region and dedicating the resources needed to bring this critical transit option to the SouthCoast.”

Original story here.

Mass. sets specifics for second offshore wind procurement

Posted Mar 28, 2019 at 2:51 PM

BOSTON — The Baker administration and the state’s utilities are ready to go back to market and put another offshore wind contract out to bid.

The state Department of Energy Resources (DOER) and electric distribution companies Eversource, National Grid and Unitil have filed documents with state regulators to initiate a procurement of up to 800 megawatts of offshore wind power, with the goal of executing a final contract by the end of 2019.

A 2016 law authorized up to 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind power. Vineyard Wind secured the first contract and is advancing its 800 megawatt project.

The timeframe for the next procurement, which is subject to Department of Public Utilities approval, calls for bids to be submitted in August, project selection in November and execution of a long-term contract by the end of the year, enabling the venture that secures the contract to secure federal investment tax credits.

Administration officials say they are hoping to build on the new industry’s growing supply chain and aiming to ensure job creation at the local level — the bulk of wind energy development is happening in federally leased areas south of Martha’s Vineyard, with New Bedford angling to serve as a staging center.

The 2016 renewable energy law requires bidders to come in with lower prices in the second procurement, compared to the first, but officials said they are trying to build some “flexibility” into that process because they view Vineyard Wind’s winning bid as reflective of a very competitive price.

The offshore wind industry along the Massachusetts coast has the potential to be a more significant sector than “anybody ever imagined or appreciated,” Gov. Charlie Baker said this month, once energy-storage technology is further developed and deployed in tandem with clean energy from wind turbines.

The strategic opportunities to combine offshore wind and storage to make something greater than the sum of its parts are expected to be realized in the next three to five years, the governor said, in the early days of Massachusetts getting clean power from ocean-based wind.

“Storage has the capacity to turn wind into something that’s dramatically more important and significant than just another available energy source,” Baker said in his March 6 keynote address at a forum hosted by the Environmental League of Massachusetts (ELM) in partnership with the State House News Forum.

The request for proposals (RFP) addresses energy storage, with DOER general counsel Robert Hoagland writing that storage could provide increased benefits and reduce the costs of integrating offshore wind power.

In the planned RFP, the distribution companies seek to procure at least 400 megawatts of power, but will allow proposals from 200 megawatts up to 800 megawatts.

During last year’s campaign, Baker signed an ELM pledge committing to ensure delivery of the full 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind authorized under the 2016 law — including the second 800 megawatt procurement by June — and to complete a study by May 2019 of an additional 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind power that the Legislature authorized, but did not mandate, in a 2018 law.

Original story here.

New Bedford High School graduation rate climbs to new high

NEW BEDFORD — New Bedford High School’s 2018 four-year cohort graduation rate has increased to 76 percent, the highest in 12 years, based on the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s recent reporting on statewide graduation rates.

The 2017 four-year cohort graduation rate was 72 percent; the low was 61.4 percent in 2010, according to a news release.

“The entire staff is focused on preparing every one of our students for graduation, ready for college and other opportunities,” said Headmaster Bernadette Coelho in a statement. “I’m proud of our hardworking students and staff; it is because of their determination and diligence that we continue to see larger and larger graduating classes. It can only happen if every student matters, and as I’ve said before, we know that with a plan, every student can and will succeed.”

The state tracks an “individual cohort,” or group of students from the initial entrance into ninth grade through to graduation. For New Bedford High, the cohort consisted of 217 students, according to DESE.

The 2018 four-year cohort graduation rate for Massachusetts public high schools was 87.8 percent, a slight decrease from 88.3 percent for the 2017 cohort, according to DESE.

NBHS English Language Learners had the highest increase from 30.6 percent in 2017 to 53.5 percent in 2018, according to the release.

“This remarkable progress is a direct correlation to the recent budget investments made in our students’ future,” Superintendent Thomas Anderson said in a statement. “This reflects the dedication to the overall teaching and learning process that is supported long before students enter high school. This progress is something that all staff can and should be proud of, from the Pre-K teachers to every staff member in the high school.”

Anderson also expressed his appreciation to the willingness of all staff to work with students to provide opportunities for them to be successful.

SouthCoast Business Persons of the Year: New Bedford artists are serious about the business of art

Posted Jan 5, 2019 at 9:39 PM

On Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018, New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell announced the release of the city’s first comprehensive Arts and Culture Plan.

“This is a big deal,” he said in opening remarks in City Hall’s Ashley Room during a press conference. He noted that the plan builds upon an historic association with the arts in the city, but helps prepare it for even greater achievements.

“It creates a sense of shared purpose,” he went on. “This creates the opportunity for a more vibrant community.” He specifically touched upon the plan’s recommendations to create new cultural districts in the North and South ends — and the chance to lure even more investment into the creative economy of the city.

The collaborative effort to write the plan, he said, sent a signal that the arts “are worthy of your investment” to funders and private businesses alike. “Great stuff doesn’t come free,” he added.

Almost a year in the drafting, the release of the plan to the public during the City Hall ceremony — attended by dozens of the artists who helped shape it — was the capstone of a milestone year for the arts in New Bedford.

Plumbers’ Supply is building one of the largest facilities in the New Bedford Business Park

NEW BEDFORD — Plumbers’ Supply’s footprint in the city is growing.

Motorists entering New Bedford from the north at night undoubtedly spot the neon glare of water spouting out of the faucet on the front of the Plumbers’ Supply store.

Further south on Water Street, the 19th Century version of Plumbers’ Supply is now apartments. In the North End, its warehouse is located on Church Street.

By the end of next summer a new 175,000 square foot building will be completed in the Far North End Business Park.

Mayor Jon Mitchell toured the construction site on Wednesday.

“For us, we have a lot of great employees and we didn’t want to stray too far,” co-owner Brian Jones said. “So when this opportunity came along, it’s a five minute commute. We don’t expect to lose an employee, that certainly appealed to us.”

In fact, the move and expansion should lead to the creation of at least seven jobs, Jones said.

“Our hope is we blow past that,” Jones said.

Plumbers’ Supply’s current warehouse measures 85,000 square feet with ceilings 16 feet high. The new warehouse will encompass about 155,000 square feet with about 30-foot ceilings. The remaining 20,000 square feet will be used for its corporate headquarters, which is already located in New Bedford.

“We want make use of every square inch of this park,” Mitchell said. ”… All this effort is about keeping and growing jobs but also fully utilizing what we have. New Bedford is fairly land constrained.”

Every parcel in the business park is either built on, under construction or under agreement, Mitchell said. The Plumbers’ Supply plot is the largest in the industrial park at 45 acres. Currently, the $18 million project is the third largest facility in the park. However, the company could potentially expand the warehouse to 300,000 square feet, which would be by far the largest, Derek Santos, executive director of the Economic Development Council, said.

“This gives us more than enough than we need in the near term,” Jones said.

Jones’ uncle, Jay, took ownership of the company in April 1977. More than 40 years later, Jay’s brother, his son, and three nephews are a part of Plumbers’ Supply. Development for the move to the far North End began in September of 2017. Ground broke earlier this summer.

“The city has been great to us,” Brian Jones said. “It’s three generations strong.”

Follow Michael Bonner on Twitter @MikeBBonnerSCT

New Bedford plan to ‘make the city a more vibrant place to live’

NEW BEDFORD — Laughter and head nods followed each descriptive noun used to describe those assembled within the walls of the Ashley Room at City Hall on Tuesday.

The group nearly spilled out into the hallways as dozens listened to Mayor Jon Mitchell announce the city’s new Arts and Culture Plan as well as 12 “Wicked Cool Places” grants awarded to community art programs.

“I mean this in the most affectionate way, this is a motley crew,” Mitchell said. “This is great. I can just feel the creative dynamism just in your presence.”

Tony Sapienza, president of the Economic Development Council, reminisced about 13 years ago when the idea to unite the arts and culture community emerged at an EDC meeting. The term used to describe the feat of collaboration was “herding cats.”

“So I can only say that to now be a motley crew, it is a big step up from herding cats,” Sapienza said.

The 200-page plan consisted of contributions by more than 10,000 individuals, according to Margo Saulnier, the city’s cultural coordinator.

The plan includes upward of 80 goals, which Saulnier is tasked with accomplishing. Not every goal coincides with the achievement of another, which drew the monikers at the press conference by Mitchell and Sapienza.

“We’re all in the same room, and there’s no way everybody’s going to agree with everything and that’s just as well,” Mitchell said. “Because that’s where the idea exchanges come from and the creativity comes from.”

Highlights of the plan include a sense of shared purpose for everyone to create cultural districts, more fundraising and more public art. Steps in accomplishing those goals included the $50,000 in grants announced on Tuesday.

The recipients included the 3rd Eye Youth Empowerment, SuperflatNB, Reggae on West Beach Series and Kite Festivals Workshops.

“In New Bedford, the creative community is an engaged and powerful partner inspiring social , economic and cultural growth,” Saulnier said. “In this authentic seaport city, each and every person enjoys an opportunity to experience a diversity of cultures. Art is everywhere. Encouraging fun, provoking thought and nurturing the soul.”

The Arts, Culture and Tourism fun, proposed by Mitchell in 2016, approved by the City Council last year and led at the state level by state Sen. Mark Montigny, provided the finances for the completion of the plan by Webb Management Services.

“This is really top notch stuff. This was not fly by night organization,” Mitchell said. “This is something that took a lot of work and a lot of planning.”

The timeline for the goals, which include creation of creative districts, collaboration with UMass Dartmouth and Bristol County Community College, range from a year to a decade.

Certainly new goals and ideas will be added with the city acting as a the beneficiary.

“This will make the city a more vibrant place to live,” Mitchell said.

Original story here.