City Advances Drive Toward Job Creation in Emerging Alternative Energy Sector

City Hosts Another Alternative Energy Company

New Bedford, MA — Ze-gen, a Boston-based alternative energy company, is constructing a “proof of concept” facility in New Bedford to advance its technology by testing the conversion of waste-to-energy. Ze-gen’s technology, if proved successful, will become the most environmentally friendly and energy efficient method of handling solid waste in existence today.

The Ze-gen technology relies on gasification – the conversion of a solid to gas, through a chemical process. The project will focus on converting construction and demolish (C&D) solid waste to gas during its trial in New Bedford. At this stage, the company is testing the conversion, of synthetic natural gas as a power source, but no power will be generated. The gas will be burned off, leaving no emissions. With positive test results, the company hopes to advance the technology further to repurpose gas emitted from C&D and municipal solid waste (MSW) in landfills to electricity in a cleaner, more efficient way.

“If the proof of concept delivers expected results, the full scale project will create 150 jobs,” said Mayor Scott W. Lang.

Each year, in the United States alone, we create and then landfill over
300 million tons of C&D, MSW, and related waste streams.
Landfills now represent the largest manmade source of methane gas emissions, and account for roughly 8% of global warming potential greenhouse gases.

Cities and towns have always been burdened by the amount of waste they generate. As of yet, communities have not developed a clever, economically beneficial way to dispose of their garbage. The traditional approach has been to send this trash to a landfill or an incineration facility; but due to the pollutants landfills and incinerators generate, both to the air and to the ground, there is a great need for new technology that minimizes the impact waste has on the environment. The traditional approaches have also failed to tap into waste’s vast energy potential.

“We see commercial potential in Ze-gen’s developing technology. We are excited to be working closely with Ze-gen to ensure the company’s success, as their success will continue to drive the development of a thriving economy in New Bedford,” remarked Matthew A. Morrissey, executive director of the New Bedford Economic Development Council.

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s Solid Waste and Air Departments issued conditional permits to Ze-gen for the construction the testing facility at the New Bedford Waste Services (NBWS) site on Shawmut Avenue. The concept facility, located in space rented from ABC Disposal near the NBWS, will be operational for a year beginning in May 2007.

Ze-gen was founded two years ago to develop a better solution to municipalities’ waste problems. Ze-gen is advancing technology that converts mundane waste streams into synthetic natural gas, which is used as fuel for an on-site combined cycle generator to provide power for the surrounding community. Waste gasification is a complete solution to solid waste problems, as the process produces only low-grade metal and inert silica-based material as byproducts

Ze-gen President, Bill Davis, explained how the company chose New Bedford. “It was a partnership formed through the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. They indicated that ABC Disposal/New Bedford Waste Services was doing ‘some innovative and thoughtful work relating to recycling’ and suggested that we should partner up.”

“The New Bedford Economic Council has been involved in our company’s progress thus far and it is providing us with the assistance we need to become commercially successful in New Bedford,” Bill Davis said.

Upon a successful proof of concept facility Ze-gen hopes to build the first full-scale facility in the city as well. New Bedford provides an ideal location for this demonstration facility and the city is very supportive of the company’s efforts. The development of Ze-gen’s technology in New Bedford helps to define the city as Massachusetts’ leader in the renewable energy sector. Developing a strong renewable energy sector in New Bedford is greatly beneficial to the city, as it leads to real job creation that can be utilized by the existing New Bedford job force. The construction and operation of Ze-gen’s first full-scale facility, which will gasify 500 tons of waste per day and generate 30 megawatts of renewable energy to New Bedford, requires a significant workforce that the city is well-positioned to offer.

In addition to the very real job creation potential, the company’s technology is beneficial in that it reduces New Bedford’s dependence on landfills, an environmental hazard, while reducing the city’s waste. Reliable, renewable energy is generated in the process. Ze-gen’s facilities rely only on fees charged for taking the waste and for the sale of electricity for their profitability; no subsidies are needed to produce favorable economics on the facilities.

Visit www.ze-gen.com for more information about the company.

UMass Students Study Business in New Bedford

UMass MBA Students Study City’s Business Needs

NEW BEDFORD – Sixteen graduate students from the University of Massachusetts–Dartmouth Charlton School of Business, worked closely with Mayor Scott W. Lang’s office and the New Bedford Economic Development Council on a month-long project aimed at improving the business climate throughout the city.

The project – part of a “Business Innovation and Creativity” course taught by Prof. Garry Clayton of New Zealand, who has published on such topics as professional education, leadership, innovation and strategy met in the fourth-floor loft space at the mayor’s office, at New Bedford City Hall to launch the project.

The students targeted three inner-city regions – the North End, South End and Downtown business districts – seeking to identify the business needs of each area and recommend ways to encourage each to flourish in a manner that complements the city’s own Master Plan.

A strong proponent of this kind of town-gown partnership, Mayor Lang said,
“This represents a powerful and meaningful way the university and the city
can partner to impact lives of city residents.”

The students spent their first week becoming oriented to the city and its businesses, and their second week administering a survey of the targeted areas. During the third week, they collected and logged the data compiled. In the project’s final week, three teams of four each presented to city officials a 25-page report, outlining their recommendations for the target areas.

Accepting the students’ formal report, NBEDC Executive Director stated, “The work of these sixteen graduate students provides us with a backbone of information that we can build upon to create a better business atmosphere across the city.

Morrissey said the project will be a piece of the puzzle, helping provide the city with the information it needs to decide how to improve its support of local businesses.

Due to the shortness of their study, the students were not able to produce a price tag on their recommendations, but many of the immediate goals were low budget items. Each group presented projects that could be implemented on both a short- and long-term basis. Throughout the three presentations, two themes reoccurred: a need for neighborhood involvement in any changes or initiatives to be made, and a need for a beautification program especially at the city’s gateways.

Eileen Peacock, dean of the Charlton College of Business, said the focus of the program was to create an environment where students can generate innovative solutions to real-world business problems. “Instead of being constrained by normal thinking, we wanted them to devise strategies by using all aspects of business theory. We wanted them to think outside the box here,” she said. “Although we don’t know exactly what will come of this, it may help to identify other projects we may do later on down the line with the city.”

Recommendations ranged from: cleaning up commercial building façades, setting planters and hanging banners – to providing better lighting, public art, and more green space – to those requiring capital investment like building bandstands or a sports complex or providing floating docks in Clark’s Cove. The recommendations offered were a result of carefully collecting and compiling survey data while considering practical elements such as building on existing infrastructure and cultural aspects of the city. The students produced detail maps and charts of their often imaginative and fresh ideas.

City Builds Toward Alternative Energy Sector for Job Creation

New Bedford Eyed as One of Six Sites in US for National Wind Turbine Blade Test Facility

New Bedford, MA – With a continuing national need for research into the realm of wind-powered energy, a site selection committee has dwindled a list of potential large-scale blade testing facility sites down to only two in the Bay State: New Bedford and Boston.

“We are doing all we can to attract new companies and real jobs for our people. Having New Bedford selected as a finalist for the National Wind Test Blade Facility is further recognition of the developments taking shape here,” said Mayor Scott W. Lang.

The New Bedford site, adjacent to the Shuster Corporation building, features more than 10 acres of land and more than 600 feet of water frontage, essential to the loading and off-loading of turbine blades that measure up to 220 feet in length and 20 feet wide. The blades will be tested in a horizontal position mounted on stands inside an industrial building.

The selection committee, made up of several collaborative organizations including the UMass Amherst’s Renewable Energy Research Laboratory (RERL), the Massachusetts Division of Energy Resources and the Massachusetts Office of Business Development, judged New Bedford to be one of two top sites after considering over a dozen in the commonwealth during the process.

Although other states are also in the running for the testing facility, RERL has identified Massachusetts as having a number of advantages over other states due to the UMASS system’s current extensive research into wind energy and the region’s excellent offshore wind power potential due to being surrounded by water.

The proposed blade testing facility will lead the way to designing new turbine standards, helping to reduce machine cost and financial risk, and providing a way to test multiple blades to keep up with the huge growth in turbine sizes over the last few years.

With only one blade testing facility in the U.S. at the National Wind Technology Center in Boulder, Colorado, which has far exceeded its own one-blade-at-a-time testing capacity, NBEDC Executive Director Matthew Morrissey said, “locating the facility in New Bedford would not only create a minimum of up to 20 jobs in the city, but it would also continue to lay the groundwork for additional growth in the alternative energy industry sector.”

“Having the facility in New Bedford could lead to blade manufacturing companies making their way to our city, as well as offshore wind turbine services and turbine component testing companies,” said Morrissey. “It could bring additional academic research opportunities, additional services to be provided to the offshore wind industry, and the testing of wind turbine drive trains, among many other related services,” he continued.

In a letter to the Massachusetts Office of Business Development regarding the city’s positions as one of the remaining sites being mulled for the project, Mayor Scott W. Lang reiterated that New Bedford’s proposed site features “a deep-water port with depths of 30 feet” as well a hurricane barrier stretching from the south end of the city to Fairhaven that allows the harbor to be completely “accessible” to the proposal “while remaining one of the safest havens on the eastern seaboard”.
The proposed blade-testing facility will include two 220 foot test stands with the space to expand accommodating up to 330 foot blades, as well as additional office and conference room space, a pump and machine room, equipment storage and at least one acre of space available for the delivery of additional services.

The U.S. Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, sponsoring the project, reported that the decision on the definite site for the proposed facility, which besides the two in Massachusetts, also includes Ohio, Virginia, Texas, Iowa and Maine, will likely be made next month.

Also see related Standard-Times story, December 18, 2006

NBEDC, City Help Nutex Retain Nearly 35 Jobs

City Firm Receives ‘Nice Christmas Present’
By Aaron Nicodemus, Standard-Times Staff Writer

NEW BEDFORD — A dark cloud lifted for the 35 or so employees at Nutex Industries in the South End yesterday after the company emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

For months, the company had operated under bankruptcy protection, a double-edged sword that was the firm’s temporary salvation but could have meant a death knell if the U.S. Bankruptcy Court had allowed Citizens Bank to be paid, or had liquidated the company.

Yesterday, the bankruptcy court approved Nutex’s reorganization plan and its employees have their jobs. There is much work to be done, now that employees will not get a break between Christmas and New Year’s.

“It’s a big relief to all the workers,” said Bruce Rachel of Fall River, a manager at Nutex for the past 10 years. “The mood here had been kind of down, but we all figured we should stick it out, fight it out. It’s a big family here, and everyone’s happy today.”

Nutex hummed with the sound of looms weaving strands of brightly colored yarn. Located in a mill tucked inside the hurricane barrier on West Rodney French Boulevard, the company makes belts and other woven fabrics for apparel companies such as Wal-Mart, Land’s End, J. Crew and Eddie Bauer; for military uses, such as flame-resistant mesh for fighter pilots; and for medical uses, such as belts and harnesses used by nurses to transport sick patients. It manufactures belts used by the Boy Scouts of America. The company has been in business since 1980, and 10 years ago employed as many as 75 people.

But since 2000, the company’s customers began seeking cheaper alternatives in China, and half its business disappeared.

“Between losing business and downsizing, it has been a very painful process,” company President Andrei Klein said. “In the last six months, we managed to stay alive under tremendous duress. We have tremendously loyal employees, and loyal customers, but we didn’t have the money to buy raw materials. So we couldn’t deliver finished product on time.”

Emerging from bankruptcy protection will allow the company to use money lent to it from one of its largest customers to buy the yarn its machines turn into woven products. In four to five weeks, the company will be profitable again, Mr. Klein promised.

The company got some help in emerging from bankruptcy protection. One of its regular customers floated the company a loan; Mayor Scott W. Lang testified on the company’s behalf before the bankruptcy court; and Matthew A. Morrissey, executive director of the New Bedford Economic Development Corp., promised to work on a tax increment financing plan and access to federal and state grants.

Joe Soares, supervisor of the weaving room, has worked at Nutex 21 years. He was worried about his job, he said, until yesterday.

“It was a nice Christmas present for everyone,” he said.

“Everybody is relieved and happy to have their jobs,” said Maria Rodrigues of New Bedford, an employee at Nutex for more than 19 years. “It means less people on the unemployment line.”

Jale Stone, a designer at the company for 19 years, said the company’s work force is older and it would have been hard for them to find new jobs.

“I’d have no place to go if we lost this,” she said. “It’d be a Stop & Shop bagger, I guess.”

Contact Aaron Nicodemus at anicodemus@s-t.com
Date of Publication: December 23, 2006 on Page A05

Local Market Promotes High-End Handcrafted Items

Bringing shoppers downtown once a month on Saturdays to the NBopenmarket has grown from an idea to reality with an initial 15 vendors that more than doubled over the course of four months. “The NBopenmarket is modeled on a flea market, but it’s much more than that. All the items are high-end, fine crafts. Everything is handmade. You won’t see machine-made mass produced items,” explained organizer Elissa Paquette.

Set in a spacious storefront in the Bristol Building on corner of Union and Purchase Streets, downtown New Bedford, the market features independent vendors offering art, antiques, records, vintage, and handmade items of all kinds, as well as
live music. Currently there is no vendor fee.

This spring/summer, NBopenmarket will be held outdoors in Wing’s Court with the capacity to accomodate about 50 vendors.

Shoppers can find ceramics, comics & zines, handmade books, jewelry, designer clothing and accessories, hand printed tees, handmade soaps, antiques, wearables, hats and mittens, paintings, prints, glassware, music, plants, toys.

According to Elissa, “The event seems to be growing and creating considerable traffic to surrounding businesses, such as the Green Bean and Artificial Marketplace. NBopenmarket has also spurned interest in vacant retail space. One vendor, the owner of a record store on the Cape, was downtown last AHA! Night checking out the neighborhood and looking at some available commercial space.”

“Depending on the response, I can see the market expanding to a weekly event with local DJs and performers. I’d love to see the Farmer’s Market involved. For now we’re happy to see the fabulous handcrafted work at the market and people spending time on a Saturday afternoon downtown,” said Elissa, owner of Calico, a vintage clothing and accessories store located at 528 Pleasant Street.

For more information, contact Elissa at elissa@shopcalico.com.

Wareham Woman to Head City’s Troubled Harbor Commission

Wareham Woman to Head Troubled Panel
By Becky W. Evans, Standard-Times Staff Writer

NEW BEDFORD — Mayor Scott W. Lang has appointed Kristin Decas of Wareham as the new executive director of the Harbor Development Commission, which is fraught with financial and management problems, including conflict-of-interest questions involving its treasurer and a $1.3 million debt owed to the city.

For the past five years, Ms. Decas, 37, has been deputy director and program manager for the Massachusetts Governor’s Seaport Advisory Council. She has also worked for the state Department of Environmental Protection, coordinating its alternative fuel vehicle program.

Ms. Decas was selected from a group of 12 applicants for her “tremendous experience with import-export issues, short sea shipping development and recreational boating opportunities,” Mayor Lang said yesterday during a press conference.

He cited her familiarity with several New Bedford projects, such as dredging, berthing and harbor planning.

“We wanted someone who could come in and build a strong coalition and who knew all the players,” he said. “She knows the area.”

Ms. Decas — who signed a three-year contract and will be paid a starting salary of $80,000 per year — said she looks forward to implementing some of the policies that she developed while on the seaport advisory council.

“I’m really excited to now put them into practical application,” she said.

Her vision for New Bedford includes making it a thriving fishing port, a short sea shipping hub and a destination for small cruise ships that would visit historic ports around the state.

Short sea shipping reduces highway congestion by moving freight up and down the Atlantic coast by vessel rather than by truck, Ms. Decas said. New Bedford would be an ideal hub because of its dredged harbor and its access to highways and rail, she said.

A new report on a financial and managerial review of the Harbor Development Commission shows the agency owes the city $1.3 million due to ferry terminal construction and other project overruns. The report, which was ordered by the mayor, also points out several possible conflicts related to HDC treasurer and commissioner Jose Gouveia Jr.

Ms. Decas said she has reviewed the problems outlined in the report and will work with the mayor and the commission “to sort those out.” She noted her management of the council’s $11.5 million budget for fiscal 2007 as evidence of her financial management skills.

Mayor Lang said he plans to change HDC operations to allow more time for Ms. Decas to focus on harbor development. The mayor has yet to decide whether in light of the report he will rescind his February reappointment recommendation for Mr. Gouveia, whose term expired in December 2001.

“I am looking at all the appointments,” he said of the six HDC commissioners.

Ms. Decas will be the first female HDC executive director. She will begin the position within the next week and a half, the mayor said.

While some people may be under the impression the waterfront is “dominated by men,” Mayor Lang said, “we have women playing a vital, active role in the New Bedford waterfront across the board.”

Born and raised in Chappaqua, N.Y., Ms. Decas moved to Wareham in 1997. She is a member of St. George Greek Orthodox Church in New Bedford, where she married her husband, Gregory, and where her two young daughters were baptized.

In 1997, Ms. Decas received a master’s degree in environmental policy and management from the University of Denver. She holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Vermont.

Contact Becky W. Evans at revans@s-t.com
Date of Publication: December 22, 2006 on Page A07

Business Park on Upswing

New Companies Expansion Add Hundreds of Jobs to City
By Aaron Nicodemus, Standard-Times Staff Writer

NEW BEDFORD — The New Bedford Business Park had the best year in its history in 2006, with six companies either relocating or expanding in the park, and three new roads allowing for more to come.

Tom Davis, executive director of the Greater New Bedford Industrial Foundation, said the park never had more than four new or expanded companies in any one previous year.

The expansions included two new companies, Commercial Drywall and Horacio’s Sheet Metal, as well as a small electricity plant powered by methane gas from the Crapo Hill Landfill, operated by Commonwealth New Bedford Energy. There were expansions to existing park tenants Natco, Five Star Surgical, and Depuy Johnson & Johnson. First Highland Corp., a national developer, recently purchased the large vacant Velvet Drive Transmission building at the entrance to the park and is renovating it for use by multiple manufacturers.

AFC Cable, which did not appear in the announcements yesterday, is moving into its huge, new facility in the park sometime in 2007. The plant is already under construction.

“This is an all-time record for us, dating back to 1960,” said Mr. Davis of the park’s expansion in 2006.

All told, the new companies and the expansions brought 250 jobs to the business park this year, according to Mr. Davis.

Several business leaders spoke about why they chose to expand in the business park.

Natco Inc. is a wholesale food distribution company that was founded 100 years ago in a Park Street basement. It has since grown into a multimillion-dollar corporation that employs 130 people with an average wage of $60,000 per year.

Mark Eisenberg, CEO of Natco, said the center of the company’s distribution area is not New Bedford. But the company has chosen to stay, and expand.

“We have built in New Bedford because it is our home,” he said.

David Cabral, another New Bedford native, and his partners built up Five Star Surgical from a tiny space in the basement of a city mill building into a 37,500-square-foot facility in the business park. The company recently purchased a surgical product manufacturer from Taunton, and is moving its employees and business into the company’s recently built addition.

“We’ve always wanted to build our business here,” he said.

A small, electric-generation plant has also been constructed near the landfill, turning methane gas produced by buried, decaying garbage into 3.3 megawatts of electricity.

George Aronson, principal of Commonwealth Resource Management Co., said the plant sells its power to a commercial marketer, delivered into the electric grid by NStar.

“It’s green electricity,” he said.

For the past seven years, much of the region’s job growth has occurred in the New Bedford Business Park.

The park has been in an expansion mode since 1999, with the number of businesses there doubling to 36. The total number of employees in the park has increased from 3,000 to 4,500, with a total payroll of $250 million.

And there is more expansion to come, Mr. Davis said. The three new roads open up 125 acres in 10 separate lots to development. The park is set to have another six projects completed this year, bringing 450 more jobs into the park, Mr. Davis said. Seventy-five percent of the newly opened land is in Dartmouth, and 25 percent in New Bedford.

The business park has become the top generator of jobs for the region, Mr. Davis said. And the jobs the park has created are of high quality.

The average pay for a blue-collar job in the business park is $17.50 per hour, with high-quality fringe benefits. Mr. Davis said about 60 percent of the park’s employees live in New Bedford, 25 percent in Dartmouth and the remaining 15 percent from other communities.

“Regardless of where you build the road, it benefits working families in both communities,” he said.

Contact Aaron Nicodemus at anicodemus@s-t.com
Date of Publication: December 06, 2006 on Page A06

Region Willing to Work

Rick Barisano braves the frigid temperatures as he works around the foundation at the future site of the T.G.I. Friday’s restaurant in the new Target plaza in Dartmouth. A study released today shows that SouthCoast has posted positive growth in its labor force, despite falling numbers statewide.

SouthCoast Defies Statewide Trend of Declining Labor Force
By Brian Boyd, Standard-Times Staff Writer
Photo Credit: Peter Pereira/The Standard-Times

Rick Barisano braves the frigid temperatures as he works around the foundation at the future site of the T.G.I. Friday’s restaurant in the new Target plaza in Dartmouth. A study released today shows that SouthCoast has posted positive growth in its labor force, despite falling numbers statewide.

While the number of able-bodied workers in Massachusetts has dwindled in recent years, SouthCoast is bucking the trend with a growing work force, a new study says.

The size of the state’s labor force declined by 1.7 percent over the last three years and appears on track for its fourth consecutive decline in 2006, according to a study released today.

By comparison, Bristol County’s labor force expanded by 2.9 percent from 2000-05 and Plymouth County’s rose by 1.6 percent. The six-year statewide number remained stagnant, said the study, produced by the Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth and the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University.

The area’s growth was modest compared to national trends. The country’s labor force expanded by nearly 5 percent in the same six-year period, the study says.

The study attributes the statewide decline to two trends: the loss of working-age residents to other states and the lower participation in the work force by men.

The state’s high cost of living encourages workers to look elsewhere for opportunities, experts say.

“As other regions of the country provide different job opportunities, but more importantly lower cost of living, lower housing costs, you have seen this hemorrhaging of people from the Northeast,” said Paul Vigeant, UMass Dartmouth’s assistant chancellor for economic development.

While the state is at a competitive disadvantage because of high costs, SouthCoast benefits from having lower housing prices compared to Boston.

The region has gained people migrating from elsewhere in the state, searching for savings, Mr. Vigeant said. “It’s a fact people have finally figured out we’re not as remote from Boston as people might have thought,” he said.

Boston’s cost of housing is out of reach for many, including some entry-level professionals, said Jon Bryan, a professor in the Department of Management at Bridgewater State College and a labor and employment specialist.

“You would not be surprised if those new young professionals attempt to migrate to an area where they will be able to have more disposable income,” Dr. Bryan said.

The Mass Inc-Northeastern study also found that:

  • Massachusetts is the only state to experience a decline in labor force each of the last three years.
  • Massachusetts is second only to New York in percentage of population lost to other states from 2000 to 2005. More than 200,000 people left the Bay State, and only international immigrants prevented the state from an overall population loss, according to the study.
  • The state is primarily losing working-age adults, not retirees, especially ages 16 to 24 and 35 to 54.
  • The leading destinations for former Massachusetts residents are Florida, New Hampshire, Texas, Connecticut, Rhode Island and North Carolina.
  • Since 2000, there has not been an increase in the number of people commuting to Massachusetts from other states for work, according to the study.

Education gap
The study concluded that men are more likely to drop out of the labor force — defined as including all people of working age who are employed or actively seeking a job — than in years past.

From 1990 to 2000, the percentage of men ages 16 to 64 participating in the labor force fell by 4 percentage points, from 89.5 percent to 85.5 percent. Women’s participation in the labor force rose by nearly 1 percent, to 74.3 percent, during the same time.

Men with a high school diploma or less have withdrawn from the labor force at a faster rate than better educated men.

The percentage of men in the labor force with no high school diploma fell more than 10 percentage points, to 65.5 percent, from 1990 to 2000. The percentage of men with a diploma or an equivalency degree dropped by nearly 7 percent, the study says.

Industries more receptive to hiring women, such as health care, have enjoyed job growth, said Andrew Sum, the report’s lead author and director of Northeastern’s Center for Labor Market Studies.

“Men with limited education have been especially hard hit by changes in job structure and wage opportunities,” Mr. Sum said in a news release.

Men with little education are disproportionately hurt by the loss of manufacturing jobs and illegal immigration, Dr. Bryan said. “I’m very concerned about our loss of manufacturing jobs because that was an area for America to provide good middle class wages for relatively unskilled workers,” he said.

Warning signs
While only three Massachusetts counties — Suffolk, Middlesex, and Norfolk — lost working-age residents, the study’s authors argue the overall numbers do not bode well for the state’s economy.

A growing labor force often indicates a strong economy. On one hand, an expanding economy attracts new residents. On the other hand, the availability of workers, especially educated ones, lures business to the state, the authors of the study said in their executive summary.

“If employers expand their operations and new employers locate to take advantage of skilled workers, the economy grows, creating more opportunities,” the study said.

Mr. Vigeant of UMass Dartmouth said the statewide problem could serve as a warning to SouthCoast.

If the region does not continue to recruit businesses and maintain quality of life, it could suffer the same hemorrhaging of people the state is experiencing as a whole, Mr. Vigeant said.

The region traditionally lost people, rather than gained them. From 1950 to 2000, the area saw highly educated residents leave for job opportunities elsewhere, Mr. Vigeant said.

“The inflow is just starting to restore some of losses we experienced in the previous 50 years,” he said.

Contact Brian Boyd at bboyd@s-t.com

Date of Publication: December 10, 2006 on Page A07

Hangar OK’d For Delta Flight School

By Jack Spillane, Standard-Times staff writer

NEW BEDFORD — The City Council set the city on the runway to an improved airport last night, but chose not to rev its engines too quickly.

The council’s Finance Committee (a committee of the entire council) approved $1.1 million in bonding authority for a new hangar for the Delta flight school. The committee, however, chose not to bond a second $1 million for a hangar for Cape Air or some other small airline carrier that might be interested.

The council, sitting in formal session later in the evening, also gave final approval to the deal.

Mayor Scott W. Lang had asked the council for $2 million for both hangars, but said afterwards he was satisfied with the compromise.

The vote followed a closed-door session at which councilors discussed with City Treasurer Daniel W. Patten and members of the New Bedford Airport Commission negotiations with private carriers that might be interested in leasing the hangars.

Councilors wanted concrete information about whether the private parties had committed to leases that would provide enough money to pay off the bonds. But James Burgess, chairman of the airport commission, said it would be inappropriate to discuss the details in public.

No councilor made a public statement about the pros or cons of Mayor Lang’s proposal, but Mr. Burgess, the longtime chairman of the commission, hinted that the city might lose the Delta Connection Academy (which is affiliated with Bridgewater State College) if it did not act.

“It’s kind of detrimental if we don’t move forward on this,” he said.

Mr. Burgess later told The Standard-Times that the Delta school currently has 200-plus students and is looking to expand. Airlines are increasingly relying on private flight schools for their pilots, he said.

“I think it’s terrific. Now the academy is going to be able to expand,” he said.

One person who didn’t think it was terrific was Doris Cunningham, the longtime owner of Colonial Air Inc. She acknowledged to the paper that she was disappointed but declined further comment.

The private airplane maintenance company had hoped to build the hangar on city-owned land, but Mayor Lang decided he wanted the city to build the facility itself.

The mayor has said the hangar will help the municipal airport (which is currently operating at a loss) break even. But Ward 1 Councilor Linda Morad has questioned whether the city might be saddled with other costs down the line associated with things such as maintenance.

The council vote was 8-2 with Councilors David Alves and John T. Saunders voting against it after the second million was jettisoned.

Councilor Jane Gonsalves, who was absent during the vote, supported the one-hangar compromise in the final vote.

Councilor Saunders told The Standard-Times he did not think the numbers added up.

“It was a 10-year deal and I don’t think they could pay off the debt service,” he said.

He was also concerned that the city does not yet have a signed agreement with Delta, he said.

Mayor Lang said he was satisfied with the vote and that, when the city works out a lease arrangement with Cape Air (or some other airline), he will come back to the council for the second hangar.

“I think it’s a great economic development project that’s going to secure the Delta training school,” he said. “I appreciate the council’s vote on this and we’ll move forward.”

City officials released no numbers about the income stream for the bond last night beyond $80,000 per year the academy is currently paying to lease the former plumber’s building as a training center. But Mayor Lang said he believes Delta has committed to enough revenue to make the deal work.

“My understanding is the income stream can, in fact, pay for the bond-plus,” he said.

He said he is looking forward to discussions with neighborhoods adjacent to the airport about how the airport can more effectively function at its present size.

Contact Jack Spillane at jspillane@s-t.com

Date of Publication: December 12, 2006 on Page A05

Regional Leaders Discuss Economics with Patrick’s Transition Team

Patrick’s Economic Development Team Hears from SouthCoast
By Brian Fraga, Standard-Times Staff Writer

NEW BEDFORD — Seeing a rare opportunity to influence economic development policy, dozens of SouthCoast business leaders, planning officials, educators and politicians packed a UMass Dartmouth Star Store campus classroom yesterday for a public forum with Gov.-elect Deval Patrick’s transition team.

They pushed for the incoming Democratic governor to address a variety of local initiatives familiar to SouthCoast officials and residents long frustrated with the indifference of previous occupants of the corner office.

“There is a perception that down here, until now, this region has been an afterthought,” said Margaret “Mardee” Xifaras, the local Democratic activist with past experience in national campaigns.

“It’s an absolutely lost opportunity. This is a beautiful region, an incredibly resourceful region,” she said. “We just want a fair shake.”

Among the several economic development initiatives advocated yesterday were the establishment of local commuter rail service, revamping adult basic education, promoting local tourism, protecting the fishing industry from burdensome regulations and safeguarding manufacturers and small businesses.

William H. Davis, chairman of a Boston energy company, and Susan Whitehead, vice chairwoman of a Cambridge biomedical research institute, listened attentively and jotted down notes. They represented the governor-elect’s economic development task force, one of 15 “issues working groups” convening similar public forums across Massachusetts.

The other working groups are eliciting public opinion and feedback on issues like education, energy, environment, housing, transportation and public safety. Mrs. Xifaras is a member of the civic engagement work group, which is holding a 5:30 p.m. public forum tomorrow at UMass Dartmouth.

Mr. Davis highlighted the principles guiding the economic development working group: promoting an innovation economy, retaining core businesses, streamlining the permitting and approval processes, investing in infrastructure, increasing access to capital and “better selling” Massachusetts.

He said any ideas along those principles “were good ideas.”

“Our objective is not to come here with ideas to show you, but to come here with pens and pieces of paper and listen to you,” he said.

Kenneth Fiola, executive director of the Fall River Office of Economic Development, provided Mr. Davis with a written report of the Route 24 interchange project, which will create new ramps between Exits 8 and 9 on Route 24. The $25 million project includes the creation of a 14,000-acre Bioreserve.

Noting that the ramps would spur development of the Fall River Executive Park and Freetown’s Riverfront Business Park — creating an estimated 11,000 jobs — Mr. Fiola called for Mr. Patrick to make the project’s completion a top priority.

“In our opinion, this represents one of the few projects that could be considered smart growth in terms of protection of the environment as well as the creation of economic development opportunities,” Mr. Fiola said.

Jim Kendall, owner of New Bedford Seafood Consulting, pushed for the governor to not forget New Bedford’s fishing industry, one of the nation’s most lucrative.

“Fishing is the economic engine for the city, and I think if you look closely underneath the hood, you might find it is for the whole state,” Mr. Kendall said.

Peter Kortright, president of the Fall River Chamber of Commerce, said a “radical, new approach” is required in terms of spurring local economic development and improving education.

“The state, working with the cities and towns, needs to radically rethink education,” Mr. Kortright said. “The administration needs to be organized in a way so important decisions are made quickly.”

The economic development task force comprises 23 individuals from a wide cross-section of regional economic development councils, chambers of commerce, banks, law firms and nonprofit agencies. It is charged with submitting its preliminary report to Mr. Patrick by Dec. 15.

Contact Brian Fraga at bfraga@s-t.com

Date of Publication: December 06, 2006 on Page A09