Whaling Museum’s big exhibition landing in South End arts space

In true “Greatest Showman” style, the imminent exhibition of the New Bedford Whaling Museum’s Grand Panorama of a Whaling Museum ’Round the World is being billed as “A Spectacle in Motion.”

It is certainly going to be that — and a whole lot more.

The Standard-Times was given exclusive media access to plans for the exhibition of the restored 19th century 1,275-foot work of art, Grand Panorama of a Whaling Museum ’Round the World last week at the museum.

From that meeting, we can now report that the legacy cultural event of the summer will take place in the city at none other than Kilburn Mills Studios on West Rodney French Boulevard in New Bedford’s South End.

It is there where the Whaling Museum found the space and proper historical ambiance to reveal the restored Grand Panorama to the world in a special off-site exhibit that will open on July 14 and remain on view through October 8, 2018.

“Kilburn Mills was built in 1903,” says Tina Malott, museum director of marketing and public relations, “The same year the Whaling Museum was founded.”

It’s not the only bit of serendipity behind this inspired choice.

The selection of Kilburn Mills as an exhibition site for the panorama comes as the building itself is undergoing a renewal — along with the entire “peninsula” section of the city.

As such, the Whaling Museum’s decision to show the panorama there reinforces the idea that arts and culture is not only a means in itself, but a means to an end. It has the power to reinvigorate a city and revitalize neighborhoods by its very exercise in often overlooked spaces.

Just as this unique panorama was once forgotten but given new life, “A Spectacle in Motion” brings national attention to all of the City of New Bedford’s cultural and emotional infrastructure.

The Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ’Round the World

Without hyperbole, it’s accurate to write that The Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ’Round the World is a national treasure.

It is a 1,275-foot-long painting on canvas that depicts a whaling voyage — originating in New Bedford, of course. Which is no surprise, since it was painted in 1848 by New Bedford artists Benjamin Russell and Caleb Purrington, when the city was secure in its position as the world’s top whaling port.

Museum materials state that it is a unique work of art because it is one of only a few surviving American moving panoramas — a popular art and entertainment form that reached its peak in the mid-19th century.

Panoramas were very much the movies of the time period.

In its entirety, and accompanied by narration, music and other special effects, this Grand Panorama ran a feature-length two hours.

All panoramas were “played” across a stage in a theatrical setting from spool to spool — much like early films ran from reel to reel.

According to Whaling Museum Chief Curator Christina Connett, panoramas can be placed squarely in the context of a rising middle class enjoying leisure time in the nascent industrial age. It is very much a part of the burgeoning popular entertainment forms of the day, like Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show; P. T. Barnum’s Greatest Show on Earth; and other amusements like World Fairs.

Indeed, over a century after its initial “theatrical” run, the Grand Panorama was exhibited at the 1964 World’s Fair in Corona, Queens. It’s next stop after that? A former furniture store on Pope’s Island, New Bedford in 1969!

But a showing way back in 1849 at the Boston Armory intrigues Christina Connett the most.

The historical record shows that Herman Melville was at his sister’s home a few blocks away from the armory at the time the Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ’Round the World was on display — the adventure of which his own popular early novels, like “Typee” and “Oomo,” brought to life.

“It’s nice to imagine that he saw the ‘Panorama’ when he was there,” she says.

Restoring the Grand Panorama

It’s nice to imagine that anyone can see the Grand Panorama at all — let alone back in the city where it was created over 150 years ago.

Thanks to some more serendipity and a lot of hard work, imagination becomes reality — and digital reimagination — this summer at Kilburn and the Whaling Museum.

The museum chanced upon ownership of the work of art when it was donated to them in 1918 by Benjamin Cummings — who found it in a local attic. Some 300 feet were missing, so the voyage ’round the world ends at Fiji — but at 1,275 feet it’s still likely the longest painting in the United States. (A nice piece of promo material at the museum teases visitors with the fact that the painting is actually longer than the Empire State Building is tall.)

The Whaling Museum has exhibited sections of it at various times over the years, and as noted, it made its way to New York City and Pope’s Island in the 1960s, just about a century after its original tour of East Coast and Midwest cities like Cincinnati, Buffalo, St. Louis, Baltimore, New York and Boston from 1849 through 1870.

The restored Grand Panorama visitors will see at Kilburn is the first time it has been publicly shown since the 1970s, when only sections of it were on display at the Whaling Museum before being put in storage.

Christina Connett says that the goal of the restoration project wasn’t perfection, but stabilization so that it lasts another 100 years.

“We want people to see it for what it was back in the 19th century,” she explains, “So there are some small abrasions and the like which allows the authenticity to show.”

 As part of the conservation effort, the panorama was photographed in blocks — and those images will be put to good use in a new, permanent exhibit outside the Lagoda half-scale whaling ship replica in the museum’s Bourne Building.

The 15-minute running time digital display will mimic the original movement of the Grand Panorama — while the original will be displayed in its entirety at Kilburn mounted on static, brushed aluminum panels of 400 feet each.

Both the actual and digital exhibits will also feature new, original artwork commissioned by the museum, special performances at various times and other related ephemera of the period over the course of the summer exhibit. After that, elements of it will hit the road for another tour, just as it did in the 19th century.

The Grand Panorama at Kilburn

Which brings us up to the present day — and the exciting decision to display the restored Grand Panorama at Kilburn.

Kilburn Mills Studios — officially called Kilburn Mill at Clarks Cove — itself occupies a special place in the city’s emotional infrastructure.

Originally a textile mill, most city residents probably recall it as the former home of Madewell, the apparel company. Today, Kilburn Mills Studios is home to an eclectic range of businesses as it undergoes its own renovation.

A gym, a dancing studio, a silk screening company, a vast antiques store and other going concerns call it home. Significant improvements have recently been made to the building, including new windows, a new roof, refurbished staircases and more.

Importantly for this story and in the context of the creative destination New Bedford has become, a number of noted artists maintain studios in the building. Artists like Mark “Maki” Carvalho, Kelly Zelen, Will Wolf and others.

It also houses the gem-like Judith Klein Art Gallery & Studio, which in addition to beautiful works of art also boasts a stunning view of the new Cove Walk atop the Hurricane Barrier — and Clarks Cove itself in the rear of the building.

Further, the owner of Colo Colo Gallery, Luis Villanueva, has an outdoor sculpture garden on the drawing board for the property.

And all of this sits in the South End of New Bedford at the entrance to what is referred to as the “peninsula” area, which encompasses the city’s municipal beaches, Fort Rodman, Fort Taber, a companion Hurricane Barrier walk to the east, Harbor Walk, and too much more to mention.

The decision by the Whaling Museum to exhibit the Grand Panorama here and in this context is an amazing opportunity to thrust the entire peninsula and its many attractions into the spotlight when literally the eyes of the region and nation will be on the Grand Panorama.

This is arts and culture at work across the city — for the good of the entire city.

You could call it A Spectacle in Motion.

Steven Froias blogs for the coworking facility, Groundwork! at NewBedfordCoworking.com. Email: StevenFroias@gmail.com.

A whale of a heart: Life-size model of a blue whale heart arrives at New Bedford Whaling Museum

A life-size model of a blue whale heart arrived at the New Bedford Whaling Museum on Thursday, all the way from New Zealand.

Visitors are welcome to crawl inside the heart, which has four chambers and is the size of a Volkswagen Beetle.

“It’s pretty spectacular,” Chief Curator Christina Connett said.

The heart is the first major element in a complete redesign of the Jacobs Family Gallery and other spaces for an exhibit titled Whales Today, which focuses on ecology and conservation. Other elements to come include a model of a whale’s head with baleen, plus life-size silhouettes of whale flukes.

The museum staff had waited for days to hear that the heart had cleared customs. Finally it was ready, and it arrived at 8:05 a.m. in a shipping container trucked from Elizabeth, New Jersey.

Everyone kept their good humor as they unscrewed the two-by-fours holding the heart in place, fetched ramps, and gingerly unloaded the pieces using a pallet jack and dolly.

“How’s your heart today?” one employee quipped to an onlooker.

The first piece was too large to fit through the museum doors. A door had to be removed to create a larger opening.

The living heart of a blue whale — the largest animal ever known to have lived — weighs nearly 1,000 pounds. The fiberglass model weighs 660 pounds and was made by Human Dynamo Workshop, a fabrication company in New Zealand whose website says, “We Make Unusual Things.”

Once both halves were inside, movers arrived to get them into the gallery. By 1:15 p.m., Connett was placing lights in the heart and arranging the signage.

Museum volunteers did a double take as they arrived.

The living heart of a blue whale — the largest animal ever known to have lived — weighs nearly 1,000 pounds. The fiberglass model weighs 660 pounds and was made by Human Dynamo Workshop, a fabrication company in New Zealand whose website says, “We Make Unusual Things.”

Once both halves were inside, movers arrived to get them into the gallery. By 1:15 p.m., Connett was placing lights in the heart and arranging the signage.

Museum volunteers did a double take as they arrived.

“Oh, my!” volunteer Judith Giusti exclaimed. The retired New Bedford teacher said the heart will be a wonderful teaching tool.

“Oh, that’s going to be incredible,” she said. “It was well worth the wait.”

It’s one thing to tell people about whales and another thing to show them, said Robert Rocha, director of education and science programs.

“Every tool we can have to explain to people how magnificent and how amazing these whales are is a good thing,” he said.

Connett has wanted to bring a model heart to the museum since before she worked there. When she was interviewing for the job at the museum a few years ago, she saw a heart like this at a traveling exhibit in New York. She looked into borrowing the heart, but it was so popular, its owners wanted it back, she said.

The Whaling Museum’s blue whale heart is a permanent exhibit — the only one in the United States.

One the goals of Whales Today is to bring attention to the status of living whales, an especially timely topic given scientists’ recent warnings that the North Atlantic right whale could be on the edge of extinction, Connett said.

“They’re really in dire straits,” she said.

Blue whales, too, are endangered. According to the website of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, the population stands at less than 10 percent of its historical level.

Follow Jennette Barnes on Twitter @jbarnesnews.

Bay State Wind signs agreements to build training center in New Bedford


Bay State Wind has signed agreements to develop a training center for future offshore wind workers in the city, the company announced Monday.

Bay State Wind is a partnership between Ørsted and Eversource for an offshore wind project 25 miles off Massachusetts and 15 miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. Bay State Wind is one of three projects, along with Deepwater Wind and Vineyard Wind, competing in a state-led bidding process in which Massachusetts power companies will buy electricity from offshore wind. A 2016 state law requires power companies to buy long-term contracts for at least 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind power in the next decade.

Bay State Wind has signed agreements with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Utility Workers Union of America and its Power for America initiative, and the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers, along with Bristol Community College and the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, according to a news release.

“We are very happy to be working with Bay State Wind, which is the only offshore wind developer that is committing to become a true Massachusetts company, by training and hiring local union labor,” said Mike Monahan, international vice president, second district, of the IBEW, in a statement.

The company said it expects to hire up to 1,000 workers during the construction phase and create 100 permanent jobs over the 25-year life of the turbines, with an operations and maintenance facility that also will be located in New Bedford.

If chosen by the state for the contract, Bay State Wind also has pledged $1 million to BCC, which will “endow a faculty position to help BCC, which would offer the only degree completion program in offshore wind … Bay State Wind will collaborate with BCC faculty and staff to train other teachers, to create an ambitious internship program and to build a new, national model for preparing the workforce for this growing industry and its supply chain,” BCC President Laura Douglas said in March.

“New Bedford has sent its people to sea for nearly 300 years, and in the process, became a global leader, first in whaling and then in commercial fishing,” said Mayor Jon Mitchell in a statement. “We see the establishment of an offshore wind training center here as an important step in staking our claim in the emerging offshore wind industry. We appreciate Bay State Wind’s commitment to preparing the industry’s workforce, and we look forward to working with our partners in higher education and organized labor to make the proposed center a reality.”

Bay State Wind already has signed an agreement with NEC Energy Solutions, headquartered in Westboro, to build a factory to manufacture storage batteries, according to the release. Last month, Bay State Wind reached an agreement with EEW, the international market leader in steel pipe manufacturing, to open and staff a plant to manufacture offshore wind components, in collaboration with Gulf Island Fabrication. EEW is considering a variety of sites, including locations on SouthCoast.

Original story here.

‘Lighting the Way’: Group sheds light on SouthCoast women

Posted Mar 5, 2018 at 2:19 PM

When it comes to SouthCoast history, you likely know the names Frederick Douglass, Herman Melville and Paul Cuffe. And while that’s important, a local group hopes you also know the names Marie Equi, Martha Bailey Briggs and Charlotte White.

“I hope when teachers in New Bedford are talking about Frederick Douglass, they’re also talking about Martha Bailey Briggs. That when they’re talking about Rockefeller, they’re also talking about Hetty Green.” — Committee Member Sarah Rose

When it comes to SouthCoast history, you likely know the names Frederick Douglass, Herman Melville and Paul Cuffe.

And while that’s important, a local group hopes you also know the names Marie Equi, Martha Bailey Briggs and Charlotte White.

That’s why they’ve started “Lighting the Way: Historic Women of the South Coast.”

The massive interactive history project is aimed at shedding light on women’s roles in history and “unearthing remarkable stories of women’s personal callings that required grit, tenacity and enduring commitment to their families, community and country,” project designer Christina Bascom said.

Spearheaded by the Whaling Museum, the alliance of organizations and individuals on the Lighting the Way Committee is working together in a prodigious years-long plan to educate SouthCoasters about the strong women who helped shape our history.

Aspects of the project will unfold over the next two years, organizers said.

Staring in July, you’ll be able to download an app to your phone, or grab a map, and embark on a historic walking trail throughout downtown New Bedford, stopping at some 34 landmarks highlighting compelling women’s stories.

Also in July, you’ll also be able to click through Lighting the Way’s website, currently under construction, to learn stories of some 90 educators and philanthropists, abolitionists and crusaders for social justice, investors and confectioners, and more.

The committee also plans to create a companion curriculum for local schools.

And, coming in 2020, on the 100th anniversary of women’s voting rights, they tentatively plan on unveil public art displays.

This project is not just for women, organizers were clear to point out.

“This is very inclusive and open to everybody,” said Bascom. “It’s a boon for historical societies and people who want to do research. We’re very careful to use words like ‘amplify history’ — this is not about creating a women’s history. This is about bringing balance to existing history. These women add so much color and dimension to the history of SouthCoast. It’s quite lopsided without them.”

Sarah Rose, a committee member and project leader, and Whaling Museum vice president of Education and Programs, had similar sentiments:

“We’re looking to bring life to women’s voices, to inspire generations. That’s why part of our mission is creating student curriculum — so students understand the contribution of women as significantly as they understand the contributions of men,” she said.

“I hope when teachers in New Bedford are talking about Frederick Douglass, they’re also talking about Martha Bailey Briggs. When they’re talking about Rockefeller, they’re also talking about Hetty Green,” Rose said.

“We’re really trying to stay away from criticizing history told to date— this isn’t women’s history, we’re just trying to fill in history,” Rose said. “We’re adding stories from the other fifty percent.”

There are some 90 women in total profiled as part of the project. Some lived in the 1700s; others died two years ago. Many came as submissions to the group.

If you’d like to nominate a woman of historical significance — one catch: they must be dead — contact Rose at the Whaling Museum.

Research into the women’s lives is being led by Whaling Museum research fellow Ann O’Leary, along with a team of some 10 researchers who assist her.

They have completed about 50 profiles, O’Leary said.

“All of the women rose up when they experienced or witnessed a need, and they pushed through obstacles and mobilized themselves and others,” said O’Leary, library media specialist at Bishop Stang High School and the Emily Bourne Fellow at the Whaling Museum.

Bourne is a woman of historical significance: Her gift to the Old Dartmouth Historical Society in 1915 funded construction of the world’s largest ship model, the Lagoda, and the building that houses it at the Whaling Museum, the Bourne Building.

THE ROOTS

Shedding light on women’s role in SouthCoast history was a long-held dream of Bascom’s.

The Standard-Times 2008 Marion Woman of the Year, Bascom has been involved in numerous SouthCoast community projects — from helping to found the Marion Institute, to helping found Our Sisters School in New Bedford, among many other initiatives.

“For a long time, I tried to get someone to write a book about the historic women of SouthCoast,” said Bascom.

She said in late 2016, over lunch with Rose and then Whaling Museum President James Russell, “I said, ‘This is an idea I have kicking around,’ …and this thing started rolling, and we realized we wanted something more interactive.”

The plans for a website, GPS smartphone app, walking trail, and school curriculum grew from there.

Bascom said the interactive walking trail phone app will hopefully leave a lasting impact on young SouthCoasters.

On the app, which will work with a phone’s GPS, you’ll be able to see an interactive map indicating nearby “Lighting the Way” landmarks and points of interest, while providing links to images and biographies of the associated historical figures at each address.

For those who prefer old-school paper, there will be a printed map, as well.

“There’s a quote from an article in TIME I read, ‘If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.’ And to have young girls, and boys, going around and being able to see the history — that will hopefully leave a lasting impact for future generations,” Bascom said.

Rose added, “A cornerstone of this project is using stories of historic women to inspire generations to come.”

To get involved, contact Rose at srose@whalingmuseum.org, 508-997-0046 x118.

Lauren Daley is a freelance writer. Contact her at ldaley33@gmail.com. Follow her at https://www.facebook.com/daley.writer. She tweets@laurendaley1.

Original story here:

New Union Street building introduces hub for creative minds

Tracy Silva Barbosa never tires of the feeling after she introduces friends to her home.

They visit, look at her glass art, perhaps dine at a restaurant downtown and always leave with the same reaction.

“I never knew it was so beautiful and all of this wonderful stuff,” Barbosa said of the recurring reactions.

Barbosa lived in New York City for a decade before returning to the state where she grew up. Like many of her visitors, New Bedford impressed Barbosa and her husband. The culture and ever-growing art scene attracted them to make it their new home.

In January it will also be the home of her new business. Duende Glass will occupy a space in a new 10,000 square foot unit on Union Street dubbed a Co-Creative space by WHALE.

Barbosa, like multiple others whether it be artists or “creatives”, will use the space to create art and also sell it.

“I think the Co-Creative Center is just another spore from that flower,” Barbosa said. “It’s coming out of people who genuinely care and want to bring out the wonderful character this city has and bring it out in a tasteful way.”

There’s three levels to the building sitting beside The Garden and running along Acushnet Avenue.

The second floor of the building will consist of non-profit office space, apartments, and artist studios, which are already leased. The third floor consists of a two-bedroom market rate apartment.

The first floor, where Duende Glass and People’s Pressed, a juice and coffee shop, will be located, will house a public creative space.

The plan is to utilize the area closest to Union Street as a marketplace. Behind it will be a learning area where classes can be taught by anyone in the community. At the back of the building, bordering a park, the area will be used as a creative space filled with up-to-date technology like fabrication equipment and computer stations as well as work benches.

“We’re hoping we can build a community of Creatives,” WHALE Development Coordinator Amanda DeGrace said.

The first floor learning space will act as a chameleon of storts, blending into whatever the community envisions its best use.

DeGrace said there are 15 classes currently being discussed that would be available for public participation. They range from graphic design, creative writing, visual artists, sewing and even jam making. The class list continues to grow as community members continue to pitch ideas.

“We need to open the doors and see what this community wants this place to be,” DeGrace said.

Below the “Co-Make” area is a basement geared toward more industrial and textile creating as well as storage for artists.

Much like Gallery X on William Street or the studios in the former mill building on West Rodney French Boulevard brought Barbosa to the city, the Co-Creative Center hopes to attract even more imaginative minds.

“Through the Co-Creative more diverse artists come,” Barbosa said. “You want to have some cross pollination and that’s what innovation is.”

Follow Michael Bonner on Twitter @MikeBBonnerSCT

Original story here.

Bay State Wind pledges $1 million to BCC if it wins contract

Posted Dec 20, 2017 at 7:38 PM

Bay State Wind has committed $1 million to Bristol Community College for wind-energy training in New Bedford, contingent upon Bay State Wind winning a contract for an offshore wind farm.

The money would support a faculty member in wind energy, BCC’s first-ever endowed faculty position in any field, BCC President Laura Douglas said at press conference Wednesday at the New Bedford campus. The position would be funded in 2019.

Douglas welcomed what she called “the start of a long relationship between BCC and Bay State Wind,” saying the company would host student interns, provide a guest lecturer, explore collaborating with BCC and others to develop an offshore wind training center in New Bedford, and participate in other BCC initiatives.

Mike Durand, a spokesman for Eversource, one of the backers of Bay State Wind, delivered remarks on behalf of the developers.

“I can’t think of a more deserving recipient of our support than this institution,” said Durand, who is a BCC graduate.

Bay State Wind, one of three bidders for an offshore wind farm as part of a state-led procurement process, is a joint venture of Eversource and Danish energy company Ørsted.

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell said New Bedford is working to maximize the advantage from its “first-mover status” in the offshore wind industry.

Original story here.

Chronicle WCVB5 abc: New Bedford Renewal

On Thursday, September 7th, 2017 the Chronicle aired a program called New Bedford Renewal. We hope you take a few moments to enjoy the clips. City leaders and their partners have been hard at work on all fronts: Public Safety, Education, Economic Development, Community Development, Alternative Energy, and Quality of Life. We hope you enjoy the show!

New Bedford Renewal: A New Vitality

New Bedford Renewal: Port Prosperity

New Bedford Renewal: Beyond the Port

New Bedford Renewal: An Epicenter for Clean Energy

Educators, legislators urge larger share of state aid for education

Posted Apr 21, 2017 at 2:01 AM

By Katie Lannan, State House News Service

BOSTON — Educators, parents and lawmakers are urging support for a bill that would update the state’s school funding formula to send more money to districts, highlighting the bill’s backing from a variety of different groups from across the state.

“This is the largest, most diverse coalition of education reformers that I have ever seen gathered in one place representing as many organizations,” Massachusetts Association of School Committees executive director Glenn Koocher said earlier this month at a gathering.

The bill filed by Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, would implement the 2015 recommendations of a state commission that found the current funding formula, known as the foundation budget, underestimates the cost of education by $1 billion to $2 billion per year.

“I think everyone agrees, like you can’t just flip a switch and turn on $2 billion,” Chang-Diaz told the News Service. “But if you spread it out over anywhere between five and 10 years, that is within the realm of the achievable for Massachusetts.”

The push for the bill came as House Democrats released a fiscal 2018 budget bill that calls for the type of limited increases in local aid that cities and towns have become accustomed to in recent years.

Paul Reville, who served as education secretary under Gov. Deval Patrick and was a member of the Foundation Review Commission, said Massachusetts has not delivered on all the promise of the 1993 law, including its financing provisions, when it “should really be talking about the next grand bargain here.”

“School districts have been forced to rob Peter to pay Paul, and the educational program has suffered as a result of it,” Reville said. “We find ourselves now a quarter of a century into education reform very proud of our achievements as a commonwealth — we lead the nation, lead the world in some categories — but still, we failed to fulfill the promise of education reform, which was to educate all of our children, and when we said all we meant all, all means all, to high levels of achievement.”

Local education aid, known as Chapter 70 money, has increased an average of $126 million per year from the 2011 fiscal year, including a $106 million hike recommended Monday in the new House Ways and Means budget bill.

Gov. Charlie Baker’s 2018 budget proposal included $4.72 billion in Chapter 70 aid, an increase of $91.4 million over this year’s appropriation.

Under one potential timeframe for implementing the changes called for in Chang-Diaz’s bill —the seven-year schedule used in education funding legislation that passed the Senate last year — schools would see an increase of approximately $200 million in state funding in the first year.

The Foundation Budget Review Commission called for updates to the funding formula to better account for rising fixed costs in health care and special education, and said the formula underestimates the cost of educating low-income students and English language learners.

The bill calls for a multi-year phasing in of the commission’s recommendations, charging the administration and finance secretary and House and Senate budget writers with meeting annually to determine an implementation schedule. It does not specify a timeframe or funding source.

Chang-Diaz, who joined the Legislature in 2009, said her bill could follow a similar path as the 1993 education reform law that established the funding formula.

“We made a decision on a values level, on a constitutional obligation level that we’re doing this, and then we exercised tremendous discipline and commitment over the ensuing seven to 10 years to elevate the on-ramp schedule,” she said. “But it was never a forgone conclusion that it was going to happen or that it was going to be easy, but we just did it because we believed in it.”

Sen. Jamie Eldridge, an Acton Democrat cosponsoring the bill, said implementing the commission’s recommendations would require more revenues.

“I think what’s interesting right now is that Governor Baker, in his budget, actually proposed about $600 million in new revenues through the employer assessment so, you know, are the House and Senate going to propose revenues given that the governor did that?” he said. “It might be a different form, it might be a form of taxes, but if we’re not going to increase revenue in our budgets, that means we’re not only not going to properly fund the beginning of the Foundation Budget Review Commission, but we’re not going to be able to properly fund regional school transportation, special education and Chapter 70 aid.

A total of 82 lawmakers are signed on to Chang-Diaz’s bill — 25 Senate Democrats, 47 House Democrats and 10 House Republicans.

The Senate has twice passed versions of the bill, once as part of legislation that tied major new investments in education to an increase in the cap on charter schools and once as an amendment to its fiscal 2017 budget.

The charter bill passed the Senate 22-13 and was never taken up by the House. The budget amendment, which Chang-Diaz said at the time had 22 cosponsors, did not survive after deliberations before a six-person House-Senate conference committee.

In the months since those Senate votes, Chang-Diaz said, several advocacy groups have adopted foundation budget reform as a priority and have been talking to their respective bases about the issue.

“This has been a long time coming, it’s been a long time building, and this consensus is unlike anything we’ve seen in a really long time,” she said.

Organizations whose support was touted at the press conference include the Boston Student Advisory Council, Educators for Excellence, EdVestors, Collaborative Parent Leadership Action Network, the Suburban Coalition, the Boston Higher Ground Coalition, Phenomenal Moms Boston, the Worcester Education Collaborative, and associations representing superintendents, school business officials, vocational administrators, regional schools, secondary school administrators and elementary school principals.

Chelsea Superintendent Mary Bourque, the president of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, said her district each year must cut “more and more of what makes us a successful school system,” such as after-school programs and tutoring. This year, the Chelsea schools had to close a budget gap of more than $5 million, she said.

Bourque said the bill “shows that we have the courage to not just acknowledge the severe underfunding of public education, but finally we have the courage to take action.”

Original Story Here:

Mitchell believes an innovation district would bring the best, brightest to SMAST

NEW BEDFORD — A plot extending roughly 300 feet along Rodney French Boulevard in the South End will be the site of the “innovation district” that Mayor Jon Mitchell announced last week during his State of the City address.

The land extends south toward the wastewater treatment plant for about 200 feet. While it’s not an overly large piece of land, the city believes it’s vital to the future of New Bedford.

“The idea would be to utilize city-owned land to create an environment in which people can live and and be close to research as well as business innovation opportunity,” Mitchell said.

Similar projects also labeled as “innovation districts” have popped up and are being constructed around the world. Mitchell and City Council President Joseph Lopes traveled to Pittsburgh last November to analyze its districts. They’ll travel to St. Louis in April.

“You can learn so much more by having the discussion with those who have gone through it,” Lopes said.

The Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization that conducts research on new ideas for solving problems facing society, has provided Mitchell with research on innovation districts. The organization defines an “innovation districts” as “geographic areas where leading-edge anchor institutions and companies cluster and connect with start-ups, business incubators, and accelerators.”

In this case, UMass Dartmouth’s SMAST facilities would anchor the district. Mitchell said the project won’t affect taxpayers, but instead will focus on private projects.

“By creating something that has these different elements you create that the whole idea of the innovative district,” dean of SMAST Steven Lohrenz said. “Its creating this multipurpose site with a lot of different elements and there is synergy that develops and makes it more attractive to people.”

Mitchell said the district is still years away, but the research and planning underway allowed him to announce it in last week’s State of the City.

No official plans exist for what the district could contain, but Mitchell suggested, like most around the world, it might include housing, business incubators and retail and dining opportunities.

“We want to be seen as a place where ideas can be generated and commercialized,” Mitchell said. “Those ideas are key in having an urban environment in which entrepreneurs can thrive.”

Mitchell pointed to the success of Christopher Rezendes and his Internet connectivity company, IoT Impact LABS, as past examples of innovation within the city.

This project is different in that includes SMAST, which already houses an a core of potential innovators students and professors.

“It’s a way for the city and university to expand on an already good partnership,” said Derek Santos, the executive director of New Bedford’s Economic Development Council.

Mitchell said one of the issues surrounding SMAST is that many of the dwellings in the area of the two facilities are single-family homes, which limit the number of students and professors that can live near campus.

Mitchell, Lopes and Lohrenz agreed, though, any and all projects within the district would only be approved after consideration of the neighborhood.

“This is going have to be sized right,” Lohrenz said. “We’re not building the next strip mall. It has to be something that compliments the surroundings.”

According to the Brookings Institution, innovation districts can increase economic activity and help raise property values. The group states the increased revenue can be used to invest in infrastructure, public safety, affordable housing and schools.

Santos called Cambridge’s Kendall Square, the mother of all “innovation districts.” It combines growth around MIT and along with nearby institutions like Massachusetts General Hospital.

New Bedford’s district would be on a much smaller scale but contain the same ideas.

“You take academics and mix that with private sector,” Santos said. “And you create an environment that can be dynamic.”

Follow Michael Bonner on Twitter @MikeBBonner.

Original Story here:

Your View: Workforce skills and education needed to match strong local work ethic

By Posted Feb 5, 2017

As we begin 2017, our city is continuing a 10-year trend of solid economic progress. Leading indicators such as labor force, business start-ups, average wages, nation-leading fishing port activity, and dropping unemployment rates all reflect steady improvement with particular acceleration over the past three years. While these numbers make for good headlines, they don’t tell the whole story.

Even with our recent successes, one painful reality remains – until the education and professional skill level of the community improves, the strong and durable economy we want for all New Bedford families will continue to be frustratingly out of reach. New Bedford is not alone in this regard; many cities and states across America are becoming increasingly concerned about not having enough skilled workers to fulfill the needs of companies ready for growth. While this is a national issue, we can, and should, take on the responsibility of making our change, for our own benefit.

Helping to bring about that kind of change is what the Regeneration Project is all about. It began in the spring of 2014 when Mayor Jon Mitchell asked many of Greater New Bedford’s business and community leaders to serve as members of the New Bedford Regeneration Committee. The task the mayor put before this diverse group was to articulate a strategy for the city’s economic regeneration that builds on the committee’s collective experience in leading successful enterprises.

The committee’s final report, Uniting in Pursuit of Growth and Opportunity, is a statement intended to attract broad popular buy-in, shape economic development strategy, and signal to both private investors and government officials outside the region that New Bedford has a clear set of objectives.

The report highlights four main strategies:

  • Bolstering local capacity to promote economic development;
  • Fostering the development of Downtown New Bedford;
  • Enhancing workforce development in advanced manufacturing; and
  • Modernizing and growing our greatest asset – the Port of New Bedford.

To continue this work, in 2015 many of the leaders from the original group agreed to form the standing committee of the New Bedford Economic Development Council’s Regeneration Project. Since then, many of the committee’s original recommendations have been acted on, resulting in tangible progress in port development, driving new downtown investment and vibrancy, and in the ways that economic and workforce development services are delivered. A good start to be sure, but not yet game changing.

To help create systematic change to our too familiar pattern of an up and down economy, we wanted to take a closer look at one area of focus from our original report – the workforce readiness of our community. During this past six months, we engaged with the local stakeholders and agencies tasked with this mission; the Workforce Investment Board, New Directions, Bristol Community College, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s Center for Policy Analysis, New Bedford Public Schools, Greater New Bedford Regional Voc-Tech, and the region’s largest employer, Southcoast Health.

All of these conversations and interactions lead to the overarching conclusion that this is not something city government can just fix like a pothole: All partners must do their share to be sure every tool is ready and accessible to those who are most in need. The citizens of New Bedford must also be committed to the hard work that lies ahead. Our workforce can no longer get by on a strong back and solid work ethic. Those attributes will continue to be of great value, but it is no longer enough, and we must adapt if we wish to thrive.

While there are big things that need to be done by all, we would offer that there are several early actions that can be started by the stakeholder agencies and organizations to help build momentum for larger tasks:

 

  • Co-locate the workforce training programs with administration functions to assure the greatest possible delivery of services;
  • Focus efforts on sectors with immediate growth potential, such as advanced manufacturing, health care services, trade skills (specifically waterfront related), and hospitality;
  • Advocate for policy changes that remove unnecessarily burdensome hurdles to job training or placement;
  • Emphasize job readiness skills for all – regardless of educational level or background;
  • Boost local investment in education – both in the New Bedford school system and for those students seeking a vocational style education – to provide the necessary tools to maximize student engagement and the ever increasing demands and requirements for workforce and higher education;
  • Work in regional partnerships to the greatest extent possible, since the labor market is not generally concerned with local municipal borders.

Building a highly skilled and well-educated workforce is a hard thing for any community to do and it will not happen overnight. However, taking some important first steps is critical to our future success. Education and workforce training levels are tied to crime, physical health, and so much more. More than any other determining factor in the well being of a community is its level of educational attainment.

We will continue to do our part to engage the public and private sector leadership of the community and advocate for this and other strategies that will increase the growth and prosperity of our city and region. As we first reported in 2014, the collaborative spirit of the community is alive and well. Our city will not only need that spirit, but the action and commitment of its citizens.

The best way for us to take greatest advantage of the good times and lessen the impacts of slower periods is to have a well balanced and diverse local economy built on the foundation of a skilled, well trained workforce in a community that is as committed to education as much as it values hard work.

Gerry Kavanaugh, Co-Chair: senior vice chancellor for strategic management, UMass Dartmouth

Anthony Sapienza, Co-Chair: president JA Apparel Corp., President New Bedford EDC

Rick Kidder: President & CEO, New Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce

David Wechsler: President and CEO, Maritime International

Maureen Sylvia Armstrong: President, CEO and owner, Sylvia Group Insurance

Keith Hovan: President and CEO, SouthCoast Health System

Nicholas Christ: President and CEO, BayCoast Bank

David Slutz: Managing Director, Potentia Business Solutions

Elizabeth Isherwood: Chair, Greater New Bedford Industrial Foundation

Patrick Murray: President and CEO, Bristol County Savings Bank

Dr. John Sbrega: President, Bristol Community College

Helena DaSilva Hughes: Executive Director, Immigrants’ Assistance Center

James Russell: President and CEO New Bedford Whaling Museum

Bob Unger: Chair, Leadership SouthCoast

James Lopes: Law Offices of James J. Lopes; New Bedford Historical Commission