SouthCoast Rail Planned for 2016

By David Kibbe
Standard-Times Staff Writer

Trains would be rolling to Fall River and New Bedford by December 2016 — nearly a decade from now — under a commuter rail plan Gov. Deval Patrick will announce at UMass Dartmouth today, according to sources familiar with a private briefing by the state’s transportation secretary.

Transportation Secretary Bernard Cohen also gave SouthCoast lawmakers a new price tag on the proposed extension of the MBTA’s Stoughton Line, which originates at South Station in Boston: a whopping $1.4 billion. Previous estimates on the cost of extending rail to SouthCoast were $800 million to $1 billion.

The key to bringing the train to New Bedford and Fall River will be finding a source of money for the project, something Gov. Patrick may elaborate on when he gives a presentation to local leaders at 10 a.m. today at UMass Dartmouth’s Woodland Commons Building.

Mr. Cohen did not commit to a funding source in his private, hour-long meeting with SouthCoast legislators in the governor’s office late yesterday afternoon. The governor spoke to the group briefly.

His time line to finish the rail project is half that of former Gov. Mitt Romney, who had projected 20 years.
Legislators were tight-lipped as they left the meeting, but they were smiling. They uniformly called the meeting positive. Transportation officials said no official announcement would be made until today.

“It’s an aggressive plan,” said Rep. Stephen R. Canessa, D-New Bedford. “I’m looking forward to hearing what he has to say at UMass Dartmouth. I think the people of the SouthCoast will be pleased with what the governor has to say.”

According to sources familiar with the plan, the administration would get a project manager in place quickly to get design and permitting moving. The administration expects to bond up to $17 million in the next few years for preliminary work on the rail line.

The administration also pledged to forge ahead on negotiations with CSX Corp., which owns much of the existing rail line to the SouthCoast.

The governor’s plan would expand capacity at South Station, including the relocation of a main Post Office facility. New Bedford-Fall River rail would be responsible for $31 million of the station expansion, only part of the overall cost of making South Station larger.

Mr. Cohen told legislators a federal permit would be needed from the Army Corps of Engineers to extend the line through the environmentally sensitive Hockomock Swamp. Local officials had been led to believe in the past that a federal permit would not be needed.

“I believe what we have for the first time is an honest governor and an honest administration, who will tell us realistic projections on the time line and environmental permitting,” said Sen. Mark C.W. Montigny, D-New Bedford, who has fought for bonding and law changes to make the rail project possible during 16 years in the Senate.

Sen. Montigny said he had faith that Gov. Patrick would deliver, but much work was needed to see the project through to completion.

“I believe the secretary and the governor are fully committed to working together with us to get it done,” Sen. Montigny said. “That’s the most you can ask for in a project of this scope.”

Sen. Marc R. Pacheco, D-Taunton, agreed that the governor was “fully committed to building it, but there are a lot of what ifs,” particularly with a funding source.

Gov. Patrick will appear at UMass Dartmouth today with Mr. Cohen, Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray, a big proponent of regional rail, and other members of his development cabinet. His presentation comes a week after the Massachusetts Transportation Finance Commission released a report saying the state had a deficit of up to $19 billion just to maintain its existing roads, bridges, rail and public transportation networks. The MBTA alone has a $2.7 billion backlog in projects, not including expansion.

Rep. Antonio F.D. Cabral, D-New Bedford, is getting interest in his bill to fund commuter rail expansions outside Boston through a mix of existing and new revenue sources. They include some fees that are no longer needed for the Big Dig, and new revenue sources like a “green” fee that would be more costly to owners of trucks and SUVs.
Rep. Cabral was optimistic following the meeting with Mr. Cohen.

“The service might not start when all of us wish it would, but I think the governor is committed, and this is going to happen,” Rep. Cabral said.

Publication date: April 04, 2007

City Hopes Scallops Will Hook Buyers

City Hopes Scallops Will Hook Buyers
‘Aggressive’ Campaign to Market Seafood Overseas
By Becky W. Evans, Standard-Times Staff Writer

The world could be New Bedford’s oyster. Or at least provide a wider market for its scallops.
That’s what economic officials are hoping as they explore ways to better promote the port’s fresh and frozen seafood products to foreign markets.

High demand for scallops in France, Spain, Italy and other countries could create lucrative export opportunities for New Bedford seafood companies and bring economic benefits to the city, said Matthew A. Morrissey, executive director of the New Bedford Economic Development Council.

Mr. Morrissey is courting state and regional business, trade and tourism agencies to help market New Bedford scallops and seafood overseas.

According to Seafood Export USA Northeast, scallops are the largest-growing seafood export in the Northeast. Scallops have put New Bedford on the map as the most valuable fishing port in the country — a title the city has held for the past six years.

In 2005, New Bedford’s seafood landings were valued at $282.5 million, thanks to scallop prices that soared to about $10 per pound. The seafood industry’s impact on the local economy has been estimated at $1.6 billion, about six times the catch value.

During a brainstorming session, Mr. Morrissey met with Tobias Stapleton of the International Trade Assistance Center, Michael P. Sullivan of the Massachusetts Export Center and Kristin Decas, executive director of the New Bedford Harbor Development Commission.

They discussed conducting a study to identify ways to grow the seafood industry, and considered how to increase New Bedford’s presence at upcoming seafood shows in Boston and Brussels.

The group decided the next step must be to gather industry input and research what other states and regions are doing to promote their own seafood products.

New Bedford Mayor Scott W. Lang called during the meeting to voice his support for promoting New Bedford seafood worldwide.

“We need to expand our efforts,” he said. “We must be very, very aggressive.”

Mr. Stapleton said he is planning a seminar to educate the industry about the scallop market in France, including the country’s regulations regarding chemical additives. Scallops are considered a luxury in France, where they are served on holidays and special occasions in the same way lobster is consumed in the United States, he said.

The exploratory working group will continue to meet about once every two weeks, Mr. Morrissey said. The group’s findings will be submitted to the mayor for review, he said.

Contact Becky W. Evans at revans@s-t.com
Publication date: April 11, 2007

Committee Backs Lofty Mill Project

Committee Backs Lofty Mill Project
Development Plan Includes Hotel, Marina, Condominiums
By Aaron Nicodemus, Standard-Times Staff Writer

NEW BEDFORD — An ambitious plan that includes building a hotel, office and condos over a Home Depot-led retail project has been recommended by the committee considering two development proposals at Fairhaven Mills.

Eleven of the 23 committee members making a recommendation to Mayor Scott W. Lang said they favored the plan from the Boston development company of Samuel & Associates. That plan calls for a $150 million proposal with housing, office space, a hotel, preserved mill and marina that offered to pay the city $1 million for its 6 acres at the site.

Urban Investment Associates of Milton, a development company with questionable credentials, had been listed as the lead developer. However, last week, Samuels announced an agreement to purchase a large private tract of land on the site and is apparently the financial and development muscle behind the Urban proposal.

Five members favored the proposal from Dickinson Development of Quincy, which proposed to pay the city $200,000 for its parcels, knock down all existing buildings at the site, and build a $30 million to $40 million retail project with Home Depot, another unnamed retailer, a restaurant and bank.

Seven of the committee members — all city councilors — declined to submit an evaluation. Robert Kaye of the quasi-public state agency Mass Development, representing Mayor Lang, abstained from voting, since Mass Development will likely work with either developer on the project.

Mayor Lang said yesterday that he had not reviewed the recommendations yet, but that he will choose a proposal within a week.

Ward 5 Councilor Jane M. Gonsalves, who favored the hotel/office/condos over the Home Depot, said the larger project was the better proposal.

“I just thought the project more closely exhibited what the city was looking for in terms of an economic development engine,” she said. “I don’t see that putting a big-box retailer there addressed the economic development needs of the area.”

Councilor-at-large Debora Coelho, who favored the Home Depot project, said Dickinson Development had a business plan, while the other proposal was just a design. She did not like it that the hotel/office/condo project was so dependent on city, state and federal financial help, or that while Home Depot would be built in 18 months, the other project could take a decade.

“The Home Depot development addressed two crucial things: the environment, and traffic,” she said. “The other proposal did not address those things at all. I think the neighborhood doesn’t need any more housing. Commercial and business is really the way to go on that site.”

Several of the committee members complained about the way the evaluations were tallied, because simply adding up the responses did not clearly indicate how they felt about the project.

Committee members were asked to evaluate the proposals based on a series of criteria, including experience, design, the completeness of the proposal and how closely it met certain development criteria, like job creation and economic development. A score of four was given when a member gave a “highly advantageous” rank, while a score of one was given to “least advantageous.” Committee members were encouraged to provide written comments, as well.

Ward 3 Councilor Joe F. DeMedeiros was one of those who thought adding up his responses did not reflect how he felt about the project. While adding up his responses put him slightly in favor of the Home Depot project, he said the two projects were even in his eyes.

“The Urban Investment proposal was clearly the superior project, the ideal and best use of the land,” he said. “Home Depot’s a safe bet, and the other one is a gamble. I thought that both projects probably came out even.”

Councilor Denis Lawrence Jr. said that he, too, thought they were even. His evaluation added up to slightly favor the Home Depot project, but he said he “didn’t even add them up” before submitting his evaluation.

Part of the problem for figuring out who favored what was that Purchasing Agent Debra Travers only released the scores of the evaluations, without releasing the entire evaluations themselves. Several committee members said their comments indicated how they felt about the projects strengths and weaknesses.

So based on that information, the voting broke down like this:
Strongly favoring the hotel/office/condo project were Mr. Morrissey, Ms. Gonsalves, City Planner David Kennedy and Historic Planner Anne Louro. Favoring the hotel project were Ms. Travers, City Environmental Planner Scott Alfonse, Community Development director Patrick Sullivan, Assessor administrator Peter S. Barney, and Ronald Labelle, Superintendent of Public Infrastructure. Slightly favoring the hotel project were Superintendent of Public Works Larry Worden and Building Inspector Ronald Durgin.

Strongly favoring the Home Depot project were Ms. Coelho and Normand Audette, the acting city treasurer. Favoring Home Depot was Acting City Auditor Peter Schmidt, while slightly favoring Home Depot were Councilors DeMedeiros and Lawrence.
Councilor David Alves, who did not submit an evaluation, said he was not happy with either proposal.

“It’s too good a site for a big box retail, and it’s too good to wait for 10 years for it to develop,” he said. “After listening to both presentations, I think we can do better.”

Councilor Alves also said he believed that Mayor Lang had made up his mind already, in favor of the hotel/office/condos project.

“I met with a group of investors from New York this morning (yesterday), and the city officials there were talking about the Urban proposal as if it were a given,” he said. Attending the meeting were Matthew A. Morrissey, the executive director of the New Bedford Economic Development Council, as well as Mayor Lang.

Mr. Morrissey said he had not indicated his preference for either project until submitting his evaluation yesterday afternoon, which favored the hotel/office/condo project by a larger margin than any other member.

“I have been very balanced about the project until today,” he said. “I have been very careful in my capacity as executive director to be as unbiased as possible in this process.”

For his part, Mayor Lang said he got to the meeting late and never heard any discussion of the Fairhaven Mills project.
Also not submitting any evaluation were Ward 1 Councilor Linda M. Morad, who said she missed all the meetings because of an illness in the family; Councilor-at-large Brian K. Gomes, who said he would submit an evaluation this morning that slightly favored the hotel project; as well as Councilor-at-large John T. Saunders, Ward 2 Councilor Paul Koczera, Ward 4 Councilor Viola Pina, and Ward 6 Councilor Leo R. Pimental, who did not return calls seeking comment.

Contact Aaron Nicodemus at anicodemus@s-t.com
Publication date: April 10, 2007

Real Estate Developers Find Treasures in Downtown New Bedford

Jessica Raimondi, Standard-Times special. New Renaissance Realty developer Jim Muse led the remodeling of the former Standard-Times building into luxury apartments.

New Bedford – Two real estate developers have recently made major investments in New Bedford’s downtown with the purchase of a building in the middle of the Whaling National Historic Park at Five Dover Street and another with the rehabilitation of the former Standard-Times and Boys Club buildings at Purchase and Market Street into luxury condominiums.

Burgess Properties, Inc., one of greater Boston’s premier commercial real estate firms, will be opening a SouthCoast office in the 22,000 SF office building situated in the middle of the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park. The building is 90% leased to several prestigious tenants such as C. Raymond Hunt Associates and The South Coast Learning Network. The property was brokered by Jeff Pontiff of E.J. Pontiff Real Estate with a purchase price of just under $1.2 million.

Phillip K. Burgess, president Burgess Properties, Inc., said the company had been interested in expanding operations into the SouthCoast market for a few years “as this region is seeing more real growth in housing, retail and population than any other area of Massachusetts. The entire Route 195 corridor, from Fall River to New Bedford is booming. When Five Dover Street presented itself, it seemed like the right opportunity.”

Over the past five years, in and around the Whaling National Historical Park, there has been an explosion of historic condominium rehab projects, new restaurants and a vibrant arts community. Last November, the federal government presented a $6,000,000.00 grant for the rehabilitation of one of the largest buildings in the Park into a new interpretative center and visitor headquarters, construction on which is already underway.

These reasons, coupled with the fact that one of America’s premier yacht designers, C. Raymond Hunt Associates (www.huntyachts.com) just moved its offices from Boston’s waterfront into the property last fall, are why Burgess Properties decided that this was the right deal for them to move on.

“We have opened a New Bedford office in Five Dover Street to service our existing New Bedford exclusive listings, several of which are part to the former Interstate Bakeries (Sunbeam Bread) portfolio that was purchased by a Boston-based investor group last fall. In addition to these properties, we have also secured a number of other industrial and office listings. We are very excited about the region and the opportunities we are finding here. The New Bedford renaissance is real,” Mr. Burgess said.

A few blocks away there was cause for celebration recently when the City of New Bedford and real estate developer New Renaissance Realty, Bristol County Savings Bank, Stephen Kelleher Architects, Caldwell Residential Real Estate, and others opened the Market Street Condominiums. The condos, located in the heart of downtown New Bedford, will provide 17 condos, along with 3500 square feet of retail and commercial space.

The Market Street Condominiums have been renovated into luxury units ranging in size from 1500-3000 square feet featuring every modern amenity while preserving the Victorian charm. “This project is a prime example of adaptive reuse of historical buildings by the private sector,” said Jim Muse, president and CEO of New Renaissance Realty.

“This project, a true public-private partnership, will build our residency base and promote urban living. A 24-hour population in the downtown area will spur economic development and will serve as a model for a 21st-century environmentally friendly lifestyle,” said Mayor Scott W. Lang.

New Renaissance Realty has redeveloped three additional historic buildings including the former Smith Office Supply, the Tabor Market Building, and the former Jimmy Conners Building. These projects have transformed vacant, run-down properties that once failed to generate substantial tax revenue into vibrant commercial and residential space that is subsequently encouraged further investment in the downtown area.

The redevelopment of the Market Street building has yielded more than 45 new jobs in the areas of education, food service, technology, real estate and banking. New Renaissance Realty takes pride in having given first preference and employment contracts to New Bedford and SouthCoast area companies and residents.

“Bristol County is one of the fastest growing areas in the state. Now, New Bedford provides young professionals and baby boomers looking to move out of the suburbs and into an urban center, many amenities including a world-class performing arts center, outstanding restaurants and galleries, all situated in a historic waterfront setting and within walking distance,” said New Bedford Economic Development Council executive director Matthew A. Morrissey.

New Renaissance Realty is a wholly own subsidiary of Buyer’s Professional Real Estate Services Inc. They are particularly proud of the recognition they have received from the New Bedford Preservation Society and The Waterfront Historic League (WHALE) and Downtown New Bedford Inc. They are committed to continuing to preserve New Bedford’s History and to positively impact the city’s economy.

For more information about the Market Street condominiums call Maureen Cavanaugh (508) 965-5877 or visit www.newbedfordrealty.com.

The City of New Bedford and the New Bedford Economic Development Council Announce Major Loan Recapitalization

Photo credit: Deborah L. Hynes

Banks announce financial commitment

NEW BEDFORD – Mayor Scott W. Lang and New Bedford Economic Development Council executive director Matthew A. Morrissey announced a $4,645,000 million recapitalization of the NBEDC loan pool that supports the lending program for city small business development. The announcement was made at a press conference April 3rd in the Charles S. Ashley Room in New Bedford City Hall with representatives of the eight participating banks, members of the City Council, city department heads and members of the NBEDC board of directors and the Council, economic development partners, business owners, and interested citizens attending. The loan recapitalization announced today nearly doubles the existing loan pool.

The eight banks contributing to the loan pool are: Citizens Bank, Bank of America, Sovereign Bank, Webster Bank, Bank Five, Citizen Union Savings Bank, Slade’s Bank and Rockland Trust.

In addition, the community organization-based Pelham Fund added to the loan pool.
“The major commitments of these banks and the community organization to support business development in the City of New Bedford, strengthens our economy one business at a time. The cumulative effect is good news for job growth in New Bedford,” said Mayor Lang. “We are very grateful for their participation and we commend them for their important work in building the future of this city.”

“Citizens Bank is pleased to partner with Mayor Lang and the Economic Development Council on this important program,” said Robert E. Smyth, Chairman, President and CEO of Citizens Bank of Massachusetts. “As the number-one Small Business Administration lender in Massachusetts and throughout New England, Citizens Bank recognizes that small business is the engine that fuels economic growth, and we are proud to make this investment in the future of the New Bedford economy.”

Last year the NBEDC loan pool underwrote a total of 34 loans totaling $2,240,470 leveraging $18,998,000 in private investment. These funds represent loans to start-up and existing companies for capital financing, gap financing and fishing loans for equipment and retrofitting vessels to comply with safety regulations. Lending in the last 6 months is up 230%.

“Investing, and in many cases reinvesting, in the recapitalization of the NBEDC loan pool in this very substantial way, is yet further evidence of the faith this community has in itself and the NBEDC,” said Tony Sapienza, newly elected chairman of the NBEDC board of directors. “I see the combined effort of so many lending institutions as an indication of serious financial commitment to business and workforce opportunity in New Bedford.”

Mr. Morrissey said, “It’s small business that creates two out of every three new jobs. The funds will help existing business, driving job creation and retention. We are grateful to each organization who stepped forward to create greater opportunity for small business growth in New Bedford.”

Peter Selley, Bristol County Savings Bank Senior Vice President and chairman of the NBEDC loan committee said “New Bedford’s small businesses need working capital and equipment financing that these monies provide. For all of my bank colleagues on the loan committee, we say thank you to each of the participating banks for this endorsement of the work of the NBEDC.”

For more information on how to apply for funds through the NBEDC, please contact Nancy Gibeau at 508-991-3122 x 13.

NBEDC 2007 Loan Pool Recapitalization
Participating Organizations
Citizens Bank $1,500,000
Bank of America $750,000
Sovereign Bank $575,000
Webster Bank $500,000
Bank Five $350,000
Citizen Union Savings Bank $350,000
Slade’s Bank $350,000
Rockland Trust $250,000
Pelham Fund $20,000
TOTAL $4,645,000

2007 NBEDC Annual Meeting Reports Increased Activity With Plans for More

2006 Annual Report (1.3 MB PDF)

Over 150 people gathered for the New Bedford Economic Development Council 2007 Annual Meeting at the Joseph Abboud Manufacturing site on March 20. Present at the meeting were, business owners who have benefited from NBEDC programs, the NBEDC Board of Directors, members of the Council, state and local economic partners, city officials, owners of prospective businesses, and investors.

Welcoming the Council and guests, Tony Sapienza, 2007 Board Chairman and President of Joseph Abboud, Mfg. Corp., said holding the annual meeting on the floor of a manufacturing facility was testament to the NBEDC focus on the true value of New Bedford’s thriving small businesses and entrepreneurs, and to New Bedford’s industrial history.

The 2006 Annual Report distributed to the group lays the framework for 2007 activities and highlights the 2006 NBEDC lending program: up by 230%, with 34 loans totaling $2,240,470 and a total amount leveraged of $18,998,000. Five small businesses that benefited from the loan program are featured, and start-up, existing and fishing loans given are listed.

Following is a summary of the meeting.

Speaking to the group, Mayor Scott Lang said the NBEDC Board members entice other business to come to New Bedford. “You are our diplomats and our ambassadors who have come out to help us with the economic development process The Council has been a tremendous ally to this administration in a very up-front, above-board way.”

The Mayor continued by saying the Council has helped him through some interesting issues regarding business climate policies, and they have helped him as friends, giving him council and talking up the city with more enthusiasm and conviction than ever before.

Acknowledging the many city department heads attending the meeting, the Mayor said, “City government cannot be successful without a firm partnership between the private and the public sectors.” He invited anyone with a specific question to use this opportunity to “prod” any department head along.

The Mayor told the group that earlier in the day he had met with Ian Bowles, the newly appointed Massachusetts Secretary of Environmental Affairs who visited the city specifically to make sure New Bedford was in the forefront regarding environmental issues. “The Secretary told me, he’s never visited a place where all the department heads have come in, introduced themselves and explained what issues they have with the state and how we can cut through red tape.”

“We want to save jobs. We want to keep New Bedford in a situation that we are growing rather than facing another closing.” he said.

Mayor Lang thanked the banking community and said there will be an announcement in the next few weeks of a tremendous enhancement of our lending abilities.

Mr. Lang said, “Matt Morrissey has come on as executive director of the council. He has done a fantastic job. He has brought the energy, the inside perseverance needed in this role. The perseverance is the key – day in day out – banging his head against any doors he has to. Mr. Morrissey is tenacious in pitching New Bedford in a positive way, which is exactly what we need.”

In closing, Mayor Lang stated that he does not need anyone to state the obvious problems any longer. He knows the obvious problems. “Everyone in the room understands them. We are working to overcome them everyday. We need people to step forward to help the city move to the next venture day in and day out, helping swinging away for the betterment of this city. The days of putting on a “Hair” shirt and bemoaning the fact that you live in New Bedford are over.”

Outgoing board chairman, Scott Costa noted that the past year has been one of growth and transition. “The NBEDC is the only organization charged with facilitating the creation and retention of jobs throughout the entire City of New Bedford. I am proud to have played a part in the implementation of a structure and growing partnerships that fosters dialogue around an inclusive table,” he added.

He pointed to several areas of growth and economic progress. “It seems that more than ever, developers and investors are interested in our city.

“As the outgoing board chairman, I am assured the organization is stronger than ever. As a businessman born and operating in New Bedford, I am enthused about our future,” Mr. Costa said.

Newly elected to the council are: Bill Davis, CEO of Ze-gen, a Boston based Alternative Energy Company who has chosen New Bedford to build its proof-of-concept facility which turns construction debris into natural gas; Katherine Knowles, Executive Director of the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center; John Lees, President of Mar-Lees Seafood, one of New Bedford’s leading distributor of scallops across the globe; Joe Nauman, Executive Vice President, of the Acushnet Company, maker of Titleist, the world’s premier brand in golf.

Board chairman, Tony Sapienza reminded the group that while the NBEDC is a private, 501(C)3, organization, it is also the lead economic development agency that the City of New Bedford entrusts with the awesome responsibility of economic growth and job growth. “There is no other institution that has that single laser focus in that capacity, and everyone should be the conveners of all the agencies and organizations that support economic development.

“And it does start with city government.” Mr. Sapienza said. “There is no economic development if the Fire Department doesn’t put out fires, if the Police Department does not keep our streets safe, if the Planning Department doesn’t have a master plan for the city, if the DPW doesn’t pick up the trash, and if the streets don’t get plowed. We are very pleased to see so many department heads who have joined us this evening. It truly is a partnership between this private organization that has representation from the city, but relies on the city government for all the services that make economic development possible.

Mr. Sapienza continues, “We will enhance our role as the conveners and facilitators of economic development. We will work with the WIB, WHALE, the Chamber of Commerce, SouthCoast Partnership, the Education Compact, South End and North End Business Associations. All of those groups are so committed to the development and the further development of this city.”

He said the council will continue to provide the leadership, the direction and the involvement so that the process can continue to go forward. “We will be salesman just as Titleist is salesman for the city, just as Joseph Abboud is a salesman to the city. All of us will be salesman or saleswomen for the city of New Bedford.”

He added, “It’s the responsibility of the board to ensure longevity necessary to do the job that we want to do. Of course we are reliant on the city for a huge part of our funding but there are other funding resources out there and we are going to be aggressive about securing them so that we can in fact go forward.”

Mr. Sapienza stated that it will not be an easy year. “There is a lot on our plates and we need to be prepared for it, be prepared to be asked, be prepared to deliver the kinds of help that we need to make this happen.”

Matthew Morrissey, NBEDC executive director, stated in his report that last year was a year of reorientation and increased activity. He invited the group to take a look at the annual report for highlights of the year’s activity. He stressed much more is needed, and much more is ahead.

Mr. Morrissey outlined the basic framework for 2007 activities that the people of New Bedford ought to expect, and what the organization will attempt to deliver with a clear, grounded strategic focus.

He outlined six key areas that guide the activity of the NBEDC and the business planning process to which the board and council will have input. Underlying the activities is a very proactive internal and external sales and marketing approach with a fundamental belief that what we have in New Bedford has enormous economic value.

“We are now operating with laser-like focus, an attitude of sales and marketing of all the wonderful assets we have in the city in the following five job creation areas: emerging sectors (marine science and technology, alternative energy, biotechnology, smart growth development), small business development, communications, workforce investment, and catalytic projects,” described Mr. Morrissey, adding about the latter that “certain projects like a new hotel in the city after 40 years, among several others, not only have both immediate job creation potential but present an opportunity to change the way we think of ourselves and our city.”

In other business, the Council elected Jim Mathes, Vice President, (Executive Director, SMILES Mentoring); Peter Kavanaugh, Treasurer, (President, Laz-y-Boy Furniture) and Randy Weeks, Clerk, (Partner, Partridge Snow and Hahn), and adopted amended bylaws and Conflict of Interest policy and procedures.

Science and Technology Jobs Could Employ Thousands

By Becky W. Evans
Standard-Times Staff Writer

Kiera Duffy, Standard-Times special illustration.

A decade from now, SouthCoast could emerge as a leader in biotechnology, medical devices, marine science and technology, alternative energy and environmental science.

Matthew A. Morrissey, executive director of the New Bedford Economic Development Council, said the emerging sectors could employ thousands with production jobs.

Already, the City of New Bedford is working with Fall River to establish a biotechnology testing facility, Mr. Morrissey said.
The facility would attract small biotechnology firms by providing a space “to accelerate the development of their drugs,” he said.

Paul Vigeant, assistant chancellor for economic development at UMass Dartmouth, said biotechnology “is the next great opportunity area for Massachusetts.

“New Bedford and Fall River can capture the growth of biotechnology once it’s out of research and development and into manufacturing,” he said.

While there are currently few biotechnology firms located in SouthCoast, Mr. Vigeant said there are about 35 to 40 manufactures of medical devices that employ a total of “a couple thousand” people.

The medical devices sector is a “hidden gem” of the local economy that “shows potential for growth,” he said.
Ideas for medical devices and other products are born in Boston’s teaching hospitals. Then, they travel south.
SouthCoast’s proximity to Boston and cheaper standard of living attracts manufacturers of medical devices and should continue to do so in the future, Mr. Vigeant said.

The marine science and technology sector is another blooming SouthCoast industry.
>From 2000 to 2005, the number of people employed in the sector in Southeastern Massachusetts nearly doubled from 523 to 1,018, said Dr. Clyde Barrow, director of the UMass Dartmouth Center for Policy Analysis.
“This is a very, very young industry,” Dr. Barrow said.

Coastal homeland security and oceanic research are the two markets driving industry growth, he said.
Companies choose SouthCoast for its seaside location and its position at the center of the region’s emerging marine technology corridor, which stretches from Fall River to Woods Hole, Dr. Barrow said.

The sector’s two largest SouthCoast employers are UMass Dartmouth School for Marine Science and Technology and Lockheed Martin Sippican, Inc., he said.

Most of the industry is composed of smaller companies that employ an average of 16 people, he said. Firms that specialize in engineering and consulting often employ just one or two people.

New Bedford’s Quest Center, an incubator for start-up marine technology firms, has attracted a handful of small companies, including one that specializes in scientific diving and another that designs launch and recovery systems for underwater robots.

BIRNS Aquamate, which sells underwater electrical connectors, recently outgrew its office at the Quest Center. The company moved into a larger space in New Bedford, where it will eventually manufacture the waterproof connectors.
David Sheehan, the center’s executive director, said BIRNS is a success story for the incubator, which aims to help companies grow and graduate to larger New Bedford offices.

In addition to marine science firms, the incubator is starting to attract companies that specialize in alternative energy and environmental science, Mr. Sheehan said.

Sustainable New Energy, which is housed in the Quest Center, is a developer of alternative energy solutions including wind, solar and thermal energy.

The center is also in negotiations with two environmental companies, Mr. Sheehan said. One company provides waste water treatment systems for residential and commercial customers. He described the other company as a “solution software group for environmental systems.”

If SouthCoast continues to act as a magnet for emerging science and technology industries, thousands of production jobs should follow within 10 years, Mr. Morrissey said.

“We’re gearing up for alternative energy, environment, marine science and technology, and biotechnology,” he said.

Contact Becky W. Evans at revans@s-t.com
Publication date: April 01, 2007

International Seafood Buyers Tour New Bedford

Over 45 international seafood buyers, mainly from Europe and Asia, participating in the 2007 International Boston Seafood Show, toured New Bedford to meet with some of the area’s leading seafood companies. With the group were members of the European seafood press and foreign trade representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The International Boston Seafood Show attracts top-tier buyers and sellers of the seafood industry from around the world with 88% of the visitors having purchasing authority, 85% of the visitors planning to return, and 76% of the visitors planning to make purchases as a result of attending IBSS.

The touring group visited the Whaling City Seafood Auction and four New Bedford seafood companies before attending a luncheon at the New Bedford Whaling Museum featuring New Bedford Mayor Scott W. Lang. The luncheon was organized and sponsored by the International Trade Assistance Center and the New Bedford Economic Development Council.

The third annual visit was sponsored by Food Export USA, a non-profit export promotion organization, specifically to promote northeastern U.S. seafood exports and organized by the Massachusetts Export Center, part of the state’s Small Business Development Center Network and the New Bedford Harbor Development Commission. The Export Center provides a broad range of services to Massachusetts exporters and operates a New Bedford office.

“We look forward to our seafood industry doing more business with your companies, whether it be selling or processing. We will do everything to make doing business with New Bedford attractive and lucrative.” Mayor Lang told the group.

The New Bedford seafood industry which supports scores of working families has a tremendous impact on the city’s economy. The fishing industry, under severe restrictions, has an impact of $1.6 billion.

“I was very surprised that countries from all over the world and states like Florida, Maine, and Washington had a presence, but there was nothing to represent Massachusetts. We are missing out on an important opportunity. Meeting with the delegation here in New Bedford is one step, but we need to do more.”

Mr. Morrissey said the city of New Bedford is just beginning to work with partners like the Massachusetts Department of agriculture, Massachusetts Export Center, Massachusetts Office of Business Development, Food Export USA, Seafood Council, and the International Trade Association Center to build a greater presence for New Bedford in the international markets.

Other organizations supporting the visit include the New Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, and the Bristol County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

BCC Pitches Expansion Plan for New Bedford Campus

By David Kibbe
Standard-Times Staff Writer

BOSTON — Bristol Community College is hoping to at least double its student enrollment in New Bedford next year from 1,200 to 2,400 students under a $1.2 million plan for more classroom space that BCC President John J. Sbrega, Mayor Scott W. Lang and legislators pitched to House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi yesterday.

The city and community college are looking for state financial support to lease space in another building downtown, in addition to the 8,000 square feet BCC already leases at the Star Store.

The exact location and size of the expansion hasn’t been finalized, but Mr. Sbrega said it could be as much as 30,000 additional square feet. Mr. Sbrega said it would be within several blocks of the Star Store, where the college would continue to teach classes, and could be ready by 2008.

“It’s a very important project,” Mr. Sbrega said yesterday, after addressing a Higher Education Committee hearing on community college issues. “We really need it.”

Long-term, the Fall River-based BCC and the city will seek state bonding to open a permanent New Bedford campus, but it could take years to complete.

Mr. Sbrega, Mayor Lang, Executive Director of the New Bedford Economic Development Council Matthew Morrissey, the city’s legislative delegation and BCC officials met with Mr. DiMasi in his Statehouse office.

Most of the group also saw Rep. Robert DeLeo, D-Winthrop, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
While the House leaders offer no commitments, the New Bedford delegation said it was receptive to the idea. The funding would come either from money in the state budget or capital bonding.

“The most important thing was to try to make a strong presentation, to make a full-court press that this was something we were serious about, and the fact that this was an unmet need,” said Rep. Robert M. Koczera, D-New Bedford. “This is a way for our region to pull ourselves up by its own bootstraps.”

The House Ways and Means Committee will unveil its budget proposal in April. The final state budget is due by July 1.
Rep. Antonio F.D. Cabral, D-New Bedford, said the purpose of the meetings was “to make them aware of the need we have in terms of education, economic development and workforce development.”

“If a company is looking to move into New Bedford, one of the issues they look at is the level of skill, the level of education the work force has,” Rep. Cabral said.

Rep. Stephen R. Canessa, D-New Bedford, and Rep. John F. Quinn, D-Dartmouth, who represents part of the city, also attended the meetings.

Mayor Lang pledged to seek a downtown BCC campus in his State of the City speech earlier this month.
Mr. Lang said yesterday that a greater BCC presence was needed to help people attain their high school equivalency degrees and get fast vocational training to meet the demands of an employer, besides offering college degrees.
He said it also would spur economic development through downtown construction and make the city more inviting to new residents and visitors.

“I intend to have BCC have a very close alliance with our public school system in New Bedford, so we have the ability to have students who for whatever reason are not on that graduation track enroll at BCC, get back on board, and teach them vocational skills and make them productive members of our society,” Mayor Lang said.

If the money is approved, it could help BCC accept more students in programs that are booked up, including nursing, which has 1,000 applicants for 96 slots.

“At the other end of the spectrum, the hospitals and caregivers are all crying for nurses,” Mr. Sbrega said.
The push for a greater BCC presence in downtown New Bedford comes as Gov. Deval Patrick and state legislators are making higher education a priority. Later this session, a higher education reorganization and an aggressive, statewide construction and modernization plan are expected to be announced by Statehouse leaders.

Mr. Sbrega, speaking before the Higher Education Committee, said SouthCoast needs a renewed emphasis on education. Committee member Rep. David Sullivan, D-Fall River, agreed, saying manufacturing jobs are on the decline.

Mr. Sbrega also called for an advisory group to coordinate the state’s educational system, all the way from elementary school through college. However, he said it is crucial to retain local control of community colleges.

“The literacy levels in Southeastern Massachusetts and the educational attainment levels in Southeastern Massachusetts are very low,” Mr. Sbrega said. “We are attracting population into the region, but the literacy and educational attainment levels are low. I take that personally. It’s my job to fix that.”

Publication date: March 23, 2007

Cork Enlivens Downtown

Andrew T. Gallagher, Standard-Times special. Alicia Racine carries an order of Lobster Trio to a table in the downstairs lounge of Cork, the new wine and tapas bar in downtown New Bedford.

New Wine and Tapas Bar Enlivens New Bedford’s Downtown
Cork, a Wine and Tapas Bar, Offers a New Way to Socialize in Downtown New Bedford
By Jennette Barnes, Standard-Times Staff Writer


Step into Cork, New Bedford’s first wine and tapas bar.

Inside, the eye glides smoothly over dark wood and exposed stone walls.

Other nightspots hang their decorating schemes on colored pendant lights over the bar. Not here. Cork has the lights — in red — but they accent a richly designed room.

Opened three months ago in the newly renovated Joseph Taber building at 90 Front St., opposite the downtown waterfront, the lounge and bar occupy the basement and first floor.

A second-floor condo will eventually be used for private functions under the name Celia’s, after Celia Tommaselli, who owned the condo briefly after Peter DeWalt renovated the building. Mr. DeWalt continues to live on the third and fourth floors.

Right now, Celia’s has no liquor license and doubles as food preparation space and an office for Cork owner Richard Cardoza.

The first floor houses the main bar, where private tables are arranged alongside a long, bar-height communal table meant for mingling. Each place is set with an oversized wine glass, a tumbler for water, and heavy silverware rolled in a casual white cloth napkin.

Servers present an 18-page wine list, along with a smaller tapas menu of upscale hot and cold appetizers. As the menu says, tapas is “small plates of creative food.”

Trendy in cities, American tapas was borrowed from the Spanish tradition of gathering at bars to enjoy wine and small portions of food a few hours before a late dinner.

Dishes offered at the New Bedford tapas bar include marinated olives, tuna tartar with wasabi, braised beef with sherry and garlic, and a gourmet cheese plate. Food prices run from $3.50 into the teens.

About 200 wines are available by the bottle, and some by the glass. Glasses start at $4 and bottles around $18. Connoisseurs will find plenty to choose from, too, including the 1990 Chateau LaTour Pauillac for $625.

Since wine and spirits are Mr. Cardoza’s business — he owns three liquor stores — a bar with a vast selection of wines was his initial idea for the 170-year-old stone building sometimes called the “vine building” for the mass of ivy that covered it before the renovation.

The idea for tapas came later.

“What we’re trying to offer is a different style of dining that’s more about tastings than a full, sit-down meal,” he says.

Guests order wine and cocktails first, then plates of tapas to share. Everything is served on stark, square white plates, and servers bring each person a clean plate to make sharing easier.

Mr. Cardoza hopes to create an atmosphere unlike a bar or restaurant. When people eat at a restaurant, they expect to leave shortly after the meal. In a bar they can linger, but they have trouble finding quality snacks to accompany a drink.

Hence, the tapas bar. And hence Mr. Cardoza’s mantra of late: “It’s more fun to eat in a bar than to drink in a restaurant.”

On a recent Thursday night, Cork was starting to come alive by 6 p.m., an hour after opening time. Seats at the bar filled up, and Rep. Antonio Cabral stopped by to see and be seen.

The basement lounge, which was carved out of the earth by Mr. DeWalt’s renovation crew, is a shadowy, intimate room of tables and upholstered seating. It offers all the wines and cocktails of the main bar, with an abbreviated food menu.

Cork offers occasional special events, such as a five-course wine and tapas tasting, a special Valentine’s dinner with a five-course prix fixe menu, and a “night out with the girls.”

Judi Page, 53, an insurance agent who lives in the South End, has visited Cork four times. When it first opened, she would look into the softly lit windows each evening as she drove home from work on Route 18.

Finally she tried the new bar.

“I love it,” she said. “It’s really pretty, really nice. I’m glad the city did this. We need more like this.”

Cork sits a few steps away from two much older bars, the Cultivator Shoals on Front Street and the National Club on Union Street. The opening of the new bar, along with the planned demolition of the Cultivator for condominiums, signals the continuing transformation of that part of the city’s historic district.

Two other nearby bars have changed hands and gone upscale in the last few years, but Ms. Page said the area still makes some visitors uncomfortable because of rough characters hanging out outside some bars.

Tom Bianda and Paula Cabral, a Somerset couple in their 50s, normally go to Providence to socialize but have fallen in love with Cork, visiting eight or 10 times since it opened.

Aside from Adega, the Portuguese restaurant in Goulart Square, New Bedford hasn’t seen the opening of a new upscale eatery in “ages,” Mr. Bianda said.

“The bartender is very friendly,” Ms. Cabral said. “They’re very nice people. They make you want to come back.”

On-street parking can be a challenge, they said, but the Elm Street garage — usually free at night — is a few blocks away at the corner of North Second Street, and Cork offers valet service at the foot of Rose Alley, the small street that runs down from North Water Street.

Contact Jennette Barnes at jbarnes@s-t.com or (508) 979-4446.
Date of Publication: March 08, 2007