Eversource cleanup on New Bedford waterfront

Posted Feb 8, 2018 at 7:29 PM

Eversource plans to begin a $5 million environmental cleanup next week at its former service-center site on MacArthur Drive, adjacent to the former NStar power plant.

The property is widely considered one of the most valuable redevelopment opportunities on the New Bedford waterfront.

“This is exciting news,” said Derek Santos, executive director of the New Bedford Economic Development Council. “It’s an important first step.”

The soil contains coal tar from the historical production of manufactured gas, before natural gas was widely used. When gas is produced from coal and oil, viscous coal tar is left behind.

Although it was used for roofing and other purposes, coal tar was also released into the ground at the Eversource site, said James Ash, senior vice president at GEI Consultants, the environmental contractor for the cleanup.

The work will involve excavating about 18,000 square feet of the parking lot and mixing cement-based grout into the soil. When it hardens, the resulting solid will not leach contaminants into the water or air, according to James Adamik, an Eversource hydrogeologist.

“Nothing leaves it,” he said.

By Thursday, workers had already delivered two excavators, a grout silo, hoses for pumping the grout, and other supplies to the site. Excavation will take place next to MacArthur Drive, in the southerly of two parking lots that are south of the Fairfield Inn.

First, workers will remove the pavement and four to five feet of soil. That soil is relatively clean and does not need treating, Adamik said. Then, they will pump grout into the hole and mix it with the remaining soil, going down 15 to 17 feet or until they hit bedrock.

The hardened mixture will be covered with about three feet of soil from the original upper layer, enough to bring the land up to level.

Ash, of GEI, said the rest of the removed soil will go to a landfill.

GEI is monitoring air quality on the site in real time. Non-toxic foam will be pumped onto the ground to control odors.

The work is expected to take about three months.

The cleanup should cost about $5 million, funded by Eversource and recovered through gas rates, according to company representatives.

Eversource does not own the power plant. Sprague Energy bought a portion of the property containing the plant and adjacent oil tanks in 2005 as a bulk petroleum terminal. Together, the two parcels are often called the NStar site, for Eversource’s previous name.

Eversource owns 18 acres there, and Sprague owns 11. Eversource relocated its employees to the New Bedford Business Park late last summer.

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell said in 2016 that the northern portion of the site should align with development in the downtown area and the southern portion should remain industrial. He was not available for comment Thursday afternoon.

Santos, of the Economic Development Council, said two large waterfront parcels — Revere Copper and Eversource/Sprague — were “sort of chained down” by casino proposals for a decade.

Asked what might work well on the site, he said the northern part of the site, near the Fairfield Inn, could be used for expanded hotel and convention space, and the rest could be used for offshore wind, fish offloading or as a shipyard. Shipyard jobs pay well, he said.

The city has been engaged in a waterfront planning process for several years.

Original story here.

BCC, CATCH Institute partner on offshore wind training program

Posted Feb 27, 2018 at 12:06 PM

While participating in the US-UK Offshore Wind Ports and Supply Chain Delegation in London and Hull, England, Bristol Community College President Laura L. Douglas visited the Center for Assessment of Technical Competency in the Humber (CATCH) Institute, to sign a memorandum of understanding between BCC and the CATCH Institute.

The CATCH Institute, in Grimsby, North East Lincolnshire, England, is an industry-led partnership supporting the process, energy, engineering, and renewable industries in the Humber (Northern England) region. CATCH operates a world-renowned CATCH training facility that provides skills, training, and competency solutions for industries across the UK and internationally.

CATCH will provide BCC with technical assistance, including a “train the trainer” program, a student knowledge transfer, overseas training program, and will support BCC’s vision of building a national offshore wind training center in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

The partnership creates a framework for collaboration in the field of offshore wind to support educational training and skills development activities for the benefit of the UK and USA, with the ultimate goal of creating a strong, vibrant, and sustainable industry.

BCC is currently offering an engineering technology/offshore wind power technology concentration of its Associate in Science in Engineering Technology (Offshore Wind Power Technology), as well as a Certificate of Recognition in offshore wind power technician. Both programs prepare students to work as technicians for the offshore wind power industry.

Students learn aspects of engineering technology such as electrical machinery, fluid systems, materials science, and strength of materials, and gain hands-on experience with assembly, installation, operation and maintenance of wind power systems.

Original story here.

$1M grant ‘a big step into the future’ for New Bedford waterfront

Posted Feb 13, 2018 at 5:30 PM

A $1 million grant awarded Tuesday will make life on the waterfront a little easier for New Bedford’s Police and Fire Departments as well as the Harbor Development Commission.

The Seaport Economic Council approved the grant, which will help the city build a 2,745-square-foot Central Command Center on City Pier 3 for the three departments.

“This is really, really critical,” Executive Director of the HDC Ed Anthes Washburn said. “Right now our operations are spread (out).”

Currently, the HDC is housed in the Wharfinger Building, with two assistant harbormasters located at Popes Island. New Bedford police marine unit is based in a small building near the Wharfinger Building, while firefighters are located on Pleasant Street.

The application for the grant stated the building would offer office space for HDC staff, space for police and fire as well as response and training rooms to provide streamlined communication among the three units during daily port operations and emergencies.

“By being able to pool everyone together and put them into one command center, the collaboration becomes very effective,” Police Chief Joe Cordeiro said. “It enables us to expand and share technology. It’s all in one center.”

Anthes Washburn pointed to the recent sinkings of the fishing vessels Nemesis and Dinah Jane as an example of how a Command Center is beneficial. While each arm of the city responded separately, if they were under one roof, the response would allow for a quicker reaction.

“This will get us much closer to our response assets,” Fire Chief Michael Gomes said. “And having the police marine security unit, the port authority, and the assistant harbormasters all in the same building and in same place will increase coordination.”

Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration awarded a total of $4.1 million to five marine infrastructure projects through the Seaport Economic Council. Mayor Jon Mitchell is a member of the council.

“The Seaport Economic Council is committed to helping communities effectively leverage their maritime resources, to create new opportunities for residents, tourists and businesses,” said Carolyn Kirk, the deputy secretary of Housing and Economic Development and vice-chair of the Seaport Economic Council.

The Harbor Development Commission stated it had outgrown its current building. Space will also be offered to state and federal authorities, like the Environmental Police and Coast Guard, if needed.

The new building will offer ample room for the HDC, police and fire to hold joint meetings, which wouldn’t be new, but are currently held in cramped space.

The $1 million grant will cover the majority of cost. The HDC will provide the remaining funds, which are yet to be determined, but Anthes Washburn said it would be at least $250,000.

The goal, he said, is to complete construction in June 2019.

“We really need a place to effectively manage traffic and manage the operations of a port like this,” Anthes Washburn said. “This grant from the seaport council is huge in having the port itself take a big step into the future.”

Follow Michael Bonner on Twitter @MikeBBonnerSCT.

Original story here.

Coastin’ to talk New Bedford arts during AHA! night

Posted Mar 1, 2018 at 3:01 AM

Coastin’ brings the stories of arts and culture in New Bedford and throughout the SouthCoast to homes around the region each week.

Next Thursday, as part of AHA! New Bedford, the show is going on the road to the Penler Space at the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center.

Coastin’ and The Standard-Times/SouthCoastToday.com will host a roundtable conversation as part of AHA!’s March programming centering around the theme “I Am New Bedford: History, Herstory, Ourstory.”

The conversation will feature Coastin’ arts writers Don Wilkinson and Steven Froias, along with guests Joselyn Feliciano and Nicole St. Pierre. It will be facilitated by Coastin’ editor Jerry Boggs.

AHA!, which stands for Arts, History and Architecture!, is a free family-friendly event held rain or shine on the second Thursday of each month from 5 to 9 p.m. in historic downtown New Bedford.

The Coastin’ conversation is set to begin at 7 p.m. and cover the history and future of the arts in New Bedford from the perspective of those who are creating in the community.

The audience is encouraged to take part in the conversation.

“New Bedford’s art history is rich and storied and I look forward to hearing local artists share more about that story,” said Boggs. “And this is an exciting time to be looking at the future of New Bedford arts. We’ll look back and we’ll look ahead and we’ll have fun talking about a subject we all love.”

The Coastin’ conversation will be just one of many programs available throughout downtown next Thursday. Check back next week for more on the evening’s programming.

Artists who can’t attend the event, but want to have their stories told can contact Coastin’ via email at coastin@s-t.com or by calling 508-979-4464.

For more information about AHA! New Bedford, visit ahanewbedford.org.

Original story here.

Southcoast Health honored among top hospitals for clinical outcomes

Posted Jan 27, 2018 at 3:01 AM

Southcoast Health has announced that it has received the 2018 Distinguished Hospital Award for Clinical Excellence from Healthgrades, the leading online resource for comprehensive information about physicians and hospitals. The distinction places Southcoast Health in the top 5 percent for clinical excellence among nearly 4,500 hospitals nationwide. This is the third consecutive year that Southcoast Health has received this recognition.

“When you spend time in a Southcoast Health facility, whether as a patient or a visitor, it is clear that the mission of our employees is to deliver both clinical excellence and personalized care that is unmatched,” said Keith A. Hovan, President & CEO of Southcoast Health. “Southcoast Health physicians, nurses and staff work tirelessly to achieve the very best results for patients, and I am pleased that this award from Healthgrades has further highlighted their tremendous efforts.

The 250 recipients of the Distinguished Hospital Award for Clinical Excellence stand out among the rest for overall clinical excellence across a broad spectrum of care. During the 2018 study period (2014-2016), these hospitals showed superior performance in clinical outcomes for patients in the Medicare population across at least 21 of 32 of the most common inpatient conditions and procedures — as measured by objective clinical outcomes performance data (risk-adjusted mortality and in-hospital complications).

“We commend hospitals that have achieved Healthgrades 2018 Distinguished Hospital Award for Clinical Excellence, demonstrating a steadfast commitment to high quality care for their patients,” said Brad Bowman, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, Healthgrades. “Hospitals that meet these high-quality standards will continue to distinguish themselves with consumers making decisions about where to receive care.”

In October, Southcoast Health was honored with 19 additional awards and recognitions from Healthgrades, including being named one of America’s 100 Best Hospitals for Cardiac Care for the seventh year in a row (2012-18). In all, it was recognized for superior cardiovascular services with 11 awards, including the Healthgrades Cardiac Care Excellence Award for the 12th year in a row (2007-18). Southcoast Health also placed in the Top 5 percent in the Nation for Overall Pulmonary Services (2014-2018).

To learn more about how Healthgrades determines Distinguished Hospital Award for Clinical Excellence recipients, please visit www.healthgrades.com/quality.

Original story here.

 

 

New Bedford’s State of the Arts

Many readers have no doubt read, heard or discovered for themselves that New Bedford is regarded as one of the nation’s most creative small cities and is a destination for the arts and artists.

This isn’t exactly something new; the city has long been rich with culture. But when Atlantic magazine included New Bedford in a “Top Ten” list of creative communities over a decade ago, it brought new opportunity and urgency to the perception.

So what exactly does a “destination for the arts and artists” mean in 2018? How does that designation impact the city? Who does it include and who does it benefit? In short, what exactly does being — and being recognized as — one of the nation’s most creative small cities mean for New Bedford?

Have no fear. State of the Arts is here to help sort it all out.

This new, ongoing column and feature story series will cover the arts in a new way here. As a regular beat, right alongside the City Desk, General News, Politics, Business, or Sports. That means a mix of reporting, feature stories, profiles and opinion. All branded under the banner State of the Arts.

Every week, yours truly will attempt to illustrate exactly how the arts are being practiced in New Bedford — and why the cultural well-being of the city is a critical element of municipal life here.

It will deliver to readers artistic personalities across the creative spectrum; examine the role of arts and culture in the economy; and report on arts administration as a function of civic engagement and government.

It’s an opportune time to launch State of the Arts. As I write this, the City of New Bedford, through the New Bedford Economic Development Council, is in the nascent stages of preparing an arts plan for New Bedford that will help guide its fortunes into the future.

As part of that effort, a comprehensive city-wide Creative Directory is being compiled. It will highlight the full scope of New Bedford’s professionals in all manner of cultural disciplines.

Business Newsmaker: Three New Bedford companies in spotlight at PGA Merchandise Show

Posted Jan 21, 2018 at 3:01 AM

When the PGA 2018 Merchandise Show, the industry’s annual “Major of Golf Business,” kicks off in Florida, three New Bedford companies will be prominently featured.

Titleist, AHEAD and Moby Dick Brewing Co. all are Orlando-bound for the 65th annual gathering, Jan. 23-26, that welcomes more than 40,000 golf industry professionals from all 50 U.S. states and more than 70 countries to the sprawling Orange County Convention Center, which will host more than 1,000 exhibitors.

As for the New Bedford contingent:

— Titleist will be front and center at PGA Show Demo Day, the world’s largest, on Tuesday, Jan. 23, featuring its No. 1 golf ball as well as its popular line of clubs.

— AHEAD – one of the country’s top brands for men and women with headwear, apparel and accessories – will be introducing its hot new selections for Summer and Fall 2018 in the PGA Show’s Fashion Forum.

— Moby Dick Brewing Co., which opened in the New Bedford historic district in spring 2017, will be launching and serving its new private-label Dogleg Ale at various events throughout the PGA Show’s four days.

“We all think it’s a pretty cool story that’s developing at the PGA Merchandise Show with the three New Bedford companies playing key roles,” said David Slutz, president, Moby Dick Brewing Co. “This is our company’s first time at the PGA Show and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to debut our Dogleg Ale, which we’re confident will get positive reviews.”

Anne Broholm, CEO of AHEAD, concurred.

“This is not only wonderful exposure for our individual companies but also for New Bedford,” she said. “This is truly the sport’s global stage where the excitement level is off the charts. I think it’s awesome that Titleist, AHEAD and Moby Dick Brewing Co. all are part of the world’s largest business-to-business golf event.”

Original story here.

A new generation of New Bedford artists has opened galleries, living, and work spaces

Posted Jan 6, 2018 at 9:31 PM

Almost 20 years ago, the UMass Dartmouth School of Visual and Performing Arts came to downtown New Bedford and with it the Whaling City’s quiet rebirth as a magnet for working artists.

That seeding has now borne larger fruit over the past few years as the city has experienced a flowering of new galleries, open studios and art spaces.

From the Hatch Street Studios in the North End to the studios at the former Kilburn Mills in the South End, the galleries up and down William Street in the downtown and over to Groundwork’s exhibit space on Purchase Street, the painters, sculptors, mixed-media artists are here. They’re literally creating a new chapter of the New Beford experience.

“The city is undergoing an arts transformation citywide,” said Dagny Ashley, New Bedford’s director of tourism.

The latest wave will reach a milestone next week with the opening of the new 10,000-square foot Co-Creative Center on Union Street.

It’s been a fairly steady build-up for about a decade. Among the landmarks: 123 Sawtooth, an artists’ lofts located in the former Ropeworks Building where Market Basket would soon be built at the former Fairhaven Mills site. Colo-Colo Gallery, a popular space in the upscale Historic District moved to a spacious former factory space in the South End. Two artists even opened a gallery, The Vault, in a former bank building just over the Dartmouth line.

A WHALE AND A NIVED

It was the Waterfront Historic Area League (WHALE) that went out and obtained the grants and purchased the historic downtown office buildings that became the Co-Creative Center.

“This is a major investment for downtown New Bedford,” says WHALE executive director Teri Bernert, “not only in bringing beautiful historic buildings back to life but also creating a dynamic footprint for the area’s creative minds to collaborate.”

In addition to 2,000 square feet of gear-filled, open maker space that will be open to community members, the center (which WHALE has been developing for nearly three years) will also offer education, gallery, and retail space, a locally-sourced juice bar, and apartments for artists. It will also house many area not-for-profit organizations, including the Women’s Fund of Southeast MA (www.womensfundsema.org).

“This has been a collaboration with a lot of different individuals in the creative economy and in the non-profit world,” Bernert explained. “It is an idea born out of the community.”

One of the city’s interesting new artists is Devin “Nived” McLaughlin, of Nived Art (http://nivedart.com).

“I’ve watched the New Bedford Art scene ebb and flow,” said McLaughlin, who received a fine art degree from Bristol Community College in 2012.

McLaughlin began his professional career showing his work at many of the city galleries he visited as a younger art lover and he now hosts and shares his wit and wisdom at popular Paint Nite events in the area. “I’ve seen galleries in the area hold their first grand opening exhibition and I’ve watched those places close their doors for the last time, but never without leaving a mark on the culture here,” he said.

Just as the waves on the coast do, McLaughlin suggested the waves of New Bedford culture “ebb and flow” though he sees the current wave building towards a “high tide.”

“Every time a new project starts,” he said, “it greets this city with a grander, more powerful influence, inspiring others to create, discuss and enjoy art more.”

And while New Bedford’s historic buildings and breathtaking water views may inspire many, McLaughlin said it is the people who make the city arts scene shine.

“We have a huge community of driven artists from all skill sets and backgrounds,” he said. “It’s these folks that are breathing life into this city.”

THE STAR STORE

The cultural center where much of the region’s initial creative energy percolated is the College of Visual and Performing Arts, which in 2011 moved into a $19 million reincarnation of what was once the dry goods mecca known as the Star Store.

“UMass…has been the catalyst with the downtown campus,” Ashley said.

“The UMass art department moving to the Star Store building had a big impact of the arts in downtown New Bedford,” agreed artist Judith Klein (www.judithkleinart.com), who opened her first gallery downtown nine years ago but has since moved to the South End complex.

“Art students from our program…end up staying in the area and establish a studio in the several mill buildings that have wonderful spaces for our work,” said long-time UMass fine arts professor Marc St. Pierre.

And local artists are not the only ones taking notice. In fact, 2011 was also the year that New Bedford was cited by urban studies scholar and “creative class” creator Richard Florida as the “seventh most artistic city in America,” based upon the population density of its artists.

“The critical mass of artists, performers, galleries, and cultural institutions that flourish in New Bedford have created the ambience of a vibrant coastal cultural center,” Ashley said.

Just six years later, the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) named New Bedford the “most creative community” in the commonwealth. The city has also been cited by Bustle as sixth on the list “Best Cities for Young Artists” (it was the only Massachusetts city listed and one of only two in New England. ) Matadornetwork’s called the “the ninth most artistic town in America” and Complex cited it as one of its “10 Cities That Creatives Should Move to That Aren’t NYC or LA.”

“New Bedford is the place to be, whether you are an artist or a patron,” McLaughlin said.

AHA! AT THE BEGINNING

While many individuals and efforts deserve thanks, the arts engine that was there even before the Star Store was the monthly art party known as AHA! (www.ahanewbedford.org). AHA!, short for Art, History, Architecture, is a city-wide cultural event during which artists and entertainers come out into the streets and public spaces on the second Thursday of the month.

“AHA! is a platform for community participation and collaboration,” explained director Lee Heald, “Our monthly celebration of the arts and culture scene, the diverse city population, fabulous food, performing arts, and feasts and festivals have attracted new development and business growth, populated the city center with residents and students, increased tourism and generated new enthusiasm in this vibrant community,”

When AHA! was created in 1999, New Bedford did not have what Heald refers to as “a gallery scene.” In fact, she admitted, the city then had what could only be described as “a deserted downtown” with perhaps more criminal than creative activity.

“New Bedford had become a place few would visit,” Heald said. ”[It] was a Gateway City…[but] a gateway to what, was the question.”

AHA!’s mission was to make New Bedford “a vibrant city again, to attract new creative potential and expand cultural activities.” At the first AHA!, a little over 250 people came to interact with just 14 artistic partners. Today, Heald said AHA! engages over 65 partners and enjoys a regular audience in the thousands.

“We have learned that partners and partnerships create the program,” she said, echoing Bernert’s comments that fostering collaboration and mutual trust have been the “core mission” of the downtown revival.

A HISTORY OF ARTISTS

While the latest developments are noteworthy, New Bedford’s cultural tide has been coming in for some time.

“New Bedford has always maintained a vibrant creative life,” Ashley said, even before the big revival of the last 15 years.

In the 19th century, artists like William Bradford, Albert Pinkham Ryder, Clifford Ashley, and Albert Bierstadt grew up in the city or started their careers here. The Swain School of Design (which merged with UMass Dartmouth in 1988) attracted other artists from further afield.

The New Bedford Free Public Library housed one of the region’s first serious art collections. More recently, restorations and expansion of the New Bedford Whaling Museum (www.whalingmuseum.org) and the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center (https://zeiterion.org) brought a higher focus on culture to town.

“At one point, New Bedford was the richest city in the world, and home to over 20 theaters,” explained Rosemary Gil, the Zeiterion’s executive director of programming. “Today, The Zeiterion is the only remaining operating theater.”

In the 1980s, community activism helped keep “the Z” from becoming the last word in New Bedford theater.

These days, the theater hosts scores of performances each year (including shows by such legends as Alan Cumming, Jay Leno, the late Joan Rivers, and locally-raised star Samantha Johnson). It provides more than15,000 students with curriculum-based school-time events. In addition to hosting performing arts organizations like the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra (www.nbsymphony.org) and New Bedford Festival Theater (www.nbfestivaltheatre.com), the Zeiterion (which Gill calls a “cultural beacon” in New Bedford) also helps host festivals that attract thousands to the area.

THE ART MUSEUM AND GALLERY X

According to former Mayor Frederick Kalisz Jr., the “critical mass ” of the arts resurgence in New Bedford came with the city’s acquisition of the Art Museum Building and the creation of a gallery on the first floor. The museum effort began under former Mayor Rosemary Tierney. Kalisz credits then City Councilor Ken Ferreira, who came to vote despite being ill at the time.

Another important development was the opening in 1990 of Gallery X, a collaborative artist space that drew on many graduates of the Swain School. It was a time, when co-founder Chuck Hauck said “there were no other contemporary galleries in New Bedford.”

Described on its Facebook page (www.facebook.com/pg/GalleryXNewBedford) as “a place, a collective, an art gallery, a performance space, a funhouse, a basement club, a party palace, a church, a meeting house, [and] a cornerstone to NB’s Creative/Art scene,” Gallery X has since been a place where “artists of all disciplines and persuasions can display or perform the fruits of their creative labors.”

As New Bedford is still a “cheap city to live in, with loft and studio space available cheap,” Hauck said attracting more artists has not been difficult, even in the early days. Even so, he admitted even he has been surprised by the rapid expansion in recent years.

Spotting the trend in the city, New Bedford native Margo Saulnier came home after years of work with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and other cultural organizations to serve as the city’s arts and culture strategist.

When asked about the key moments in the revival, Saulnier first mentioned 1996, the year that the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park was recognized as a United States National Historical Park and also the founding that same year of the New Bedford Historical Society (www.nbhistoricalsociety.org), which has focused its efforts on documenting and celebrating the history and contemporary contributions of African Americans, Cape Verdeans, Native Americans, West Indians and other people of color in New Bedford.

“The diversity of views allows New Bedford to have a rich tapestry of stories to tell and attract new audiences,” Heald said, noting many residents can trace their heritage back to the Underground Railroad that once brought fugitive slaves to the city.

Saulnier also credited the creation of the Creative Economy Task Force in 2008 with encouraging cultural and other development.

“There is a need for new business due to the student influx,” Saulnier said, “and the large population of creative young people influence the revitalization.”

The MCC, has brought over $1 million a year to the city, she said. Its local arm – the New Bedford Local Cultural Council (www.mass-culture.org/New-Bedford) has distributed about $70,000 in grants to local artists and also helped bring local schoolchildren to many cultural centers and events in the region. “The Seaport Cultural District has branded downtown cultural assets within a walkable geographic area,” Ashley points out. “Understanding the future potential of this sector is vital to our strategy for economic development as well as to the quality of life of everyone living in and visiting our city.”

“The power of cultural enterprise, creativity and collaboration are essential keys to New Bedford’s unique and distinctive identity,” Heald said. “Around this core, New Bedford has built a sense of place, engaged residents, forged a new economy and demonstrated how a Gateway City can show the pathway to the future.”

“New Bedford’s renaissance, cultural and otherwise, is the sum of many, many parts,” Gill said. “From a mayor who gets the connection between a healthy arts community and the economy to dozens of hard-working non-profit organizations, to artists of many disciplines who have chosen to make this their home, and the hope and promise of a young generation of entrepreneurs creating an interesting retail landscape – New Bedford [continues to be] on the rise.”

“We are already seeing bigger and bigger waves,” McLaughlin said. “Who knows what well see in the future?”

Original story here.

Tony Sapienza proved quality clothing can be made in America

Updated Jan 13, 2018 at 8:47 PM

Manufacturing in the United States allowed Joseph Abboud Manufacturing to be nimble in an ever-evolving world of fashion — a strength not held by foreign competitors.

Decades ago Tony Sapienza shared some feelings of uncertainty with Matt Morrissey, who at the time was the executive director of New Bedford’s Economic Development Council.

The number of American clothing manufacturing jobs continued to decline as companies exported them to foreign countries.

“There was a sense of when was the last shoe going to fall in New Bedford,” Morrissey said. “That was very much in the thinking of that period.”

Sapienza feared Riverside Manufacturing Co. would be next. The facility, which now houses Joseph Abboud Manufacturing, under Sapienza’s guidance, wouldn’t be silenced.

“Tony was very instrumental in holding that together and realizing the value of the factory,” Joseph Abboud said. “You have 750 families there that maybe wouldn’t be there if Tony hadn’t sort of stuck through it and persevered. We owe him a lot. We really do. That’s a big statement.”

Joseph Abboud celebrated its 30th anniversary in New Bedford last year. Sapienza’s trust in the city, it’s workforce and his innovation preserved the factory.

As he looks toward retirement in 2018, the 70-year-old Sapienza, CEO of Joseph Abboud, is SouthCoast Today’s Businessperson of the Year.

“He is clearly the guy that deserves it,” Abboud said. “Because that factory could have easily been gone, which would have been a disaster.”

Sapienza, regardless of how dire the circumstances appeared, said he never entirely lost faith in New Bedford.

He trusted GFT (Gruppo Finanziaro Tessile), the Italian clothing company which owned Riverside. But even more he knew the workforce, made up of mostly Portuguese women, would prevail.

“Folks who came to this country as teenagers, as young adults, kids sometimes, but who grew up in a family environment where, first of all, there were needle trade skills, so they knew how to thread a needle and run a sewing machine and had a tremendous work ethic,” Sapienza said.

The addition of Abboud completed the ingredients for the resurrection of the manufacturing facility.

“He kind of synthesized the brand and the look and he was an American designer born in America, making clothing in America,” Sapienza said. “It was a great story you could tell about his commitment to being an American and being in the right place.”

But it was Sapienza who made the most out of those ingredients, both Morrissey and Abboud said.

During the 1990s it made business sense for companies to outsource jobs. Sapienza looked at having a facility in New Bedford as a positive, specifically in men’s fashion.

As the country exited the 2002 recession, Sapienza introduced an idea Americans take for granted in 2018.

“That was all about treating the consumer to the kind of (service) we’ve all become accustomed to,” Abboud said. “We go online. We order something and it shows up two days later. With men’s clothing we’re not quite as fast as two days later, but when you can get a product in two weeks or three weeks particularly made to your specifications, that’s a pretty good deal.”

Foreign competitors needed weeks to ship products to the United States. Joseph Abboud Manufacturing worked to provide customers with the quickest transaction possible.

“So we made significant investments in 2004 in efficiency and in getting the product to market that much faster,” Sapienza said. “That was probably the single most important additional thing that we as managers here in New Bedford were able to do.”

New machinery cut six days out of the production process.

Sapienza also brought the New Jersey distribution facility to New Bedford. It created upwards of 30 jobs and saved at least another week in shipping.

Often, shipments out of New Jersey required overnight shipping. Since Sapienza had streamlined production, overnighting packages wasn’t needed as often. Not only did Sapienza provide better customer service, he saved the company money.

Manufacturing in the United States also allowed Joseph Abboud Manufacturing to be nimble in an ever-evolving world of fashion — a strength not held by foreign competitors.

“We make a lot of high quality products offshore but there isn’t anything quite like what we do (in New Bedford),” Abboud said. “He was extremely instrumental in understanding the value of the factory to the brand.”

As early as 2009, Sapienza ushered one of the oldest trades in the world into social media.

“We realized we could do it on social media. It’s pretty cheap to do,” Sapienza said. “You don’t have to buy $20,000 ads in men’s magazines. You can blog and do a whole bunch of other stuff.”

As Sapienza steps into retirement, he sees the industry stepping into different, uncharted territory.

Malls are struggling. Brick and mortar retail may not have a future.

“Who could have predicted Amazon and Wal-Mart battling the way they are,” Sapienza said. “That you get your groceries from Amazon. It’s a whole new landscape out there.”

At his core, though, Sapienza believes tailoring is a craft done best with the customer present. That aspect will always steady any uncertain waters.

“I think we’ll see the best retailers are going to survive when they provide exemplary customer service and when they’re selling a product that needs a little bit of hand holding,” Sapienza said.

Abboud refers to Sapienza as royalty in the tailored clothing industry. The two met in their 20s. Sapienza worked at his father’s factory in Haverhill

“You can’t necessarily put down on a checklist, he’s a very special guy,” Abboud said. “I think he’s very connected with the community, committed to the community and I think that makes him. And he’s seen the world.”

Retirement or not, the world will see the chair of the Economic Development Council and trustee at the Whaling Museum and Bristol County Community College again.

“This isn’t the last of me,” Sapienza said. “You’ll see me.”

Follow Michael Bonner on Twitter @MikeBBonnerSCT

Original story here.

 

Behind the Counter: Furniture maker combines art and design in function

Posted Dec 30, 2017 at 9:22 PM

For all of woodworker Michael Pietragalla’s careful measuring and precise cutting, it’s what can’t be controlled that intrigues him most about the creative process.

“As you work into the wood, more and more patterns and details come out of it,” he says. “It’s not planned.”

This combination of practiced skill and unpredictable magic happens at Floating Stone Woodworks, Pietragalla’s custom furniture shop located in Loft 406 at 88 Hatch Street in New Bedford.

The name “Floating Stone” is an Italian translation of his last name. He specializes in handcrafted tables, bookcases, and benches, made from hardwoods such as cherry, maple, and walnut. Each piece is built and finished individually, with precision-cut, hand-fitted joints and hand-applied finishes.

Pietragalla moved in to Hatch Street Studios in 2000, the longest continuous tenant in a former mill building that now holds the working spaces of more than 50 creative professionals.

His 2,600-square-foot studio contains the large machinery required to construct his work, including a table saw, planer and drum sander. The long walls are lined with neat rows of hand tools in all sizes. With one wall full of windows facing west, he can wrap up his workday with one of the best sunset views that the city of New Bedford has to offer.

Meticulous craftsmanship is part of Pietragalla’s heritage. His grandfather, a shoemaker, immigrated to New Bedford in his 20s from the village of Pietragalla near Naples, Italy, and ran a shoe shop on North Front Street all of his life. His father was a trained hair stylist who operated his own salon while drumming for a dance band that played such popular local hangouts as Lincoln Park.

Pietragalla grew up in Fairhaven. In school, there were few signs of the exacting technician to come; mathematics was not his best subject. But he was thrilled as a teenager when his father bought him a set of drums, and he began to practice by playing along to jazz records. When the Beatles hit, he was inspired to form a rock ‘n’ roll band of his own. He later attended the Swain School of Design in New Bedford, where he earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in painting.

After college, he took on carpentry jobs, where he soon showed a knack for precision. “The bosses saw that I had the attention to detail for finished work, and that’s what they had me do,” he says.

While working for hire, Pietragalla began to investigate furniture design and history. He made friends with an antiques dealer who introduced him to Mission style furniture, a late 19th-century design aesthetic of clean lines emphasizing the unique quality of a wood’s grain. This discovery showed him that furniture making could be a way to combine his carpentry skills with his artistic training. “You can make furniture out of pine, and it’s functional. Or you can make it out of birdseye maple, and now it’s exciting to look at,” he explains.

At first Pietragalla tried working out of a studio in his basement, but space soon became an issue, so he moved into his current location on Hatch Street. The Mission style he favored was popular and, with the then-new internet opening up new connections, his website drew clients from all over the country with requests for custom projects.

He could barely keep up with his orders until the economy sank in 2008. Ever resourceful, Pietragalla started making the small, affordable pieces that remain his signature today. At first he carved chopsticks from bamboo scraps, which sold so well that he expanded into a full range of kitchen utensils. His offerings now include cheese spreaders, spatulas, and salad forks/spoons made of birch and walnut.

Most recently came his jewelry boxes, or as Pietragalla calls them, “treasure boxes.” They are the perfect product for him because they allow him to play with design, color, and texture, while precisely crafting a functional object.

The boxes are sleek and slender, approximately 12 inches long by 6 inches wide and 4 inches deep, made of exotic combinations like zebra wood, yellow heart and cherry.Their lids lift off with ornate handles, they are lined with leather or velvet, and some have hidden compartments.

Like the rest of Pietragalla’s work, the wood grain is the star.

“I like to mix up species of wood, because it becomes a treasure box, not just a jewelry box,” he says. “The box itself is a treasure, as much as what’s in it.”

In addition to those of his own styling, Pietragalla sells custom-designed treasure boxes. He also creates mixed-wood ring boxes to hold an engagement or wedding ring.

Pietragalla sells his work at Hatch Street Open Studios, a popular annual event held the weekend before Thanksgiving. His pieces are available throughout the year at the New Bedford Art Museum’s gift shop, as well as through the Artisans Way Fine Art and Contemporary Craft Gallery in Concord.

Pietragalla also offers furniture restoration and repair services at his studio. He works on pieces as diverse as chairs, tables, and mostly recently a broken sitar. He even replaced a cane chair seat for a customer by teaching himself the process from a YouTube video. “If it’s made of wood, I can probably fix it,” he says.

After decades of intense study and hands-on experience, Pietragalla emphasizes that he is still a student of craft and design, always learning. A poster on his office wall reads, “The life so short, the craft so long to learn.” That sums up the working philosophy of this son of generations of craftsmen.

To view a portfolio of Michael Pietragalla’s work, visit his website at FloatingStoneWoodworks.com. His studio is open during regular business hours or by appointment on weekends. He can be reached directly at FloatingStone@comcast.net or at 508.997.1079.

Catherine Carter is a New Bedford artist and former Standard-Times journalist. Her profiles of area businesses will appear in this space regularly.

Original story here.