Karyn Polito: State, SouthCoast working to ‘unleash’ region’s potential

New Bedford makes its pitch to impress, attract Amazon

Calling New Bedford “a city unlike any other” with its proud past and bright future, officials submitted a 40-page proposal to Amazon, as the e-commerce giant seeks a location to construct a second world headquarters.

While the state included New Bedford as one of 26 Massachusetts communities in its formal proposal to Amazon, the city also independently submitted its pitch to build the headquarters on property at the municipal golf course on Hathaway Road.

The prize is huge: a million square foot facility and 50,000 well-paying jobs — enough to transform the economy of wherever Amazon decides to place it.

“New Bedford’s come a long way in the last few years,” said Mayor Jon Mitchell. “And we’ve reached a point where we can — with a straight face — make this kind of pitch to the likes of Amazon. It’s not to say we’re the odds on favorite, but we can make a play for this with credibility.”

It was in May that the city teamed up with Mass Development to divide the golf course property and create a 1.3 million square foot commercial development that would bring an estimated 1,000 jobs, well short of what Amazon expects to create. The rest of the land would become a nine-hole golf course; the course currently has 18 holes.

In June, Jay Ash, the state’s housing and economic development secretary, visited the course and called it a “no-brainer” for economic development because it’s one of the few greenfields left in the state.

Ash declared that there are only two other sites with the potential that New Bedford’s has, given the easy access to highways, rail and an airport: a former Naval air base in Weymouth and vacant space across from Gillette Stadium in Foxboro. Both are included with the state’s bid.

In its proposal, the state writes that the New Bedford site has the potential for a 9.5 million-square-foot build-out. It also notes the site is 18 miles from the Middleboro Line for the MBTA, 58 miles from Logan International Airport and 37 miles from TF Green airport.

 “The historic city of New Bedford is the SouthCoast’s hot spot for dining and the arts, while retaining its authentic character as the nation’s largest fishing port,” the state wrote in its bid.

In the city’s bid, New Bedford is touted as a home to a “hard-working, innovative, entrepreneurial and creative” work force.

“As a city of immigrants, we have drawn from the best that the world offers. As a city of ideas, New Bedford is the place where you can walk the same streets as Herman Melville and Frederick Douglass,” the bid reads.

“As a city of culture, New Bedford is the place where you can have a great seat to Yo-Yo Ma, the B-52s and a Bob Woodward lecture. And as a city of innovation, we transformed the whaling industry and are leaders in establishing the first American port to incorporate the offshore wind industry into the mix with fishing and cargo.”

Rick Kidder, president and CEO of the SouthCoast Chamber of Commerce, sounded calm and confident Friday that the city’s application could be a winner.

“Having been around the world of corporate relocations I have never seen a process like Amazon is going through,” he told The Standard-Times.

Kidder said there is much here to offer. “I believe we have things going for us,” including the use of the golf course land, transportation routes including an airport, quality of life and reasonable housing.

The application included a reference to Entrepreneurship For All, a group that helps SouthCoast startups and entrepreneurs. The document lists it as a “innovation asset,” noting that “Seventy-three percent of E4All’s startups are headed by women, 57 percent by minorities and 52 percent by immigrants.”

Shelley Cardoos, executive director of EforAll SouthCoast, said Friday she had not heard that her organization was hailed in the Amazon application.

But she said she was happy to know that EforAll, just two years old in SouthCoast, had made an impression worth mentioning. “I’m glad our efforts and impact are being recognized for creating jobs and dollars,” she said.

The city also touted the lower cost of housing along with access to schools and recreational opportunities in this area.

In August, the median sale price for a home in the state was $372,500, while it was $200,000 in New Bedford. The city also boasts historic neighborhoods that provide “a variety of housing types,” the proposal said.

The proposal also notes:

“New Bedford High School offers academy learning, featuring engineering and finance, and it offers 19 Advanced Placement courses. The high school also has a history of graduates attending elite universities.”

“The city’s first open space was created in the 1860s, and the city hasn’t stopped — 6 parks, 24 neighborhood parks, more than 12 miles of trails and bikeways, 26 acres of beaches, etc.”

New Bedford officials also outlined to Amazon the city’s tax increment financing (TIF) program, which supplies exclusive breaks for coming to a Gateway City, and the “unique tax abatement” of a foreign trade zone.

In addition to New Bedford, others in the area making a pitch to Amazon include Fall River and Taunton. Fall River has 501 acres available with its Riverfront Park and SouthCoast Life Science & Technology Park. Taunton has 146 acres at the Silver City Galleria Mall.





Tech meets fish: Port of New Bedford launches ‘Ocean Cluster’

Updated Sep 21, 2017 at 6:32 PM

That kind of innovation is what’s behind a new effort by New Bedford Harbor Development Commission to serve as a matchmaker for technology companies and the fishing industry. Following a model developed in Iceland, the commission has formed the New Bedford Ocean Cluster, which will foster entrepreneurship in ocean products.

Mayor Jon Mitchell, who chairs the commission, signed a memorandum of understanding Thursday with Thor Sigfusson, founder and chairman of the Iceland Ocean Cluster, to work together. The agreement officially makes New Bedford part of a loosely organized global network of ocean clusters. No money will change hands; it’s about an exchange of ideas, Sigfusson said.

New Bedford’s is the third such effort worldwide, following Iceland and Maine. Others are forming in Alaska and Seattle.

Mitchell said New Bedford wants to be associated with all things fishing — not just fish and fish processing, but pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and other products.

“This is really, for us in New Bedford, a way of taking the next step,” he told supporters gathered at the New Bedford Whaling Museum for a signing ceremony. “Networks matter. Idea exchanges matter. And that’s what this is about.”

The Iceland Ocean Cluster operates a business incubator with more than 60 businesses.

“We want to be a spin-off factory,” Sigfusson said.

From 1981 to 2011, Iceland doubled its cod export revenue to $680 million, even though the catch fell 60 percent, he said. It accomplished that by diversifying the products made from cod.

 In 1981, 75 percent of Iceland’s cod revenue came from fillets and whole fish, and 25 percent from other products, he said. By 2011, the market had reversed, with 77 percent of revenue coming from other products — things like dietary supplements and fish-skin leather.

New Bedford-based technology company IoT ImpactLABS is working with the Harbor Development Commission on the project, organized by the commission’s executive director and port director, Edward Anthes-Washburn. The port has piloted new technologies through its own facilities and by connecting ImpactLABS entrepreneurs with existing port users and businesses, Anthes-Washburn said.

In an interview after the signing, Sigfusson said he was impressed with the new UMass Dartmouth School for Marine Science and Technology facility. It would be a great place to host startups and have students working on ocean-related entrepreneurial projects, he said.

Follow Jennette Barnes on Twitter @jbarnesnews.

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