WHALE’s downtown project receives more than $1M in state funding

By Auditi Guha

August 10. 2016 1:12PM

NEW BEDFORD — A rejuvenation project that some some say could have a mighty impact on the city has received a shot in the arm.

MassDevelopment, the state’s finance and development agency, has provided $1 million in financing for the Waterfront Historic Area LeaguE (WHALE) to acquire and build a co-creative center in the heart of the historic district. It has also awarded a $70,000 grant for the project’s current construction work, according to a news release.

“There was a $1 million acquisition and construction loan and the financing is really great because it’s deferred interest and very low so it saves us money,” said Teri Bernert, WHALE’s executive director.

The long vacant downtown block at 139 and 141 Union St. is being transformed into an arts space.

The grant “helps us to do repairs to the building and get it structurally sound,” Bernert said. “It’s just going to breathe new life into downtown and we are truly grateful MassDevelopment and city supported it.”

The $1.2M restoration project is a true community collaboration that has harnessed the efforts of the city, New Bedford Art Museum/Artworks and AHA!, said Kathryn Duff, founder and director of studio2sustain in New Bedford.

“I think it’s a small project but a pivotal one that can be very impactful,” she said. “I think it can begin to spark other projects and that’s really terrific and unprecedented in New Bedford.”

The building has already been stabilized — which included replacing the roof, fixing the basement, removing rotted wood, and bringing it up to code.

It comprises abutting historic commercial buildings, circa 1840, that will house a makerspace, collaborative learning center, arts gallery and market as well as co-work space, two new eateries, and four apartments.

It is expected to go to bid for construction in September.

The project has received money from several sources, public and private, but the newest “fit-out” grant will really help get it ready for construction, Duff said.

The funds will “support a crucial project in our New Bedford Transformative Development Initiative District,” said Anne Haynes, director of transformative development at MassDevelopment, in the news release. “We’re pleased to work with WHALE on its mission to restore the city’s historic downtown and catalyze investment in this neighborhood.”

The project is “a perfect example of how to spur urban revitalization by combining historic preservation with a creative economy use,” Mayor Jon Mitchell said in the release.

The center will help transform a blighted section and help mark downtown New Bedford as “a magnet for artists and other creatives,” he said.

Follow Auditi Guha on Twitter @AuditiG_SCT

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New Bedford reaches milestone for electric vehicle fleet

By Mike Lawrence

August 02. 2016 6:46PM

NEW BEDFORD — Electric cars now account for more than 25 percent of the city’s general-use fleet, giving New Bedford the largest electric-vehicle fleet of any municipality in Massachusetts, Mayor Jon Mitchell and other local officials announced Tuesday.

“New Bedford has a lot at stake when it comes to sea-level rise and climate change and so it is important for us to lead by example,” Mitchell said, in a press release from his office. “Whether it’s our nation-leading solar program, converting our municipal fleet to electric vehicles, or aggressively pursuing offshore wind energy opportunities, we’ve tried to demonstrate that much can be accomplished when there is a strong local consensus and sustained commitment to big renewable energy goals.”

The city now is leasing 19 Nissan LEAF electric cars, used by staff in the city’s health and school departments. The city’s passenger fleet totals about 70 cars. The green effort began a year ago, when the city added the first 10 electric cars to its fleet, after retiring aging vehicles.

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has given the city $206,000 in grant funding through its Electric Vehicle Incentive Program, Mitchell said.

MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg said the program has awarded nearly $1.8 million over the past three years, for electric vehicles and charging stations across the state, where more than 7,000 “EVs” are on the road.

City officials also said Tuesday that the number of charging stations in New Bedford has grown to 27, including 10 that are available to the public, free of charge, in city parking garages and at the International Marketplace public parking lot in the North End.

“Last year alone, we had more than 700 independent sessions where people came and charged their vehicles,” said Scott Durkee, director of the city’s energy office.

Follow Mike Lawrence on Twitter @MikeLawrenceSCT.

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‘Z’ place to be: City’s live show hub closing on strategic plan, capital campaign following three years of membership growth, revenue gains

“When they find, kind of, the hot rooms, they want to stick to them,” Gill said. “And the Z now is considered one of the hot rooms. The artists love playing here.”

That energy was evident at the Feb. 3 show by jazzy funk artists Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, for example. The band closed an energetic set of improvisational, upbeat rhythms by leaving the stage and parading through the aisles, playing horns aimed at the ceiling, for a raucous encore.

“Trombone Shorty was wonderful — it was a great get,” Gill said Wednesday, saying the sell-out exceeded her initial expectations for ticket sales.

Gill, executive director of programming and development at the Zeiterion, said Wednesday that the downtown theater sold out about 40 percent of the shows in its 2015-16, “Stories Untold” season, which included about 55 main stage performances. Gill said that was the Z’s highest sellout rate on record, with other full houses for Arlo Guthrie last November, the Feb. 9 performance by The Moth storytelling organization, and many others.

The strong ticket sales reflect a trend of growth on several fronts since August 2013, when the Zeiterion’s board of directors installed Gill in her leadership role and made veteran technician Justin LaCroix executive director of facilities and production.

The Z’s membership has grown over that time from about 800 people to 1,400, the directors said, and its annual budget has grown from about $2.3 million to $3.2 million. Those budgets have been in the black for three years running, after previous struggles with deficits.

Gill said the theater’s fiscal year ended May 31, with a surplus of a little less than $100,000.

“From a financial standpoint, the revenue stream is growing considerably,” said Peter Hughes, president of the Zeiterion’s board of directors. “Obviously, we’re benefiting to some degree from an improvement in the economy in the area. But we’ve invested in putting some talented people in really key spots within the staff, and we think that’s paying some dividends.”

Gill and LaCroix have hired full-time marketing and development directors — Penny Pimentel and Nicole Merusi, respectively — and education manager Leann Heath, among others, creating a staff of about 15 in the third-floor offices at the downtown theater. The Zeiterion shares space in the building with two other nonprofits: New Bedford Festival Theater — which opened Friday night with “Grease” — and New Bedford Symphony Orchestra.

“We have the strongest staff and team that I’ve seen over the 10 years,” Gill said, referring to her tenure at the Z. “What that means, from my point of view for programming, is I can be braver about who I decide to make an offer on. I can take those chances because we’ve been so successful.”

That success is fueling future plans, and a potentially significant turning point in the theater’s 93-year history. Gill and LaCroix said a strategic plan for the Z will be released in the next month or so, likely to be followed by a feasibility study for capital projects and then a fundraising campaign.

Improvements could include better seats and bathroom facilities — two of the main items mentioned, LaCroix said, in a survey that drew more than 900 respondents about a year ago. Bathroom space is a problem familiar to anyone who’s attended a Z show and seen (or waited in) lines that can snake down a side aisle.

“We’re really looking at ways to improve the experience for our patrons,” Gill said.

Potential upgrades in accessibility, for example, could come through collaborations with groups including the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind, Cultural Access New England and Very Special Arts, which work to improve arts experiences for people with disabilities.

Another improvement that’s been talked about and came through in the surveys, LaCroix said, is the installation of “a true marquee — a theatrical marquee” above the theater’s main entrance.

LaCroix told an anecdotal story about a visitor to the city earlier this month, during the New Bedford Folk Festival. The festival was a Zeiterion production for the first time this summer, under a new partnership with longtime festival managers Alan and Helene Korolenko. LaCroix said the visitor, walking downtown near the Z’s Purchase Street location, asked where the theater was — indicating that without a marquee, the Z might not be immediately recognizable as a performance venue.

Gill and LaCroix said improving that visibility, for visitors and the local community alike, is a primary goal of their marketing, outreach and audience development efforts — which already are showing results.

“We know more people are paying attention to us,” Gill said. “Another great thing that’s happened is agents — we’re on their radar, too.

“There are many, many (agents and artists) who may not have been engaged with us in any real way and now are coming to us and seeing us as a viable stop on a tour,” she added.

Festive ventures

Gill, Folk Festival operations manager Brooke Baptiste and Dagny Ashley, the city’s director of tourism and marketing, said attendance numbers aren’t yet finalized for this year’s festival. But all three said anecdotal reviews have been strong so far, from local businesses, festival vendors and visitors, despite cloudy skies and the festival’s move to the weekend following the Fourth of July, rather than over the Fourth.

“All of our stages were packed throughout the day, despite the weather,” Baptiste said, referring to both days of the July 9-10 event.

Gill added that the cooler temperatures could have been preferable for people at outdoor stages, but may have deterred people planning to come from longer distances.

Regardless, the first running of the festival under the new partnership — with the Korolenkos remaining on board as artistic directors — went smoothly, from all accounts.

Pimentel said about 20 percent of ticket-buyers contributed to a survey, a response rate that reflects Folk Festival devotees’ interest in the longtime event.

“They’re a very involved, passionate group,” Pimentel said. “It’s a summertime tradition.”

The event was the Zeiterion’s second dip into the festival-hosting waters. The first was with Viva Portugal, a May 7 celebration conducted with groups including the Club Madeirense S.S. Sacramento, the Prince Henry Society, the Day of Portugal, the Azorean Maritime Heritage Society and New Bedford’s Portuguese consulate.

Pimentel said the event was the first such collaboration of “every Portuguese cultural organization in the city.”

With two successes under its belt, the Z has a third festival still to come this summer.

Baptiste said 2,000 to 3,000 people are expected for the revived New Bedford Whaling Blues Festival, a daylong event scheduled for Aug. 13 at Fort Taber, in the city’s South End.

The festival has been dormant for a decade but will return on the broad lawn at the peninsula’s edge, with a stage facing Buzzards Bay. Information is online, at nbwhalingbluesfest.com.

“I love that they’re doing these outdoor events, because they do an amazing job,” Ashley said, adding that the city “couldn’t be happier” about the work of the Z’s directors.

“With Rosemary and Justin at the helm, the Zeiterion has continually progressed over the last three years,” Ashley said. “They’re very community-oriented, and their partnerships and leadership have been amazing.”

Broad appeal

Gill said the Zeiterion had a local economic impact amounting to $5.2 million in fiscal year 2016, supporting 171 jobs in the area. The figures are based on the Z’s annual budget and an economic prosperity calculator by nonprofit organization Americans for the Arts.

Impacts for local businesses can extend beyond theatergoers shopping or dining downtown — Elissa Paquette, owner of the Calico clothing store on Union Street, said she frequently gets business from performers, as well.

The girlfriend of singer CeeLo Green shopped at Calico before Green’s show at the Z last month, Paquette said. Another example is singer Katharine McPhee, who stopped by before a November 2013 show.

“She came in the store with her backup singer,” Paquette said. “They were super cool, they bought a bunch of stuff, they invited us to the show, (and) they brought us up on stage to dance with them.”

Paquette noted, though, that Zeiterion crowds don’t always mean Calico shoppers.

“I would love to see (the Zeiterion) do stuff that is a little bit more affordable for the local community, and for a younger demographic,” she said. “In terms of my business, I would definitely be looking for a younger crowd.”

Gill and Hughes, the board president, said the Z offers about 10,000 free or subsidized tickets per year, to underserved families and community members.

Hughes acknowledged, though, that survey respondents have raised Paquette’s point.

“Certainly, there is feedback toward attracting a younger crowd,” he said. “There were some specific call-outs for stuff like that, for shows for younger audiences.”

He said building a broader appeal is “definitely on our radar.” Hughes mentioned the May 2015 show by hip-hop string musicians Black Violin, and the upcoming, Sept. 15 show by lively string band Old Crow Medicine Show (which LaCroix said already is “selling well,” by the way).

Hughes said that whether the outreach is to differing income levels, ethnic communities or age groups, “we just want to bring more people in to enjoy the performing arts.”

By the busload

That outreach extends to local youth. Gill and LaCroix said the Z’s curriculum-based Arts in Education programs involve nearly 30,000 students and teachers every year.

Schoolbuses lining Spring Street can be a common sight, as touring performers frequently do afternoon events and activities with students.

“The Zeiterion continues to be a valuable partner to New Bedford High School, providing access to the performing arts for students who may not otherwise have the opportunity to get firsthand, world-class performances that really complement what they’re learning in school,” NBHS Principal Bernadette Coelho said last week, via email.

Coelho said the programs give teachers new opportunities for professional development, as well.

“It’s a natural fit for New Bedford High because of our strong visual and performing arts offerings and Academy of Arts & Humanities,” Coelho said. “The Z supports that in being informative, educational, and engaging for the audience, which are all hugely important when students are involved.”

Gill said that, all told, the mainstage performances, educational programs and more amount to more than 250 events at the Zeiterion every year. She and LaCroix hope to see those events continue to expand and evolve well into the future.

“Performing arts can revitalize a city,” Gill said. “This city, although it’s a small city … what would it be without the Z?”

Follow Mike Lawrence on Twitter @MikeLawrenceSCT

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New Bedford takes first place for energy efforts at national conference

By Sandy Quadros Bowles

June 24. 2016 7:33PM


NEW BEDFORD — New Bedford was in the national spotlight Friday as the city received a first place award for its energy and climate protection efforts at the U.S. Conference of Mayors annual meeting in Indianapolis.

The award “really speaks to New Bedford’s re-emergence as a leading city in the Northeast,’’ Mayor Jon Mitchell said in a telephone interview shortly after he received the award from Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, president of the United States Conference of Mayors.

The award honors the city’s energy and climate protection efforts.

On a per capita basis, New Bedford has more installed solar capacity than any city in the continental United States, with 16 megawatts of solar projects to provide power for municipal facilities, which Mitchell said will “save residents of the city many millions of dollars over the next 20 years.’’

Information from conference representatives also cited the city’s conversion of its municipal fleet to electric vehicles and projects now in place to give the city a prominent role in the offshore wind industry.

“Being recognized as a national leader in addressing global problems puts New Bedford in a different light,’’ Mitchell said. “We want to be seen as a leader and not as a follower.’’

The honor, he said, shows the city is “capable of solving its own problems and being a strong example.’’

The award carries a $15,000 cash prize to be awarded to a local non-profit related to the energy issue. Details of that award will be announced at a later date.

Mitchell serves as chairman of the energy committee of the conference, a non-partisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more.

He said that as state and federal resources dwindle, “cities around the world are taking responsibility for themselves in ways they haven’t in a generation.’’

Follow Sandy Quadros Bowles on Twitter @SandyBowlesSCT.

AHEAD planning $11 million expansion at Business Park in Dartmouth

By Mike Lawrence

June 27. 2016 9:09PM

DARTMOUTH — Hat and apparel company AHEAD is hoping to build an $11 million expansion onto its New Bedford Business Park location, potentially adding about 30 jobs and nearly 80,000 square feet, CEO Anne Broholm told the Dartmouth Select Board on Monday night.

“We’ve outgrown our current footprint,” Broholm told the board, showing sketches for the proposed expansion, on the Dartmouth side of the Business Park.

Broholm said the company bought adjacent land from Crapo Hill Landfill this spring, for $430,000, and has an estimated building cost of $9 million, with about $1.4 million in planned spending on new equipment.

Broholm said AHEAD employs 265 people. The company adds designs to headwear and produces apparel and accessories, primarily for the golf industry.

AHEAD was founded 21 years ago in a Mattapoisett garage, she said, has been in Dartmouth since 1999 and was bought by New Wave in 2011.

Broholm cited that long local history when asking the Select Board to support a tax-increment financing, or TIF, plan, that she said would save AHEAD about $200,000 while bringing the town more than $500,000 in new tax revenue over the course of the expansion project.

Select Board members gave a lukewarm response to the TIF request.

Member Shawn D. McDonald said Dartmouth hasn’t granted a TIF since 2007, despite several large-scale projects in the town in recent years.

“I’ve never believed in TIFs,” added Select Board Vice Chairman Frank S. Gracie. “We’ve established a precedent of what we do in this town and what we don’t do in this town.”

Robert Michaud, chairman of the town’s Board of Assessors, said Dartmouth already is, “just about the lowest-burdened community in Massachusetts, as far as commercial taxes.”

Specific tax rates for the AHEAD property could not be confirmed Monday night. Fiscal year 2016 rates for commercial properties in Dartmouth, for town and fire services, range from $15.33 to $16.54 per $1,000 of valuation, depending on the district, according to town assessor’s data.

New Bedford’s commercial tax rate for fiscal 2016 is $35.83 per $1,000 of valuation. That difference was not lost on Select Board members, who discussed AHEAD’s project location on the Dartmouth side of the Business Park, rather than in adjacent New Bedford.

“If these folks were 100 feet down the road, their taxes would be more than double,” Gracie said.

Select Board member John Haran said he supported the expansion and the proposed TIF, citing the potential for full tax revenue from new equipment and the incremental tax gains that would add to AHEAD’s existing taxes.

The board will consider the proposal further at its next meeting, July 25.

Broholm said the expansion would “all but guarantee continued operations in Dartmouth” for AHEAD. She quickly clarified that the statement was not an ultimatum, and did not mean AHEAD would relocate without the TIF.

She said the company hoped to strengthen its local roots with the project.

“It really puts a real firm stake in the ground, here in our hometown of Dartmouth,” Broholm said.

Follow Mike Lawrence on Twitter @MikeLawrenceSCT

Original Article Here:

Puerto Rican bakery opens in New Bedford’s North End

By Mike Lawrence

June 10. 2016 5:31PM

NEW BEDFORD — Persistence paid off Friday in the North End, as Lorenzo Vazquez and several family members and friends opened their new Puerto Rican bakery — a dream long in the making — on Acushnet Avenue.

“Dream, and keep dreaming, and don’t wake up until your dreams come true,” Vazquez said to a small crowd, standing beneath the Lorenzo’s Bakery sign moments after receiving an honorary citation from city officials, in recognition of the opening.

Lorenzo’s Bakery bills itself as a panaderia y reposteria — Spanish for “bakery and cake shop” — that’s “Home of Original Puerto Rican Bread,” according to its sign at Acushnet and Phillips Avenue, across Acushnet from Café Mimo.

An array of pastries, desserts, donuts, breads and more filled the bakery’s display cases Friday morning. Menus also listed sandwiches, fried foods, flavored ices, espresso and other items, for breakfast, lunch and in between.

Behind the counter, co-owner Rafael Sanchez said interior renovations took about a year at the corner location, at 1533 Acushnet. The renovations followed about two years of site selection and planning, he said.

“It’s been a lot of work,” said Sanchez, who was born in Cambridge but grew up in Cidra, Puerto Rico, before moving to New Bedford in 1995.

“Cidra, PR,” is painted decoratively on a column in the café area, and “Bayamon” — a city on the island’s north coast — is on another. Maps of Puerto Rico adorn the ceiling and an upper wall.

Lorenzo’s opened with support from the New Bedford Economic Development Council (EDC), which helped Vazquez secure a $50,000 microloan from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Nadine Boone, the administration’s director of lender relations in Massachusetts, attended Friday’s opening, which was held on the sidewalk under a clear blue sky.

“We are here to make dreams like this come true,” Boone said.

Nancy Durant, lending and compliance specialist for the EDC, said the typical repayment period for such a loan is five years, with an interest rate of 6 percent.

Angela Johnston, the EDC’s director of business development, said the loan is part of $350,000 the EDC has received from the Small Business Administration, to boost local efforts such as Lorenzo’s.

Amid all the good news Friday morning, two of the happiest people at the opening were Joseph and Angelina Monteiro, who have owned the building since about 1995.

Angelina said the bakery’s site has been vacant that entire time. She and Joseph used it for storage, she said, while paying $2,000 a month for the mortgage with rents from other homes they own in the area. She declined to say what Vazquez would pay for rent, but smiled at the long-awaited source of revenue.

Angelina said she turned down a few potential business offers at the corner spot over the years, but chose Vazquez for a simple reason.

“Because he kept calling me and calling me,” Monteiro said, citing his strong work ethic.

Mayor Jon Mitchell said hard work is yielding results in the “resurgence” of the North End Business District, where, for example, Portuguese bakery Chocolate com Pimenta unveiled sparkling renovations in March, a few blocks south.

“The avenue is a place where the American melting pot really comes together,” Mitchell said. “(Lorenzo’s) is going to be very, very successful — they’ve got the right stuff.”

Follow Mike Lawrence on Twitter @MikeLawrenceSCT

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True Bounce’s backboards take urban basketball to next level

By Steve Urbon

June 25. 2016 3:26PM

NEW BEDFORD — Think sporting goods in this city and you think golf balls. But a fledgling company in the North End is making a reputation all its own with a patented basketball backboard that they call True Bounce.

President Wayne Newton and Eric Britto, director of sports development, are the executives behind a product that is quickly being adopted by municipalities in major cities for the dramatic improvement it makes in the game of basketball.

The principle is simple but effective. True Bounce makes their backboards out of acrylic, not glass or metal, and they drill perforations across the face of the equipment.

That allows for up to 28 percent of the energy from a layup to be dispersed through the backboard, slowing down the ball and making rebounds and jump shots much more manageable. Newton and Britto contend that their product will change the game as players once again use the backboard as compared to avoiding it.

Today True Bounce is being embraced by amateur players in major cities; Nike embraced it, too, with a spring advertising campaign that depicted the slogan “Just Do It” and the Nike swoosh with a picture of a True Bounce basketball backboard.

This, the True Bounce team contends, is the kind of player connection with what was regarded as a standardized and unimproved piece of equipment. The hope is that the NCAA and eventually the pros will adopt the patented technology.

True Bounce, with just six employees, works out of a second-floor factory building on Conduit Street near Joseph Abboud. Newton and Britto spoke with The Standard-Times recently; the interview has been edited for clarity and space.

How did Nike come to recognize your product?

Newton: We are the preferred backboard for New York City along with Boston, Atlanta, San Francisco … We’re are a retrofit company as well as a new manufacturer so we have the ability to retrofit and that’s what really gave us our start, our ability to go and save the city a bunch of money without having to rip up pole systems and put in new asphalt new concrete, and allow them to beautify their parks with a minimal amount of money.

So you give the you give the existing system a makeover with the new perforated backboard attached to it?

Newton: That is correct.

How many of these have you done?

Newton: We’re approaching 2,000 right now. Again, we are the preferred backboard for Boston, New York City, Maryland National, Atlanta, Sacramento, San Francisco, and so on and so forth. We’re in all the specifications for New York City.

What is it like teaming up with Nike?

Newton: Well, we’re not technically saying we’re teaming up with Nike. Nike has basically taken our product because of its relationships with players in the urban setting. They have tied the excellence of their product with what we believe is the excellence of our product to the excellence of New York City basketball. And what you are seeing here is not just an outdoor product because they’ve taken it to the indoors as well as outdoors.

So in New York City the rebound being reduced but not eliminated is becoming the new normal?

Newton: That’s correct.

So everybody is getting used to this?

Newton: Let’s not forget that a basketball backboard has never been like a golfer’s golf club or a baseball player’s bat or a football player’s helmet. It has always been a part of the building. So people have never acknowledged that the basketball backboard as a part of their equipment. So this is why it’s been such a challenge for Eric and I to really get this to the industry because they’ve never ever challenged the backboard in a hundred years. So we’ve ve now challenged the backboard in such a position where they don’t know what to do.

Now the backboard is in play?

Newton: Not only is it in play but we’ve actually got players attending city meetings, councils and groups, to get the backboards changed to True Bounce. It was in Brooklyn where they went in there and they had the backboards changed after the project was almost done. They demanded the True Bounce.

And obviously Nike is seeing that because the players know to look for these backboards?

Britto: Nike attracts the best players in the best playgrounds in the best city. Nike sees what the players prefer up there and they write it down and they put it in their slogan for a spring marketing campaign.

Newton: They basically didn’t involve us at all. That’s why we believe they tied the excellence of their name to the excellence of our product to the excellence of street ball in New York City.

Britto: We’re saying that we’ve got worldwide exposure because our product is the best. It’s a unique situation.

What is it like doing business in New Bedford for a company your size? 

Newton: It has been good. We went through some tough times in the recession. It was very difficult at times to tie the financial end of it to the burdens of what they (municipalities) were cutting from spending. But we were savvy enough to get this thing to the point it is today. We’ve been on a steady increase since 2012. We were up at least 20 percent from ’12 to ’13 we increased by 23 percent, from ’13 to ’14 it was 23 percent and last year ’14 to ’15 we increased by 68 percent

Britto: And this is an industry that doesn’t need any more backboards.

You’ve got something that everybody wants as soon as they understand it?

Newton: Yes, yes. The brand that we created is now being demanded.

Britto: We’ve tied the backboard to the player is basically what we’ve done.

Do people realize you are manufacturing this in New Bedford?

Newton: A lot of people haven’t. You’re absolutely right, and I think that’s why this is a big story because something great is being made in New Bedford again besides Titleist and we’re going to be the next one.

Senate bill would boost state’s reliance on renewable energy

Associated Press

Friday, June 24, 2016

BOSTON — Leaders in the Massachusetts Senate have unveiled legislation designed to ramp up the state’s reliance on renewable energy sources, including offshore wind and hydropower.

The plan, detailed Friday, establishes more aggressive energy targets than a similar bill approved by the House this month.

The Senate bill would set a goal for utilities to sign long-term contracts for 2,000 megawatts of offshore wind energy, compared to 1,200 megawatts in the House bill. It also would set a goal of 1,500 megawatts from other sources of renewable energy, including hydropower, compared to 1,200 megawatts set in the House proposal.

Under the Senate bill, utilities would be encouraged to buy energy storage systems to help stockpile solar and wind energy. The bill would also look at ways to promote energy efficiency in homes.

The bill got mixed reviews from energy producers and environmental groups Friday.

Dan Dolan, president of the New England Power Generators Association — a trade association representing competitive electric generating companies in New England — said the Senate legislation could lead to “a dramatic increase in electricity prices for Massachusetts businesses and consumers.”

Dolan said that by setting ambitious goals for hydropower and offshore wind, the bill could freeze out other, lower-cost sources of electricity production in the state.

“Proposals like this are a dramatic step backwards,” Dolan said in a statement.

Cathy Buckley, chair of the Massachusetts Sierra Club, hailed the bill, saying it aligns with a recent Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling that sided with environmental groups that sued the state for failing to meet the requirements of a 2008 state law by not setting strict limits on greenhouse gas emissions.

“Our senators have also listened to their constituents, who are eager to transition quickly to our clean, local, renewable energy future,” Buckley said in a press release.

Democratic leaders in both chambers and Republican Gov. Charlie Baker have called the push for a comprehensive energy bill a top priority of the legislative session that ends July 31.

Massachusetts, which already has some of the highest energy costs in the nation, is facing a number of power challenges including replacing energy that has left or will be leaving the New England energy grid in the coming years. That includes the scheduled 2019 shutdown of the Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Plymouth.

In April, Baker signed a bill raising caps on the state’s net metering program. Net metering allows homeowners, solar developers and municipal governments to sell excess power they generate back to the electricity grid in exchange for credit.

Baker has also been a vocal supporter of tapping into Canadian hydropower.

The Senate is expected to debate the bill next week.

Original Article Here:

Your View: Wind energy is already an American industry

By Paul Vigeant

June 26. 2016 2:01AM

We tend to think of wind power as something the Europeans do, but the United States has a robust and growing sector that leads the world in land-based wind energy.

More than 50,000 turbines stand along ridge lines, prairies and hilltops across the United States. Installed capacity recently surpassed 70 gigawatts — enough to power more than 19 million typical American homes — and is expected to double in the next five years, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

In fact, the wind energy sector installed more electric generating capacity last year than any other energy source in America. The U.S. Department of Energy says wind is on track to supply 10 percent of the country’s electricity by 2020, 20 percent by 2030 and 35 percent by 2050.

While the supply of wind energy goes up, costs to the consumer go down. Today, energy supplied by the wind is as cheap or cheaper per megawatt hour than natural gas. And the cost of wind has shown a steady decline — 66 percent from 2009 to 2014, while volatile natural gas prices have brought consumers painful price spikes.

Europe has indeed demonstrated how offshore wind can supply clean, affordable and plentiful energy, but the United States has been building technology and know-how that can help launch this new sector on this side of the Atlantic.

A typical wind turbine has more than 8,000 components, and those pieces are manufactured in 500 plants in 43 U.S. states, AWEA reports. Manufacturing facilities in this country have the capability of producing about 10,200 megawatts of turbine nacelles, more than 10,000 blades, and more than 3,100 towers annually. Nearly 90 percent of the wind power capacity installed in the United States during 2015 used a turbine manufacturer with at least one United States production site.

As annual wind project installations grow — AWEA reports an average growth of 13 percent a year over the past five years — businesses will find more and more reasons to join the wind energy supply chain. Already, the sector is having an important economic effect.

We look overseas for examples of how wind energy can transform cities. And the examples of Cuxhaven and Bremerhaven in Germany and Hull, England, are impressive. But in the middle of our own country, Newton, Iowa, used wind energy to help reverse a trend of growing unemployment. In 2006, hundreds of workers lost their jobs when a major manufacturer shut its doors. Two years later, Trinity Structural Towers, a Texas wind tower manufacturer, started retrofitting 300,000 square feet of that plant to produce steel and concrete wind towers. Also that year, TPI Composites opened a 316,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Newton, employing 500 workers to produce fiberglass blades for the wind industry.

While workers are needed to produce turbines, others are required to install and maintain them. The U.S. Department of Labor projects that the fastest growing occupation in the next 20 years will be wind turbine technician, a job that requires training, but no college degree, and paid a median annual salary of $51,050 in May 2015.

Offshore wind will benefit coastal populations and struggling port cities as a source of energy and jobs. In New Bedford, dwindling catches and tightening regulations have put fishermen out of work. But fishermen and other members of the region’s maritime workforce have skills that, with some training, could readily serve offshore wind. Similarly, workers in the oil and gas industry in the Gulf of Mexico are already working on the DeepWater Wind pilot offshore wind project being installed off of Rhode Island.

We should look to Europe for their experience in offshore wind. We can learn from their mistakes, benefit from their learning curve and see the potential of this renewable energy sector.

Joining that experience with U.S. know-how in onshore wind will create has a powerful framework for a new American energy industry.

Paul Vigeant is executive director of the New Bedford Wind Energy Center and vice president for workforce development for Bristol Community College.

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Plan: $148 million on South Coast Rail over five years

By Kathleen McKiernan

April 14. 2016 7:14PM

NEW BEDFORD — South Coast Rail would receive $148 million over the next five years from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, according to its draft capital plan released this week.

The draft plan includes a total of $222 million for local infrastructure projects statewide and will move to a final vote by the MassDOT Board in mid- to late May.

Under the planned spending, South Coast Rail, Route 18 redevelopment, the CoveWalk atop the hurricane barrier, and New Bedford Regional Airport would all see funding for improvements. While South Coast Rail would receive the largest chunk, the airport would get about $18.9 million for infrastructure improvements.

Towns throughout  SouthCoast also would secure funding for bridge replacements, maintenance work and stormwater improvements, according to the plan.

In Acushnet, the bridge replacement project over Hamlin Street over the Acushnet River would see $2.3 million. Dartmouth road projects on Tucker Road and I-195 maintenance would get $17.4 million. Stormwater improvements along Routes 240 and 6 in Fairhaven is slated for $228,659.

Route 18 in New Bedford would see an additional $8,488,789 for upgrades.

State Sen. Mark Montigny said the area projects will “define the future of the economy of the region.”

“The impact is enormous,” he said. “First, just the sheer job creation from infrastructure jobs. One of the best ways for the public sector to stimulate the economy is bridge and road work.”

“As someone who has been passionate about this for years, we feel very positive because of everything MassDOT and the administration has had to deal with as a result of last year’s winter and years of deferred and nonexistent maintenance. This is encouraging,” said Jean C. Fox, the project manager for South Coast Rail.

City Council President Linda Morad said, “it is one step closer to us getting it done,” referring to long-sought rail connection to Boston.

“It would be a very big economic boost to the area,” Morad said. “As someone who commuted for 20-plus years, people in the SouthCoast need that type of transportation.”

Residents, she said, have helped pay for transportation projects across the state and it is their turn now.

MassDOT will hold a series of meetings throughout the state to solicit public input on its draft five-year, multibillion dollar plan. It will hold its New Bedford meeting at the downtown public library on April 28.

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