City Forges Partnership with UMD Business School Around New Bedford Economy

By Eileen Peacock Dr. Peacock,
Dean of the Charlton College of Business at UMass Dartmouth

The Charlton College of Business recently partnered with New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang’s office on an exciting approach to problem solving. In January 2007, a group of 14 UMass Dartmouth master of business administration students worked closely with the mayor’s office and the New Bedford Economic Development Council to bring concepts of innovation and creativity to real-world problems. It was a fine example of a learning partnership between a city and a business school, one that generated fresh ideas and gave a group of graduate business students a chance to apply lessons learned to urban problems.

As dean of the Charlton College of Business, I worked with Mayor Lang to help jump-start this program. I appreciate Mayor Lang’s willingness to allow our students to use the city as their laboratory. Our business graduate students worked hard to give value to the city. They met every evening for three weeks in City Hall, occupying the fourth-floor loft space, listening, thinking, brainstorming, planning, creating and innovating around three projects associated with three inner-city business districts.

The challenge for the class was to generate ideas for improving the business climate and infrastructure for the North End, South End and central business districts of New Bedford.

The students had a fast-paced three weeks to learn the concepts of creativity and then to apply what they had learned. Their leader was Garry Clayton, a visiting professor with a variety of experiences in the application of strategic and innovation concepts. He was an ideal professor for this class because he is not a native of SouthCoast and therefore came to us with the fresh perspective needed to innovate. Professor Clayton challenged the students to think “outside the box.” The students responded well by developing great ideas that ultimately could benefit the business environment of the city.

Three general approaches emerged, using the strengths of each district while looking at new opportunities to pursue.

The North End group decided to leverage off the existing strengths. For example, one group proposed the creation of a “Little Portugal,” drawing upon the strengths of existing business arrangements and the proximity of the water.

As is the case when bright people are encouraged to share their thoughts and opinions, brainstorming sparked many exciting ideas. The merits of beautification projects along Interstate 195 and Route 18 were discussed. The idea was that creative landscaping would be welcoming to visitors approaching the city. Better and increased signs to highlight what the city has to offer also would draw visitors who would spend their money in the city. Some thought that an open-air pavilion in River Front Park to host parties and music events would attract crowds to the area. Other ideas included a bike path along the waterfront, possibly interlocking with the Fairhaven bike path; and developing Acushnet Avenue, making it for pedestrians only, creating an entrance to the area. Students also examined the idea of creating city ordinances to enhance attractiveness of the area and align city departments to the goals of business development to ensure upkeep of revitalization efforts.

The Central business group looked for opportunities to connect the administrative, heritage and waterfront areas. For example, this group suggested creating additional green space to link areas of that district.

For the longer term, our students envisioned creation of dormitory space for university students and development of a new library with a cultural center offering creative spaces for podcasting, art studios and drama practice areas. These ideas would increase foot traffic in the city and allow small businesses to flourish.

The South End group focused on creating attractive areas and finding ways to inform visitors about its amenities. It was suggested that a “gateway” could inform visitors about beaches and waterfront areas.

Again, beautification was a theme. The Cove Road beach area, the mills on Rodney French Boulevard, the vacant parcel on Orchard Street, the Orpheum Theater and an overall maintenance beautification plan were all fair game. Our students discussed plans for Cove Road that included creating a park where the hurricane barrier stands, hiding the barrier with gently sloping areas, creating an amphitheater, and on the water side a boardwalk, and a floating boat dock for people to enjoy the water.

The mills on East Rodney French Boulevard were seen as a perfect place for a school offering trade training. And the restoration of the Orpheum Theater, along with enhanced dining opportunities, was discussed as a key to bringing visitors in the evenings.

The class also made some global recommendations, such as extending the bike path from the North End to the South End and adding trolley service to connect parts of the city that are divided by highways.

These MBA students came away from the class exhilarated by their work and interaction with city officials, recognizing that with some creative approaches, there is great potential and great business development opportunities for the city of New Bedford.

Date of Publication: February 14, 2007 on Page A16

Suit Maker Goes ‘Lean’ to Keep Jobs in U.S.

National Public Radio
Morning Edition, January 24, 2007

Frank Langfitt, NPR Odette Almeida, from Angola, says she likes the new manufacturing system, because it allows her to move more and reduces aches and pains.

If you check the tag on a men’s suit these days, chances are it says “made in China” or Mexico — maybe even Hungary.

But if the suit is a Joseph Abboud, it still says “Made in America.” In fact, the company is one of the few that continues to produce suits in the United States. And instead of sending jobs overseas, Abboud is hiring more people here at home.

The company’s factory is located in New Bedford, Mass. The town once employed more than 5,000 workers making men’s tailored clothing.

“Today, this is the only remaining factory,” says Tony Sapienza, the chief operating officer of Joseph Abboud.

Last year, Sapienza hired 90 new workers. He has to pay them $4 an hour more than his foreign competitors pay their employees. But by keeping production in the United States, he says he can use higher-skilled workers to make the company’s $700-$1,000 suits. And he can get those suits to stores ahead of the competition without some past problems.

“We had a truck hijacked by Mexican bandits before it got to the border,” Sapienza recalls. “And we lost an entire shipment of 4,000 suits and disappointed our retailer, who subsequently said he couldn’t trust us and moved the production to a different brand.”

Sapienza also wants to pick up the pace on the factory floor. He’s building what’s called a lean manufacturing system, so he can respond to hot sellers and get tailored suits to customers in just a week.

“Today, if a Nordstrom wants more Joseph Abboud product in the middle of September — because the weather turned cold and folks ran into the store and started buying suits and stripes were popular — we can’t deliver mid-season goods,” he says. “Whereas in a lean environment, if we can make a sufficient quantity in a two or three-day cycle and ship it to the store, we can actually fill replacement orders and drive a business.”

There is no magic to lean manufacturing. Under the old system, employees stitched pieces on their own. In a lean system, they work in teams, rapidly moving fabric through a circuit.

They are also trained in various skills, so if pieces back up, they can jump to another job.

Some workers like the new system. Others don’t. Among the latter group is Louise Sanchez, who has worked for the Abboud factory for the past 17 years doing the exact same thing: stitching sleeves.

Sanchez preferred working alone at her own speed. Now, she’s part of a team. And if she doesn’t move fast enough, other workers give her a hard time, because it affects everyone’s pay.

“It was just me doing a bundle. And I used to finish the bundle, tie it up and just put it aside,” she says. “But now, I do a sleeve and I have to pass it on to the other operator. It’s just, it’s just a little nerve-wracking.”

But Sanchez’s coworker, Odette Almeida, is a fan of the new system. Almeida is not earning quite as much under the team-pay structure, but she says doing a variety of jobs is better for her muscles.

“I’m moving more,” Almeida says. “It’s better for my body, right. I feel it in my neck, because all day it was the same position. Now, I’m moving more. It feels better.”

Workers like Almeida could have fought the changes. After all, they’re members of a union, UNITE-HERE. But instead of resisting, union leaders actually helped management sell the new system to its members.

Joe Nunes, the local union chairman, says employees were initially suspicious.

“In the first weeks, workers thought this was a trick by the company to lay off some people,” Nunes says. “As soon as they recognized the company was hiring everyday, hiring everyday, then they realized their job was secure.”

The union also had to give up some strict work rules to help the company compete.

Warren Pepicelli is a vice president with UNITE-HERE. He says that after seeing so many jobs go overseas, the union knows it has to be flexible.

“Knowledge does not come suddenly,” Pepicelli says. “It comes through years of experience — and sometimes, comes through knocking your head against a wall.”

So far, the Joseph Abboud formula seems to be successful. Last year, the factory increased production, and sales are up 15 percent. In a world where pressure from low-wage labor is intense, Sapienza expects the strategy to work for five years.
After that, he says the company will have to change further to stay competitive.

Made in New Bedford: A Suit Designer Retools

Made in New Bedford: A Suit designer Retools – Abboud Factory bucks US Trend
By Jenn Abelson, Globe Staff | January 7, 2007

NEW BEDFORD — Last year the Joseph Abboud suit factory did something not seen in at least a decade in this old textile capital: It added jobs.

The men’s suit designer expanded its workforce nearly 20 percent to 590 employees and is investing millions of dollars in a sleek new production system at a time when other apparel makers have shrunk or disappeared from the struggling seaside city.

The strategy also bucks a nationwide trend of clothing manufacturers moving operations abroad where labor is cheaper, tax incentives abound, and US companies can avoid the rising costs of healthcare and energy at home. Over the past decade, jobs in apparel manufacturing have dropped from 443,200 to 196,500 across the country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But Abboud executives say they needed to go against the grain to survive in a fashion industry that has come under increasing pressure to get products more quickly to the stores and to meet growing demand for custom-made garments.

“When everyone else was pulling away from unions and American production, we made a strategic decision to embrace the factory,” said Marty Staff, chief executive of Joseph Abboud, the high-end menswear-maker carried in select retailers including Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom. “We couldn’t find a place outside our factory where we could get the quality and flexibility to satisfy our needs.”

In 2004, Abboud executives considered shifting its suit manufacturing abroad — where workers would earn $1 an hour instead of $12 in New Bedford. But they decided part of the company’s appeal lay in its cachet as a custom designer whose $700 to $1,000 suits are made in America. They also realized that outsourcing production, the favored strategy of many retailers, carried with it hidden costs. Chief among them: the company would lose control over the shipping time and probably be forced to make more merchandise than needed because of production minimums mandated at many overseas factories.

Committing to a future in New Bedford, however, has required some big changes. Over the past year, Abboud has begun implementing lean manufacturing, a concept promoted by automaker Toyota, which aims to move products more quickly through the factory. In 2004, it took Abboud about five weeks to make suits. Now, it takes about a week.
“What Joseph Abboud is doing is counter to the market,” said Marshal Cohen , chief retail analyst at NPD Group in Port Washington, N.Y. “It allows them to be more nimble and separate themselves and be in control of what they’re doing. Their destiny is in their own hands. It’s better than relying on traditional forms of importing.”

For New Bedford, the creation of jobs is much needed. “It’s a real confidence booster,” said Mayor Scott W. Lang . “It was an industry that looked like it was going to be wiped out from New Bedford.”

Large brick mill buildings surround Abboud’s factory, many vacant, others getting redeveloped. At the turn of the 20th century, New Bedford had more than 50 textile factories, including Wamsutta Mills, one of the world’s largest cotton weaving plants at the time. Many of these factories shut down or left the city for cheaper regions of the country, and increasingly, overseas.

More than 4,000 workers made men’s apparel in New Bedford less than 15 years ago, including a large plant that supplied menswear for JC Penney stores until the plant moved to Southeast Asia several years ago. Today there are fewer than 600 men’s apparel employees in New Bedford — all working for Abboud.

The company, founded by Boston native Joseph Abboud and now headquartered in New York, has grown to $400 million in annual sales over the past two decades. The hope is that the eventual savings from adopting lean manufacturing will justify keeping its only suit factory in the world in a high cost region.

Lean manufacturing is an entire way of looking at production to eliminate waste and increase efficiencies throughout the system, from receiving orders to shipping. For Abboud, it’s required everything from retraining workers to moving its distribution center to New Bedford. (Relocating the facility from New Jersey shaved nine days off shipping time to customers.)

The biggest change for Abboud came in realigning the work flow, developing a collaborative process that organizes workers into groups that assemble, for example, one jacket at a time. A worker stitches a single sleeve or pocket, and then passes the garment to the next person in the group. This saves time compared with the conventional system in which employees work individually on batches of garments doing one single task, such as sewing buttons on the jacket. Suits often get backed up because workers are waiting for fellow employees to finish their batch of 20. For the lean process, however, workers are trained for more than one skill, so they can jump in and help prevent a backup if other stations get behind.
Under the new system, Abboud can better manage its inventory so that it makes suits customers are buying, rather than guessing six months ahead what they want. This agility is important to meet growing pressures — created, in part, by cheap chic merchants like H&M and Zara to provide consumers new fashions every week.

Inside the brick Abboud factory in New Bedford, fluorescent lights hang from the ceilings as the employees — the majority of Portuguese descent, reflecting the large community here — work at stations on hardwood floors.

The company plans to have one-third of its production using the new team system by the summer to help accommodate the growing custom business, which took in $1.3 million in 2006, the first full year it operated, according to Anthony Sapienza, Abboud’s chief operating officer. That segment is expected to grow to $5 million in the next two years.
Some employees used to working by themselves have been resistant to the new format, where incentives are based on group performance. For now, employees have volunteered to test the new system, and only one has asked to be transferred back to the individual batch process. The company plans to switch entirely to lean manufacturing over the next several years, Sapienza said.

“It’s a big difference, work goes much faster. We help each other,” said Odette Almeida , 35, of New Bedford. Almeida works at the end of an eight-person team sewing and reinforcing buttons on jacket sleeves. There’s a sign above her setting the goal at 380 sleeves a day for the team.

The group meets that goal about 90 percent of the time, better than other teams working on different parts of the suit. The transition to lean manufacturing hasn’t paid off yet, and it isn’t expected to for another few years, Sapienza said. But executives are confident that the decision to stay in New Bedford is the right one.

“We want to keep these jobs in America,” Sapienza said. “But you have to be creative, you have to be unique.”

Jenn Abelson can be reached at
© Copyright 2007 Globe Newspaper Company.

City’s Marine and Science Technology Quest Center Graduates Its First Company

John Sladewski / The Standard-Times BIRNS Aquamate manufactures and markets underwater electrical connectors used on oil rigs, submarintes, and other aquatic apparatus. Eli Bar-Hai, operations manager of the BIRNS company explains some of the equipment on display.

Seaworthy Success Story
Maker of Waterproof Electrical Connectors Outgrows its Incubator
By Becky W. Evans, Standard-Times Staff Writer

A new marine technology firm that sells underwater electrical connectors is leaving the nest today to grow and prosper on its own.

BIRNS Aquamate is scheduled to move out of New Bedford’s Quest Center on Purchase Street into a new office at Howland Place on Orchard Street.

“We need a larger space,” operations manager Eli Bar-Hai said.

The Quest Center opened in September 2005 as an incubator for startup companies specializing in marine science and technology. The City of New Bedford, UMass Dartmouth and the SouthCoast Development Partnership created the center to nurture the region’s emerging identity as a marine science and technology hub.

BIRNS Aquamate is the incubator’s first success story, said David Sheehan, the center’s executive director.

The company moved into the incubator six months ago, utilized the center’s resources to connect with local customers and now plans to grow its business while remaining rooted in New Bedford.

“That’s the whole idea,” Mr. Sheehan said. “We expect to have them here in New Bedford for a long time.”

The company, which currently employs two people, is expected to hire an additional seven to eight employees within the next five years as it expands its operations to include manufacturing. Mr. Bar-Hai said he will likely hire and train three to four “technical people with electrical backgrounds.”

BIRNS Aquamate was founded as a joint venture between the Israeli firm Zevulun Marine Systems and California-based BIRNS Inc. Both companies manufacture waterproof electrical connectors used in submarines, sonar and video equipment and other deep sea applications.

BIRNS Aquamate was established to market the connectors to U.S. companies.

“We needed to be on the east coast, where there were no companies manufacturing underwater connectors,” Mr. Bar-Hai said.

Being located near customers is important since many of them need the connectors to be shipped quickly to avoid costly project delays, he said.

New Bedford was selected for its central location within New England’s growing marine technology sector and its proximity to research institutions such as UMass Dartmouth and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

The city’s “whaling history and its colorful past” enchanted Mr. Bar-Hai, who said he splits his time between New Bedford and Israel.

“I think the city holds a lot of potential,” he said.

Since moving into the Quest Center, BIRNS Aquamate has established customer relationships with local entities such as Teledyne Benthos in North Falmouth and the UMass Dartmouth School for Marine Science and Technology in New Bedford. It has sold and shipped connectors to companies in Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Brazil, Australia and South Africa.

Christopher Jakubiak, a project engineer at SMAST’s marine turbulence lab, said he recently received price quotes from BIRNS Aquamate for electrical connectors that would be used on underwater instruments that are still being developed.

The school uses the connectors for underwater vehicles and other instruments that collect information on water temperature, depth and salinity.

The connectors are “definitely the kind of thing that almost everyone has some use for,” he said.

Ranging in price from $20 to $500, the connectors come in various shapes and sizes and are gold-plated to retard corrosion in seawater. They are in high demand by three growing industries: offshore oil and gas exploration, oceanographic and climate research and the military.

The Quest Center was a “very good place” to launch the company, Mr. Bar-Hai said.

He praised the staff for being helpful and creating networking opportunities. The few companies at the incubator shared knowledge and Fathom Research, a scientific diving company, recently placed an order with BIRNS Aquamate, he said.

For the concept to work better, the incubator needs to attract more marine technology firms, Mr. Bar-Hai said.

“When they have 10 companies that are related, that will make a big difference,” he said.

After BIRNS Aquamate departs, the Quest Center will have four tenants: the diving company, an alternative energy consulting firm, a Web development group and a company that designs launch and recovery systems for underwater robots.

Two additional companies that specialize in environmental science are “under consideration” for the incubator, Mr. Sheehan said.

Contact Becky W. Evans at
Date of Publication: January 28, 2007 on Page D01

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 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
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

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
Date of Publication: December 22, 2006 on Page A07