Crime in City Down Through May Compared to a Year Ago

By Aaron Nicodemus
Standard-Times Staff Writer

NEW BEDFORD — Violent crime in the Whaling City is down in every category for the first five months of the year compared to last year, and property crime is down in every category except larceny, according to city statistics.

Rape reports are down 36 percent from January to May 2007 compared to the same period a year ago, while robbery dropped 15 percent and assault by 12 percent. There were two murders in the city by the end of May 2006; the city has not had a homicide this year.

Gun violence and the number of guns seized were both down as well. In the first five months of 2006, there were 37 reports of shots fired, 14 shooting victims and two murders. This year, there have been 14 reports of shots fired, one victim and no murders. The numbers of guns seized has dropped as well, from 32 last year to 12 this year.

In property crimes, auto theft is down 26 percent, arson 20 percent and burglary 15 percent. Only larceny — the theft of goods without the victim being present — went up, by 8 percent.

“I wish I could say conclusively what factors are responsible, because I’d double or triple my resources in those areas,” said Police Chief Ronald A. Teachman.

Nationally, violent crime was up 1.3 percent last year, according to the FBI. But the crime uptick was unevenly distributed, as murders in big cities rose sharply while murders in small towns and mid-size cities (like New Bedford) declined by almost 12 percent. The growing homicide numbers contributed to an overall 1.3 percent hike in violent crime nationwide in 2006. A year earlier, violent crime rose by 2.3 percent, the first increase since 2001. Violent crime was up in every region of the country except New England, the FBI said.

Chief Teachman noted there are several changes in place this year in the city’s fight against crime that may be helping to make the streets safer. Coordination between the city police, as well as state, federal and county officials has never been better, he said, noting particularly the recent sweep of 37 Latin Kings gang members.

The Hope Collaborative and the state-funded, anti-gang grant have provided outreach to the city’s youth, he said. And the Police Department has been decentralized to the point where police can more quickly respond to crime hot spots, then keep the police presence in those areas.

“We’ve been more strategic in the allocation of our resources,” Chief Teachman said. “We’re working on those impact players and removing them from the street.”

Asked if he is concerned that gun seizures are down, Chief Teachman said he is encouraged because it says to him there are fewer guns on the street.

“If we’d had more shootings this year than last year, and gun seizures were down, I’d say there is a problem,” he said. “But I think that guns are not as readily available on the streets as they were last year, and I think people are not as bold about putting them in their waistband and using them to threaten people. It’s a good sign.”

Mayor Scott W. Lang said he hopes the crime statistics signal the beginning of a trend.

“I think the police are fully engaged in the different neighborhoods; they’re getting to know very clearly where the problem spots are,” he said. “We’re beginning to establish a trend that people want safe streets and are willing to work for it.”
He said the city is doing “everything it can” to provide more after-school activities and safe places for city youths to go.
“Anyone who has a problem we can help with, we’ve got our hand out,” he said. “We’re telling our youth that the day that someone is going to turn a shoulder on you are over.”

Violent crime, particularly murder, has historically risen in the summer months.

Chief Teachman said the Police Department has held back from spending some grant money in preparation for the summer.

“We’re preparing for it, we’re bracing for it, we’re going to be picking up our efforts through the summer months,” he said.
Contact Aaron Nicodemus at anicodemus@s-t.com

Publication date: June 05, 2007

Retail Developer Eyes Project in City’s Hicks-Logan Area

By Aaron Nicodemus
Standard-Times Staff Writer

NEW BEDFORD — A major national retail developer that owns the Dartmouth Mall and 55 other malls across the country has partnered with a casino developer to develop 30 or more acres in the Hicks-Logan section of the city.

The Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT), a publicly-traded $3.5 billion company based in Philadelphia with regional malls from Maine to Florida, has signed a 90-day contract to develop land controlled by Northeast Resorts, a casino development company from Western Massachusetts.

PREIT Executive Vice President Harvey A. Diamond said he envisions a shopping center on the site, with restaurants, residential properties and perhaps a hotel/conference center. He said he would like the development to be anchored by a major entertainment draw, like a casino, but said the development could stand on its own without one.

“We’re in the retail business, that’s what we do,” he said today at a meeting at Mar-Lees Seafood in New Bedford. “We don’t build casinos, that’s not our business.”

PRIET’s partner in the development is Northeast Resorts, a Western Massachusetts development company whose primary focus is casino gaming. Leon Dragone of East Longmeadow has spent his career trying to establish a casino in Massachusetts, so far unsuccessfully. His partner in Northeast Resorts is H. Steven Norton of Las Vegas, a former executive at the Sands Hotel and Casino and a developer of gambling destinations throughout the South and Midwest.

Mr. Diamond said PRIET will take the next 90 days performing its due diligence on the site: environmental testing, negotiating with other property owners in Hicks Logan, drawing up concept plans, and meeting informally with city officials to hear their ideas about the property. At the end of 90 days, Mr. Diamond said PRIET will then decide whether to move forward.

Mr. Dragone said that his company will continue to pursue a casino at the site, and has had discussions with the Wampanoags of Aquinnah, the tribe that made an unsuccessful push for a casino a decade ago.

Mr. Dragone and Mr. Diamond had a meeting today with Mayor Scott W. Lang and Matthew A. Morrissey, executive director of the New Bedford Economic Development Council.

>From the city’s point of view, the plans for the site are well and good, but saving at least some of the jobs at Revere Copper & Brass is paramount while developers craft their plans.

“Revere has an offer on the table, and Mr. Dragone indicated to me today that he would not stand in the way of that offer,” Mayor Lang said, referring to an offer from a Cleveland financier to lease a building from Revere and operate the plating portion of its business, saving about half of the 85 jobs. Revere has rejected the offer as unworkable.

“We do not have a problem with the deal,” said Mr. Dragone. “We would work with the city to keep those jobs there, for as long as we are able.”

Contact Aaron Nicodemus at anicodemus@s-t.com
Publication date: June 13, 2007

Entrepreneur Opens Downtown Cosmetic Goutique

With a solid background in corporate sales and a life long love of makeup, Larissa McLaughlin has rediscovered that her hometown is a great place to set up a new cosmetic boutique business, the Blush Beauty Bar, at 29 Centre Street in downtown New Bedford. Over 100 friends, family and business owners attended a ribbon cutting ceremony on Wednesday, June 6th to kick off the official opening of the Blush Beauty Bar on June 7th.

“This is a place for women of all ages to come for quality cosmetics, fragrances, and skin care. Men are also welcome,” said Larissa. “People always want to feel good about themselves and they like to feel comfortable when selecting or learning about cosmetics. The Blush Beauty Bar has an intimate, friendly atmosphere. It’s a place for customers to relax, to play and to enjoy themselves. Everything about this is a quality experience – special and unique.”

Larissa, a New Bedford native, graduated from New Bedford High School in 1995. She moved to Pittsburgh to attend Duquesne University and majored in psychology and health sciences, and lived there for many years before moving to the Attleboro area. Recently she returned to the city and saw new potential. “New Bedford is a great destination place, a growing seaport with unique shops and restaurants. I always wanted to be an entrepreneur and now with my experience in corporate sales I have the skills and confidence to do what I’m most passionate about. It’s the right time to settle in New Bedford,” she said.

Mayor Scott W. Lang said, “This is a niche business venture that will draw a new customer base to the area and will prove to be a positive addition to the downtown business district. We welcome Larissa and wish her great success.”

In pursuit of her passion for makeup, Larissa worked and trained with M.A.C. Cosmetics as a makeup artist. The cosmetic products found at the Blush Beauty Bar are featured in Vogue, Allure, Glamour, Lucky and O. “We carry everything from the everyday to the trendy. It’s cutting edge from New York and LA,” Larissa explained.

The New Bedford Economic Development Council provided financial support. “This start up loan is an example of how a small business that meets our lending criteria can take advantage of our assistance,” said NBEDC executive director Matthew A. Morrissey. “Sometimes entrepreneurs like Larissa need a financial boost to get them from the idea to the actual business operations. It’s exciting to see our clients arrive at the point of cutting the ribbon.”

Clients can buy products, take makeup application lessons to achieve the look they want, and have an inventory check of their makeup bags. Larissa will sort through and recommend products that blend with your skin color and complement your best facial features, and help clients find quality cosmetics made specifically for them – everything from foundation to lipstick and from anti-wrinkle agents to fragrance. Clients can schedule individual appointments, after-hour parties and on-location wedding service.

Mr. Morrissey said, “A diversity of small business talent builds the economy. Larissa has brought another example of the creative economy to our mix of entrepreneurs and business owners.”

With a steady stream of customers in its first few weeks, the Blush Beauty Bar is off to a success start. Most popular has been the “make over”. “One man gave his wife a birthday gift of a full ‘make over’ and stayed to watch. Our men’s line is selling very well and we’ve had several after hours parties. They’re a blast. Many women have expressed appreciation for the one-on-one service in a private, quiet setting. So far, I’m surpassing my goals,” Larissa said.

Fast Ferry Reports Increase in Advance Bookings

By DON CUDDY
Standard Times Staff Writer

NEW BEDFORD — As the New England Fast Ferry enters the fourth year of its eight-year licensing agreement to link New Bedford with Martha’s Vineyard, the outlook is bright, according to company President Michael Glasfeld.

“We’re very happy with the key trends we’re seeing. Advance bookings are up more than 30 percent over last year. Also, weekend travel is up 15 percent over the last couple of weekends, which shows winter is gone and people are beginning to come out.”

The ferry draws on three disparate groups for its ridership, Mr. Glasfeld said.

“In winter it’s mostly contractors going out there, building or renovating homes. That was off this year, which reflects the downturn in the building trade. The other segments are vacationers, who come principally from New Jersey and Connecticut, and then you have day-trippers who are mostly from Rhode Island and the SouthCoast.”

To reach out-of-state visitors, the ferry relies on electronic media. “The first thing visitors do is book their B&B or their vacation rental. Then they think about getting over there. So we spend a lot of time inhouse, massaging the search engines,” he said. “If someone types in ‘MV ferry’ we want to be in the top four results. You have to figure out what clients are thinking, so it also has to include folks who might misspell ‘ferry’ or ‘New Bedford.’

More passengers are welcome since the cost of fuel has been an ongoing concern. A ferry burns about 100 gallons of fuel on each leg of a trip. “Three years ago, fuel was 80 cents per gallon, and now it’s $2.10. It’s our single biggest line item,” Mr. Glasfeld reported.

John Tiernan is general manager of the fast ferry. An island resident, his family has lived on the Vineyard for 150 years.
“For a walk-on service like ours, to see advance bookings increase 30 percent is unprecedented,” he said. “Islanders are skeptical people, but I think the fast ferry is winning them over. We’re starting to see our athletic teams going to New Bedford; more people are going for their medical appointments and, from the third grade up, school kids are going there on field trips.”

Anne Brengle, executive director of the New Bedford Whaling Museum, has witnessed the contribution that the ferry has made to the city. “My office is on Union Street, so I see the people going by with bags and suitcases. Our paid visitations are up 10 percent this year, and that is because we now have groups and school trips coming to the museum from the island.”

Another beneficiary has been Town Car Travel, which offers travelers connections to and from the Providence Amtrak station and T.F. Green Airport.

Vice President Stephen Higginbottom Jr. has seen his business pick up since becoming partners with the ferry. “They run a good business,” he said, “and we enjoy working with their clientele.”

Mr. Tiernan said he believes that comfort and reliability have been key factors in the company’s success.

“The other fast ferries use jets,” he said. “We have conventional propellers, but our boats have trim tabs for stability. These are computer actuated and can adjust for any sea conditions once the boat is up to speed.”

Both ferries operating on the route are also products of New England, built at Derecktor Shipyard in Bridgeport, Conn.
Speaking last Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Tiernan noted that weather had forced cancellation of the Steamship Authority boat to Oak Bluffs that morning, but the fast ferry had arrived from New Bedford, as scheduled. “The nor’easter was kicking our butt but people getting off that boat were amazed at how smooth the ride was,” he said.

While running a successful business is the first priority, its relationship with New Bedford is also important to his company, Mr. Glasfeld said.

“We’re stalwart supporters of the city, and I feel proud that we have a knock-on positive effect. We’re also probably the biggest advertisers for New Bedford. We spend $250,000 annually promoting our service. We have ads on Comcast and on area radio stations, and we also have our billboards.”

However the main reason ridership has increased is because travelers are recognizing the service as a better option, he said.

“We spend a lot on educating Bostonians about the advantages of avoiding the bridge. Most people are smart enough to see that.”

Although more passengers could lead to future expansion, the company will continue to act prudently. “We’re always looking at opportunities. We could probably triple our capacity on a great weekend in the summer, but you have to balance that against the winter, so it’s a constant tension. We’re now looking at an invitation to bid on service from New Bedford to Woods Hole put out by the city of New Bedford.”

Publication date: June 17, 2007

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Infusion of Culture Helps Change Perception and Reality in SouthCoast

Silversmith Joost During hammers silver into a vinegar flask in the New Bedford studio he shares with his wife, Dianne Reilly, and fellow metalsmith Sue Aygarn Kowalski. Mr. During is one of many artists lured to this area by its affordability and burgeoning arts scene. Photo by Peter Pereira

By Don Cuddy
Standard Times Correspondent

When silversmith and designer Joost During, 36, arrived in the United States from Holland 10 years ago, he first settled in Rhode Island. But early last year, he and his wife Dianne Reilly, 40, who also works in metal, bought a home and a studio in New Bedford.

“It was much more affordable than Rhode Island, and we liked the place,” Mr. During said. “The art scene is really coming up and we wanted to be a part of that.”

Mr. During is renowned for his holloware and flatware designs for which he has won national awards, including the renowned Saul Bell Award in 2005. The couple share studio space with fellow metalsmith Sue Aygarn Kowalski, a UMass Dartmouth graduate.

Artists come in many categories, but all share the same dream: being able to make a living doing their own work.
Increasingly, the SouthCoast is appealing to the creative energies of many who feel excluded from bigger cities like Boston and Providence because of high costs. As artists migrate here, as new venues open and as new audiences await, there is a feeling in the arts community that the winter of discontent has begun to relinquish its hold on the region.

It is difficult to quantify the value that the arts contribute to our daily lives, but Katherine Knowles, executive director of the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center, believes that promoting culture is vital to SouthCoast’s interests, both socially and economically.

“The success of the Zeiterion has become a source of pride to the community,” Ms. Knowles said, “but developers also know that attracting businesses to our region depends to a great extent on the quality of life that they can offer to their employees. The benefit of having a Zeiterion is that it shines a bright light on the city where we live. The theater has become part of the critical mass that will change perceptions about New Bedford.”

The Z’s varied lineup of performers in music, theater and dance has drawn many people to the area for the first time.

“Twenty percent of our audience comes here from Rhode Island and we have just begun to start attracting people from Boston,” Ms. Knowles said.

The Zeiterion’s programs along with the organizations it hosts — the New Bedford Festival Theatre and the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra — attracted a combined audience of 110,000 people in 2006 and that has had a positive impact far beyond the box office returns. “In this business the equation traditionally has been that $1 in ticket sales means $3 for the community. That is beginning to be true in New Bedford.”

On a more modest scale, the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River has been equally successful. A non-profit run by a small band of volunteers, the venue sits on the third floor of an old mill and features resident artists, a gallery and a performance space that has begun to attract an eclectic crowd.

“The Narrows has grown exponentially in the past three to five years but we’re just starting,” says Patrick Norton, president and booking agent. “Seventy percent of our audience comes from 15 miles away or more, and we had 12,000 people pass through the Narrows last year, including people from 13 states, as we know from the credit card receipts. They are a well-heeled crowd with disposable income and that is good news for the restaurants on Columbia Street. Audiences can also browse in the artists’ studios during evening shows.”

In Mattapoisett where the Rogers Gallery has been in business for 28 years, owner Louise Rogers has seen the art market expand enormously. Appreciation has increased beyond all expectation. “When people come in to look at the paintings, it’s like they are in a museum. You almost don’t want to interrupt them,” she said. “Twenty years ago, there were no places to show art, except the Swain gallery (at the former Swain School of Design). Now everything has risen together. More people are moving here year-round from Boston and New York and they want to support the arts. It means that I have been able to showcase more abstract work in addition to the ‘safe art.'”

A flourishing arts scene downtown and across SouthCoast could prove to be the final piece in solving the puzzle of economic redevelopment that has taxed the region for longer than anyone cares to remember.
“There is a synergy happening in town right now,” said Katherine Knowles, speaking of New Bedford, “and the restaurants, the Whaling Museum and the Art Museum are all doing their part to fuel that.”

Publication date: April 17, 2007

State Reports Unemployment Down in SouthCoast

By Joseph R. Laplante
Standard-Times Staff Writer

NEW BEDFORD — Unemployment dropped across the state in March, including Greater New Bedford, which improved by almost 2 percentage points, the Massachusetts Department of Workforce Development reported Tuesday.
The drop in unemployment in the New Bedford labor market lifted the city and its environs from the bottom of joblessness up one spot, above Lawrence, the agency reported.

New Bedford’s unemployment rate in March was 7.3 percent, down from 9.2 percent in February. The March number is also an improvement over the March 2006 unemployment rate of 7.8 percent.

The Lawrence-Methuen-Salem area reported the worst unemployment rate in Massachusetts in March at 7.4 percent, which was a drop from 8.4 percent in February and down from 7.9 percent in March, 2006.

The most encouraging news for Greater New Bedford was the addition of 700 new jobs in March, said Linnea Walsh, spokeswoman for the agency.

“The largest number was 300 new jobs in leisure and hospitality,” Ms. Walsh said. “Trade, transportation and utilities saw gains as well. New jobs were also reported in the professional, scientific and business services area as well as in education and health.”

The news is good elsewhere. The commonwealth added 15,100 new jobs during the first quarter of 2007, the agency said, with strong job gains in the same areas as New Bedford: educational and health services, as well as in professional, scientific and business services and trade, transportation and utilities.

At 3,273,100 in March, jobs were up by 37,100 or 1.1 percent from one year ago and are up by 94,200 since December 2003, according to the agency.

At 4.4 percent, the Massachusetts unemployment rate is down nearly a full percentage point from 5.3 percent in February, and is at its lowest rate since October 2001. This rate is also down from the 4.8 percent recorded one year ago.
The national unemployment rate was also at 4.4 percent in March, edging down from 4.5 percent in February. One year ago the national rate was 4.7 percent.

Contact Joseph R. LaPlante at jlaplante@s-t.com
Publication date: April 25, 2007

NBEDC Loan Officer Wins SBA Award for Women-Owned Business Advocacy

Nancy Gibeau, New Bedford Economic Development Council senior loan officer, has been selected to receive the US Small Business Administration’s 2007 Massachusetts and New England Women in Business Advocate awards. The announcement was made by Maurice Dubé, Massachusetts SBA Director.

The Women in Business Advocate award is presented annually to an individual or individuals who have fulfilled a commitment to the advancement of women’s business ownership.

“Nancy Gibeau exemplifies the talent, business savvy and vision required to be a recognized leader in the southeastern Massachusetts business arena.” said SBA Director Dubé. “This award is an example of the high regard in which she is held in her community.”

While Ms. Gibeau has worked in banking, lending, and economic development for more than 15 years, the SBA award is recognition for her efforts to increase business and financial opportunities for women. In her current position, Nancy has provided millions of dollars in financing to women-owned businesses throughout southeastern Massachusetts.

NBEDC executive director Matthew Morrissey said, “Nancy is an invaluable member of our team. Her work is very important to the mission of this organization. Our lending program is up 230% from last year and Nancy’s fine work is well reflected in that increase. We are especially proud of Nancy’s outreach work to women who are starting up or expanding their business.”

As loan officer, Nancy is responsible for several types of NBEDC loans and often helps business owners find conventional financing. “I’ve seen a significant increase in women-owned business loans over the 6 and a half years I’ve worked at the NBEDC,” said Ms. Gibeau. “From the dream stage to the multi million dollar level, we’ve seen all kinds of business start up and flourish.”

Ms. Gibeau volunteers countless hours counseling and educating women. She has created and sponsored training workshops for low income and disadvantaged women, and is a major player in an annual business forum for women, and volunteers to help school age girls and boys. Among her partners are the YMCA, YWCA, SBA, Center for Women in Enterprise, and Commonwealth Corporation.

“I am honored to be considered for this award,” said Ms. Gibeau. “I’m happy to lend my experience and help, especially to women in business.” The award will be presented May 11 at an awards luncheon sponsored by the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce.

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