New Bedford awarded with $200,000 waterfront planning grant

By Ariel Wittenberg
awittenberg@s-t.com
April 24, 2014 12:00 AM

EDA image

Photo credit: Peter Pereira

NEW BEDFORD — Hoping to continue New Bedford Harbor’s legacy as a port of diverse industries, the U.S. Economic Development Administration announced Wednesday a $200,000 grant to help plan the waterfront’s future.

The grant, which will be matched by the city, is meant to ensure that New Bedford’s historic industries such as fishing can coexist with the offshore wind industry that officials hope will be the city’s future.

“We are the No. 1 fishing port, and we intend to maintain that, but there is much more ahead of us in the future if we plan it right,” Mayor Jon Mitchell said. “We don’t want to put all our eggs in one basket; our strategy is all of the above.”

The federal investment will allow the development of a master and urban renewal plan for the working waterfront. The plan aims to envision what and where development is needed over the course of the next 10 to 15 years.

The planning project, which will take an estimated 18 months, will focus on development adjacent to South Terminal, the NStar Site and State Pier.

The project also will develop general design principles for new construction and public spaces, and will incorporate area stakeholders.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Matt Erksine was in town Wednesday to make the grant announcement.

He said the money will allow New Bedford time to “strategically plan” the city’s potential to become an offshore wind hub.

“This is ground zero for offshore wind,” he said of the city. “We are excited to propel forward the city’s fishing legacy and cultural tourism while also planning for future jobs in offshore wind.”

Prior to the grant announcement, made at State Pier, Erksine joined Mitchell and other city officials for a harbor tour.

The officials braved the rain and thunder to get an up-close view of the working waterfront, traveling from the Popes Island Bridge down to the under-construction South Terminal facility.

Along the way, Erksine asked questions about the fishing industry and regulations while watching a dragger unload groundfish at the Whaling City Seafood Display Auction.

“We want to build on this proud history of competitive natural assets and an industrious workforce,” Erksine said.

Ward 1 City Councilor James Oliveira said at the announcement that the planning will help the city to move forward in a smart way.

“We have always had a strong connection to the sea and we will always have a strong connection to the sea,” he said.

“That will be our legacy.”

http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20140424/NEWS/404240371

New Bedford gets $75,000 for life science incubator

nb_bio1By SIMÓN RIOS
srios@s-t.com
April 10, 2014 12:00 AM

NEW BEDFORD — Many people think of an incubator as somewhere you keep chicken eggs in so they can hatch. But in 21st century Massachusetts, an incubator is where early-phase tech companies can put their tires to the road in an affordable office space.

New Bedford has been awarded $75,000 to develop a proposal for a “regional incubation center for life science initiatives,” according to the Mass Life Sciences Center, which is administering millions in funds to spread the life sciences economy across the state.

“We’re anxious to get going,” said Derek Santos, executive director of New Bedford Economic Development Council, which is spearheading the project.

Santos said the money will be used to come up with a proposal for an incubator. Santos said it could be located downtown, in the Business Park, or at the Quest Center for Innovation, where the EDC is based.

The $75,000 is part of $5 million slated for the New Bedford incubator. It was earmarked in a $1 billion, 10-year life sciences bonding bill passed in 2008.

The money is to fund the construction and design of an incubator within New Bedford, operated in conjunction with UMass Dartmouth and Bristol Community College.

Angus McQuilken, vice president for communications at Mass Life Sciences Center, said the funding is being spread broadly across the state — especially outside of the technology belt along Route 128.

“We want to ensure that every region of the state sees the benefits of this initiative and has the opportunity to be part” of the fastest-growing industry in the state, McQuilken said.

Thus far nearly $400 million in funding has been allocated from the life sciences bill.

McQuilken said the proposal resulting from the first round of funding is expected to detail what sort of facility is envisioned, answering questions such as how will it be marketed and operated in the future.

Rep. Antonio Cabral, D-New Bedford, said although the city is already home to some biomedical manufacturing firms, this is a way for the area to get more into the life sciences industry.

“We have growing biomedical manufacturing in the Greater New Bedford Area, that makes it that much more important why we really need to start planning,” Cabral said.

“Five million is a good chunk of money and I believe it would be enough most likely to get an incubator off the ground.”

Once the proposal is completed — which Santos said could take five or six months — the city will go before the Mass. Life Sciences Center Board, which needs to sign off on all funds allocated through the initiative.

http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20140410/NEWS/404100387

Guatamalan businessman’s shop part of the fabric on Acushnet Avenue

aveBy Simón Rios
srios@s-t.com
April 20, 2014 12:00 AM

NEW BEDFORD — Whether it’s “bachata” you’re looking for, “noreteña” or “salsa” or “folklorica,” chances are, if it’s Latin music of one sort or another, Tomas Xirum Perez has it in his shop.

“I decided to sell a little bit of everything, items from Central America, South America, or international,” said Perez, owner of International Guatemala Musical and Fashion.

Since it opened in 2010 the small shop has been a staple for Central Americans in the North End, offering a seemingly endless variety of products that cater to a distinctly Latino crowd. Whether its to get the latest jersey of your national team or to dress up for a rodeo, Perez can set you up for short money.

Perez estimates that he has 10,000 discs in stock, with artists representing a multitude of Latin American styles and even American hip hop.

But he says sales are down — in a major way — so much so that he calls it a small miracle if he sells a CD in a day.

“The people don’t want to buy them anymore,” he said in Spanish. “They even tell you that they get it on the Internet, for free. Why would I want to buy this?'”

Saturday was international Record Store Day, which began in 2007 and is apparently recognized on every continent except Antarctica.

According to RecordStoreDay.com, it’s a day for the people who make up the world of the record store to celebrate the “unique culture of a record store and the special role these independently owned stores play in their communities.”

For his part, Perez, 38, had never heard of Record Store Day. But it doesn’t stop him from embodying the spirit of independent sales.

Perez came from Guatemala without papers in 1995, working at a textile factory in Fall River. With the dream of opening a shop and becoming his own boss, he saved all the while.

“That was my goal,” he said. “Since I was very young I would admire store owners. I would see that they had their things, they weren’t lacking for anything. I told myself that one day I’m going to be the same.”

He said his startup came not from loans or investors, but straight out of his savings. To start a business the size his requires a good $100,000 in startup capital.

Based on the sheer amount of products he keeps in the store, that’s not a surprising figure. If it’s pants, socks, underwear, Perez has it in store. Cowboy boots? A Panama hat? Baseball cap? Jewelry? Flags? He’s got it all.

An important part of the clientele are the “recien llegados,” the “recent arrivals” in the country who come with practically nothing for possessions.

Coming from poor Guatemalan villages, Xirum said the path to the U.S. is very costly. These days the “coyotes” (human smugglers) charge $5,000 — and the journey can take as long as two months.

“I think to myself: when people arrive here, what are the things they need?” Perez said.

“They come without anything, they start their lives up little by little.”

“I’ve seen many families who tell me, I’m bringing my son here. If I bring him by your store you can give me a discount. And that’s fine by me.”

At 38 now, Perez can relate to immigrants fresh off the boat. He said he was able to fix him immigration status, and he’s grateful of the law for allowing him to “legalize myself.”

Perez said he has to keep his prices low because of stiff competition from all angles. WalMart is one of his competitors, and he tries to keep prices on par with the retail giant.

“I always observe the prices, I watch the ads they run, and I have to offer the same prices,” he said.

Where he has the clear advantage is in location, seated in the heart of the immigrant community. Another advantage lies in his connection to Guatemala, where certain fine products are produced, such as belts, which Guatemala Musical has in abundance.

“In Guatemala they make the belts out of pure leather,” he said. “Here the majority are Chinese and they barely work.”

Sourcing partially from Guatemala and partially from Mexico, Perez keeps hundreds of belts in dozens of different designs. From simple thin straps to intricately embroidered works, the “cinchos” range from $5 to $100.

Like many trying to eke out a living along Acushnet Avenue, Perez’ business is tied closely to the economy.

“Business is slow,” he said. “The people aren’t spending for the sake of spending. They’re spending little because people aren’t getting enough hours at work.”

He said many of his customers work in the fish houses and are getting just 25 or 30 hours a week — not enough to be spend freely in his shop.

Asked if he’s still be selling music in the years ahead, Perez cast a glance across a huge rack of CD’s and nodded, as if to say “why not?”

He smiled, saying he likes to give them away to customers from time to time.

Asked where he see the business in five years, Perez answered as if the current state of things weren’t even factor. His hope is to open new Guatemala Musical locations, even a grocery, a restaurant.

“I know that it’s possible,” he said.

http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20140420/NEWS/404200320/0/SEARCH

Greater New Bedford Voc-Tech wins $54M in software from Siemens

Photo credit: Peter Pereira

Photo credit: Peter Pereira

By Ariel Wittenberg
awittenberg@s-t.com
April 18, 2014 12:00 AM

NEW BEDFORD — Siemens has donated $54 million worth of drafting and engineering computer software to Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational-Technical High School.

The grant to Voc-Tech was one of 13 given to technical high schools and community colleges throughout Massachusetts totaling $660 million of in-kind software grants.

Machine Technology teacher Maurice Bergeron, who applied for the grant, said the program, a lifecycle management software made by Siemens, will immensely help students by allowing them to digitally draft blueprints of machines they are designing.

Currently, students hand-draw designs of machine components before creating prototypes of them. With the new software, students will be able to design the parts and see how they work together, allowing them to fix design flaws before a prototype is created.

“It helps you do the tweaking first,” Bergeron said. “It takes out the guesswork and saves time from making version after version of the actual part.”

In recent years Siemens has donated similar technology in other states to just one or two schools. Eric Spiegel, president and CEO of Siemens USA wrote in a blog post Thursday that the grants are meant to help Massachusetts where manufacturing is the top contributor of the gross state product.

“When we talk about the impact of software and technology on manufacturing, it’s clear that the software revolution requires a highly trained workforce to follow in the footsteps of” manufacturing workers,” he wrote.

Spiegel wrote that the grants will help to expand and modernize manufacturing curriculum to make students more competitive in the job market. He noted that nearly 150 companies throughout Massachusetts use the Siemens software in their manufacturing, including Bose, Reebok and Raytheon.

The software will be used in machine technology, engineering and drafting classes, Bergeron said. It can be used to design any number of machine components.

“You can use it for anything,” he said.

Matthew Morrissey, director of New Bedford’s Wind Energy Center, said he hopes students will one day be using the software to design offshore wind turbines.

Siemens manufactures a number of products worldwide, including 75 percent of wind turbines currently installed offshore.

Morrissey and his team have been courting Siemens in the hopes that one day the company will agree to manufacture offshore turbines in New Bedford.

While Morrissey acknowledged that the grant to Voc-Tech is unrelated to his efforts, he said that, “A company the size of Siemens actively doing business in New Bedford can provide benefits to the city in a host of areas.”

“We are constantly looking for ways Siemens can play a role in the life of the city,” he said.

Siemens currently has 19 locations in Massachusetts, none of which is located south of Plymouth, and many of which are involved in the healthcare industry, according to the company website.

The company has 370,000 employees worldwide, 100,000 of which are in the United States. In fiscal year 2013, Siemens USA had a reported revenue of $22 billion and the company had a worldwide revenue of $102 billion.

http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20140418/NEWS/404180327/1011/town10

A Success Story in New Bedford’s Business Park: AHEAD USA

AHEAD USAKaren Moraghan
kmoraghan@hunter-pr.com
www.hunter-pr.com
908.876.5100 (phone)
908.963.6013 (cell)

Poised to celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2015, AHEAD is, well, looking ahead.  The innovative headwear, apparel and accessories company – located in the New Bedford Business Park – is in the midst of a busy 2014 as it continues to expand and ride a wave of momentum that began when Sweden’s New Wave Group AB
purchased it more than two years ago.

Shortly after New Wave Group assumed ownership, it selected Anne Broholm as CEO and appointed Chuck Lord as COO.  Business since has been full speed ahead.

Just last month, the company, which is the largest supplier of headwear to the golf industry, announced it was launching AHEAD Team.  This new collegiate division gives AHEAD entry into the hot collegiate headwear market and represents another important long-term strategic growth initiative for the company.

It was less than two years ago when AHEAD debuted its corporate division under the direction of Jeff Waller, senior director of business development, and hired 24 new salespeople to take advantage of the opportunity to expand and enhance the company’s reach.  Since 2012, AHEAD has expanded its sales force from 50 to 80.

At its New Bedford Business Park headquarters, AHEAD employs 230 people.  “We want to be New Bedford’s best place to work,” Broholm said.  “I am impressed by the tenure of so many of our employees, who have shown a great dedication and been integral in helping build this company into what it is today.”

AHEAD has put profits back into its workplace as evidenced by the June 2013 opening of its first-ever Design Studio.  The studio helps foster creativity and promotes collaboration between senior designers while providing a place for customers to interact with staff on their custom graphics, products and logos.

Moreover, AHEAD re-opened the doors last November on an expanded fixture facility.  Designed to meet the growing demand for its customers’ customized fixture solutions, the new facility will help with such key projects as designing and producing all the fixtures for the pro shop at the new Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

Well known by the company it keeps, AHEAD has forged partnerships with key organizations such as the United States Golf Association (USGA), Professional Golf Association (PGA) of America, Ryder Cup, The Open Championship, and the ANNIKA.  AHEAD will be involved in more than 20 PGA Tour and major events this year alone, highlighted by its association with the U.S. Open (Pinehurst, N.C.) and PGA Championship (Louisville, Ky.).

For more information about AHEAD, visit the company’s website www.aheadweb.com.

AHEAD . . . By The Numbers

230 – Number of employees (as of April 2014)

1000 dozen –  Number of hats embroidered each day

250 dozen –  Number of apparel items shipped each day in peak season

National Park Service touts economic benefits

national parkBy Steve Urbon
surbon@s-t.com
March 04, 2014 12:21 AM

NEW BEDFORD — The New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park is an $18 million economic boost for the SouthCoast, the National Park Service said Monday.

The figure is part of a report on national parks nationwide, using statistics from 2012.

The impact of Massachusetts’ national parks is $503 million, said the Park Service. Nationwide the figure was put at $14.7 billion.

To calculate visitor spending, the Park Service tallied camping fees, restaurants and bars, groceries and takeout food, gas and oil, local transportation, admissions and fees, and souvenirs and other expenses.

The Whaling National Historical Park counted 269,885 visitors in 2012 and calculated total visitor spending at $13.3 million and the support of 193 jobs.

Added to that is the business-to-business economy that’s not directly connected to visitor spending.

Derek Santos, the city’s acting director of economic development and a former seven-year national park employee, said that the National Park Service is meticulous, transparent and even a bit conservative about its data collection and economic totals.

And while he had not seen the report as of Monday afternoon, he said that the park is one of the biggest selling points that his agency has in trying to attract investors.

“One of the things that we always focus on is what are the assets that give us a competitive advantage,” Santos told The Standard-Times.

“One is the fantastic working waterfront, with fishing, cargo, and offshore wind,” he said.

“Another huge asset is the downtown with its national park, the only national park in America telling the story of the American whaling industry,” he said.

Third is the UMass Dartmouth College of Visual and Performing Arts, he said. That completes a partnership for arts, culture and cultural tourism, which Santos said is a large portion of the local economy, more so than the entire state, which ranks high in the nation to begin with.

Every tour that his office conducts starts downtown at the national park. “It dispels the myths,” he said. “It immediately gives you a taste for the SouthCoast.”

The park’s presence, Santos said, underpins the city’s downtown economy. “The downtown has to be strong and vibrant. We are blessed with this asset. It’s a big deal.”

http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/articleAID=/20140304/NEWS/403040322/1001/NEWSLETTER100

Immigrants put business knowledge to use in New Bedford bodegas

image 4By SIMÓN RIOS
srios@s-t.com
March 23, 2014 12:00 AM

NEW BEDFORD — The small shop is filled to the brim, a cornucopia of items catering to the Central Americans along Acushnet Avenue and beyond. From the wooden tortilla presses and corn flour to the metal “comal” griddles for cooking the tortillas, the bodega offers enough items to make folks feel “en su casa,” — at least at dinner time.

“Mostly we sell Central American products,” said Erika Lopez, who works the counter at Tienda Centroamericana y Antojitos, “like tamalitos, pitos, items traditional to our countries. We have products from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, and a few Cape Verdean items, not many.”

Owned by Lopez’ aunt, the Acushnet Avenue shop is operated by Lopez and her aunt and uncle. The merchandise — which can change according to the season and what’s in demand — ranges from Mexican flags and Salvadoran “crema” to iPhone 3 chargers and votive candles.

“They are highly devout people,” Lopez said in Spanish, speaking of her clientele. “Let’s say your uncle is sick — you light a candle for the Virgin or to God, and the next day your uncle gets better, then you light another candle. So there are many candles.”

Bodega (Spanish for “wine cellar”) is another word for corner store. They have long been a cultural holdout for immigrant communities in urban America. A survey of 10 of New Bedford’s bodegas found that the great majority are owned by immigrants — some Latin Americans and some Arab, but in most cases South Asian, including Indian, Pakistani and Bangladesh.

Muhammad Naseer and his partner opened Americas Market at the end of 2012. It’s the former site of a Central Food Market II he said was owned by Ignacio Diaz, a Dominican immigrant who also owned a large Latino bodega, Central Food Market, on South 2nd Street in the South End. Naseer’s is now one of the largest bodegas on the avenue.

“It’s not cheap by any means,” he said with a laugh, referring to the bills associated with running a bodega, which he stocks with a healthy array of Hispanic food as well as meat, cigarettes, phone cards and lottery items.

Naseer is originally from Pakistan but lives in New Bedford now. He said he has basically zero Pakistani clients, estimating that 60 percent of his clients speak Spanish as a first language.

“We didn’t open it to serve the Pakistani community,” he said. “We opened (in) the neighborhood and Hispanics are the majority.”

 

THE CHANGING FACE OF BODEGAS

When she was a 10 and freshly migrated from Portugal, Helena DaSilva Hughes remembers most of the bodegas being owned by Portuguese immigrants. But as the Portuguese became more affluent and moved into the suburbs, many of the corner convenience stores closed their doors.

 

Now that’s starting to change.

“I’ve noticed within the last 10 years they’re popping up everywhere, with more immigrants coming into the area, and that’s why the need is there again,” said Hughes, who runs the Immigrants’ Assistance Center in the South End.

Those who shop at bodegas are willing to pay a small premium for goods that they could find cheaper elsewhere — as well as products that can’t be found at the Market Baskets and Stop & Shops of the world. And for many neighborhood dwellers, especially those without vehicles, the convenience is unbeatable.

Although some of the bodegas cater to Latino audiences, they aren’t predominantly Latino-owned. Hughes said the fact that Latinos aren’t as prevalent as bodega owners could be due to a lack of capital. Regardless of who owns them, she said the predominance of bodegas proves there’s a healthy market for it.

“They exist because they’re making money,” she said. “If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be there.”

Santa Alvarado, a Puerto Rican immigrant who came to New Bedford in the 1960s, said she grew up in New York City, where bodegas abound and filled with ethnic foods. Even today she depends on the bodegas for certain Puerto Rican dishes.

“The bodegas serve the communities,” Alvarado said. “I can find the Spanish food I make there.”

Now Alvarado does her shopping on Acushnet Avenue. She plays her scratch tickets and Keno at an Orhcard Street bodega run by Indians from the state of Gujarat.

 

WHY IMMIGRANTS? WHY BODEGAS

Immigration tends to work in cycles. Corinn Williams, executive director of the Community Economic Development Center, said the first immigrants generally work in lower paying jobs. With time they are able to save money to invest in businesses — like bodegas.

 

“The Portuguese community were factory workers, garment and apparel, and (later some) were able to go into business,” Williams said. “It seems like that evolution hasn’t quite gelled with the Latino community just yet.”

The class background of different immigrants groups can also play a role in their ability to open businesses — like whether they come with access to investment capital or with just a few dollars in their pocket.

“By and large, someone who’s just working in seafood processing and trying to survive here and help support a family, it’s pretty hard to have extra resources,” she said.

Similar to the entrepreneurship among the city’s Portuguese immigrants, Williams predicted that in the years to come, as New Bedford’s Latinos become more established at work and at home, that there will be a higher concentration of business ownership among them.

Nick Patel’s family owns Corner Store and two others bodegas in the city. Asked why immigrants are likely to be bodega owners, he referred to his ancestors as spice traders.

“The Patels who came from India, they’re basically merchant people,” he said. “It’s a long history. You can find Patels anywhere, even if you cross the Atlantic Ocean.”

Patel said that with modernity his people have become more inclined to open businesses. In his case he works 50 to 60 hours a week.

Of Pakistani origin but born in America, Waqar Akbar helps his family at N & W Convenience Mart on Belleville Avenue He said native-born Americans aren’t always inclined to put in the endless hours necessary to keep a bodega going, which can mean saying goodbye to weekends, holidays and vacations.

“They are hard workers and the business requires hard work,” Akbar said of the immigrant community.

A year-and-a-half ago, Petro Mart opened right across the street from Corner Store, according to Michael Khalife, whose family owns the store. Born in Lebanon, Khalife said his father was in construction in the old country — going into this type of business was a fitting choice.

 

“With a language barrier at the time, they couldn’t go get a desk job anywhere, no college degree, so to work for themselves was a lot easier than trying to get into the corporate world,” Khalife said.

He said the family has run an array of gasoline franchises over the years. In 2002 they opened a shop on Coggeshall Street, followed by Petro Mart 2 on Orchard Street.

Khalife said he received a bachelor’s degree in business and “had options” about what to do with his degree. He opted to continue with the family business although the margin can often be slim.

“A little margin here and a little margin there, and you get the volume and make something at end of the month,” he said.

“(You do OK) if you get the right location and you’re set up in the right community.”

http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20140323/NEWS/403230307

Tom Davis: The city’s good jobs producer

By Jack Spillane
jspillane@s-t.com
March 09, 2014 5:51 AMtom

This past Friday, Tom Davis and I took the latest in a series of drives that we’ve made over the years through the New Bedford Business Park.

It’s a handsome park, with more than a few high-tech plants set in an idyllic, heavily-wooded campus. But the thing that always impresses me the most is the cars. The SUVs and the family sedans, the pickup trucks and the vans. The automobiles, parked in neat rows in well ­landscaped lots, have always to me been the symbols of the New Bedford park’s success. They spell middle class and stability, a different world than much of inner city New Bedford where the many empty factories and crumbling buildings stir other emotions.

Many of those SUVs and sedans at the park are owned by people who do blue-collar work. They labor on assembly lines, some of them performing very high-precision assembly. They punch clocks and they make industrial products like artificial knee machines or electrolytic capacitors, even something as specialized as the insignias on ball caps. They do this work for good wages and benefits.

These men and women possess what many do not in 2014 America: manufacturing skill.

They get up in the morning and drive to work and put in a set number of hours and in return they receive a living wage. This is not McDonald’s or the Dartmouth Mall, this is industrial America.

The New Bedford Business Park over the past 15 years has made a remarkable turnaround.

When Tom Davis arrived in 1998, the park was a poorly kept, sleepy facility where the two of the largest three tenants —Titleist and Johnson & Johnson — were considering leaving for out of state.

Titleist has since expanded five times and Johnson & Johnson expanded three times before selling to Symmetry Metals, which has stayed in the park.

Since Davis, a former Exxon executive with no real estate experience, came on board, the park has grown from 18 companies to 45.The number of employees has increased from 1,500 to 4,500.

With sales revenue of $2 billion a year and an annual payroll of $250 million, and $2.2 million paid in annual property taxes to New Bedford ($600,000 to Dartmouth), the New Bedford Business Park is one of the most important economic engines on the SouthCoast.

No, it is not the single largest employer like Southcoast Hospitals and no, it’s not the city’s most iconic industry like the scallop fishery. But the park, which is now the second largest industrial park in Massachusetts, is a hugely important part of the local economy. In some ways, it seems the one large manufacturing operation that looks forward in Greater New Bedford.

The man who made the Business Park a success is, of course, Mr. Davis, who announced his retirement as the head of the business park earlier this week.

He’s a funny guy. Hard­working and incredibly smart, he’s also a tough interview. Tom Davis knows the points he wants to make and reporters are on his agenda as much as they are on the newspaper’s.

Davis is a man of wide interests and he’s also made a big impact on the turnaround of the New Bedford public schools. He’s also been a player in other real estate efforts outside the park and presently has his eye on what could be a game­ changing economic development in the inner city. More about that in future papers.

Probably the biggest reason Tom Davis has been successful at the business park is that he has delivered what expanding businesses want — easy construction and/or renovation. He has managed to accomplish the full permitting of major developments in as little as 30 to 60 days.

Asked how he does it, Davis said he always goes to the top of the food chain first, before he enters the minefield of municipal permitting boards. In other words, he first works the chairpeople of the planning, zoning and conservation boards and the mayors. Davis is one of the few major players in the city who has had excellent relationship with three very different mayors in a row: Fred Kalisz, Scott Lang and Jon Mitchell.

Another key achievement at the Business Park, under Davis’ leadership, is what’s called state “master plan approval.” At great expense and effort, Davis has managed to win master plan approval for all developable lots in the New Bedford park from every necessary state agency. So there’s never a lengthy or expensive development process.

Davis’ also emphasizes that he’s only sought quality companies for the park — businesses that pay above average wages and benefits and that do not contaminate the environment.

As Davis heads to an active retirement — he plans to stay involved both inside and outside the park — there’s a limited number of developable plots left at the 1,000 acre campus.

But there’ll always be important turnover decisions to be made as companies come and go and Davis has arranged so the new board of directors of the park are all park stakeholders. That will keep the park’s needs first and foremost, he says.

You don’t have to worry about Tom Davis remaining an influence for good in the future of Southcoast. He’s going to remain an important player. He’s going to remain a guy who doesn’t just talk a lot of economic development but a guy who produces it.

http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20140309/NEWS/140309859

Downtown New Bedford is a destination for artists’ offerings and fashionable finds

IMG_3979BY JENNA PELLETIER
Journal Staff Writer
jpelletier@providencejournal.com

Squint your eyes and you might think you’re in Newport.

With its working waterfront, cobblestone streets and historic whaling industry buildings, New Bedford is a scrappier city by the sea. And well worth a visit.

Steady revitalization in recent years has brought new life to the city, making it a great place to while away an afternoon. About a half-hour’s drive from Providence, downtown New Bedford has become an artsy haven of indie shops and restaurants. It’s an especially good spot to hunt for locally made art (the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s College of Visual and Performing Arts is located here), thrift store finds and all things maritime related.

Here are our picks of places to check out.

From velvet reptile leggings to fringe-covered blouses to neon knot necklaces, Elissa Paquette stocks her boutique, Calico (173 Union St., 508-999-4147, shopcalico.com), with bold, of-the-moment pieces. Chatty clerks are quick to offer styling tips, and even pour complimentary bubbly on Champagne Tuesdays.

Be Jeweled (26 Centre St., New Bedford, 508-990-1300, shopbejeweledonline.com) offers a well edited mix of fine and fashion jewelry from mostly independent designers. Standouts include Alexis Bittar’s hand-carved Lucite pieces and Melissa Joy Manning’s Herkimer diamond and druzy stone designs.

More than a dozen galleries pepper downtown, and there’s a place for every price point. On the more accessible end of the spectrum, TL6 the Gallery (100 William St., 508-992-8100) has a fun mix of offerings — jewelry made from industrial parts, mini paintings, fingerless knitted gloves, “linguica and coffee milk T-shirts” mostly from Massachusetts artists. Also be sure to check out Gallery 65 on William (65 William St., 508-994-1595, gallery65onwilliam.com) for fine art and UGLY Gallery (246 Union St., uglygallery.com) for T-shirts with urban edge.

With its maritime history, one of the city’s biggest attractions is the New Bedford Whaling Museum (18 Johnny Cake Hill, 508-997-0046, whalingmuseum.org). After you’ve nerded out on scrimshaw and ship models, be sure to swing by the Museum Store, where you’ll find preppy-cute whale belts, bracelets and ties.

Mexican or pizza? When it’s time to break for lunch, No Problemo Taqueria (813 Purchase St., 508-984-1081, noproblemotaqueria.com) and Brick Pizzeria Napoletana (163 Union St., 508-999-4943, pizzeriabrick.com) are two stellar options.

No Problemo satisfies with Mexican favorites such as burritos and tacos, but if you want something a little different, try the chicken torta. It’s a delicious mess of chicken, cheese, refried beans and guacamole served on a grilled Portuguese roll. And Brick Pizzeria’s chewy-charred wood-fired pies alone are worth a trip into the city.

New Bedford is also a bit of a thrifter’s paradise. Head to the Artificial Marketplace(104 William St., 508-730-7661, artificialmarketplace.com) for “Mad Men”-era furniture and housewares, vinyl and comics; Laney Baby & Co. (185 Union St., 508-993-1111, laneybaby.co), for baby and children’s clothes sold on consignment; and 767 Exchange (767 Purchase St., 508-404-5527) for a mix of vintage, new and used clothing for men and women.

Wrap up your afternoon with a beverage. Travessia Urban Winery (760 Purchase St., 774-929-6534, travessiawine.com) offers tastings of current releases, including Chardonnay and Riesling, made with Massachusetts-grown grapes and fermented on site. If a latte is more your speed, Green Bean ( 740 Purchase St., 508-984-3300) is a great place to grab one and relax for a while before the ride home.

http://www.providencejournal.com/features/lifestyle/style/20140323-downtown-new-bedford-is-a-destination-for-artists-offerings-and-fashionable-finds.ece

New Bedford Designated a State Cultural District

street artMass Cultural Council Creates New Bedford Seaport Cultural District

Elizabeth Treadup Pio, Esq.
City of New Bedford
Office of the Mayor
etreadup@newbedford-ma.gov
(508) 979-1410 office
(508) 989-4407 cell

New Bedford, Massachusetts—At a board meeting of the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) held at the Worcester Art Museum yesterday, New Bedford received approval of its application to establish a state designated cultural district in its downtown.  The New Bedford Seaport Cultural District is the only cultural district in Southeastern Massachusetts recognized by the state.

“Anyone who is familiar with New Bedford knows that our downtown is a natural fit for this MCC designation.  It’s an attractive, diverse, walk-able place with many cultural assets, deeply rooted in the arts and supported by a dedicated group of leaders committed to fostering and enhancing its cultural vitality. The cultural district designation provides a means for better capitalizing on these assets through marketing, data collection, and sharing best practices. Perhaps most importantly, it provides our thriving arts and culture community a more formalized structure for collaboration.  I appreciate the time and energy the Steering Committee has invested the application process as well as the support New Bedford received from Senator Montigny and his staff.”

“New Bedford has been a national model for cities seeking to harness the power of arts and culture to revitalize their downtowns,” said Anita Walker, MCC Executive Director. “The New Bedford Seaport Cultural District takes this effort to a whole new level. It promises to bring more activity to the streets, attract more business – and businesses – to New Bedford, and widen the public’s engagement with the arts as a way to celebrate community.”

Senator Montigny, whose legislative efforts, including his Star Store legislation, have contributed to Downtown New Bedford’s renaissance as a center for the creative economy stated, “Vibrant arts and cultural districts not only improve the quality of life in communities but also are a strong economic development tool.  The establishment of the New Bedford Seaport Cultural District is another milestone in Downtown New Bedford’s rebirth as a thriving art, cultural and entertainment center.”  The Senator further added, “I am pleased to have worked with the Mayor and the Cultural District Steering Committee in securing the District’s designation which will ensure that good jobs, lasting development and an improved quality of life are provided to the citizens of New Bedford and the surrounding towns.”

New Bedford has grown over the years in the number of venues, events and organizations devoted to art, culture and history.  Cultural programming and institutions such as AHA!, the Zeiterion, and a rich collection of galleries, museums, and historic sites all contribute to the City’s vibrancy.  Recently, The Atlantic magazine named New Bedford the “7th most artistic city in the country.”  Downtown New Bedford is also home of one of the nation’s urban National Parks.

Other cities in the Commonwealth with cultural districts have received assistance from a number of state agencies for improvements in their district.  The New Bedford Seaport Cultural District designation is expected to help New Bedford advance toward its goals of increased tourism and business development.

Dagny Ashley, Tourism Director for New Bedford is excited to have the opportunity to market and promote the city’s cultural assets utilizing the state cultural district initiative. “Cultural districts have been proven to attract more tourism, enhance the experience for visitors and attract more visitor dollars,” she said.

New Bedford’s Seaport Cultural District is comprised of about 20 downtown blocks from the waterfront to North Sixth and Seventh Streets, and from Elm and William Streets to Union and Spring Streets, and includes the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park.  The New Bedford Seaport Cultural District contains 49 cultural attractions and 29 creative economy businesses (including 12 galleries, 10 restaurants, 11 shops).  In addition, there are 18 district partners or businesses that are located outside the district but conduct programming within the district.

Many stakeholders partnered with the City to pursue the Seaport Cultural District designation and their dedication throughout the 11 month application process has been invaluable.   A 30-member Steering Committee comprised of arts, culture, and business representatives, co-chaired by Mark Hess, VP of Acquisitions and Development at Hallkeen Management and Adrian Tio, Dean of UMass Dartmouth College of Visual and Performing Arts led the application process.  The Steering Committee was supported by Senator Mark Montigny’s staff and University of Massachusetts Dartmouth intern; City’s Consultant, Michael Metzler; Angela Johnston, New Bedford Economic Development Commission and Dagny Ashley, City of New Bedford Director of Tourism and Marketing.

The Massachusetts Cultural Council oversees the designation process and emphasizes its goal of increasing economic activity through what is often referred to as the “Creative Economy.”  Many cities and towns have seen significant economic impacts derived from activity in arts and culture.

About the Massachusetts Cultural Districts Initiative:

The evidence is clear: A thriving creative sector is one of our Commonwealth’s most powerful economic development assets. Recognizing this, the Massachusetts Legislature authorized MCC’s Cultural Districts Initiative through an economic development bill in 2010. MCC launched the program April 2011, and has since designated 23 districts across the Commonwealth.

A cultural district is a specific geographical area in a community with a concentration of cultural facilities, activities, and assets. It is a walk-able, compact area that is easily identifiable to visitors and residents and a center of cultural, artistic and economic activity.  The program celebrates and enhances the distinctiveness and cultural diversity of Massachusetts’ cities and towns.

Cultural districts enhance experiences for visitors and thus attract more tourist dollars and tax revenue. They also attract working artists, cultural organizations and entrepreneurs of all kinds – enhancing property values and making communities more attractive. And they help local arts, history, and science organizations improve the quality and range of their public programs so that more local families can benefit from them.

The statute that created cultural districts has specific goals. They are:

  1. Attract artists and cultural enterprises
  2. Encourage business and job development
  3. Establish the district as a tourist destination
  4. Preserve and reuse historic buildings
  5. Enhance property values
  6. Foster local cultural development.