New state effort will unify workforce development programs

Posted Aug 30, 2018 at 9:43 AM

MassHire, the state’s new branding initiative that will unify the state’s workforce development systems, was rolled out Wednesday by Gov. Charlie Baker and Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Rosalin Acosta at the now former Fall River Career Center.

With more people looking for workers than people looking for work in Massachusetts, Baker said this branding is a good opportunity for the state.

Baker said the goal “in Fall River and across the Commonwealth (is) to really lift up this notion that … if you’re looking for people, there are people here who are looking for you.”

The state’s new initiative combined with the federal Workforce Opportunity Act passed in 2014 provides more flexibility to structure workforce development efforts, Baker said.

“We have the career centers and the workforce investment boards to serve as what I would describe as the brokers between and among the players,” the governor said.

They are “the folks who are looking for something, the folks looking for workers and the folks looking for the skill sets to change careers,” said Baker before a packed room of local and state workforce development staff, elected officials and some local business leaders.

The new initiative means that the 16 local workforce investment boards across the state will now be known as the MassHire Workforce Boards and the 29 career centers around the state become the MassHire Career Centers. The change in designations includes New Bedford.

In addition, the Massachusetts Workforce Development Board is the MassHire State Workforce Board and the Department of Career Services is the MassHire Department of Career Services.

Acosta, who was appointed by Baker last July, said work on the initiative has already started.

“This is exactly what the career centers are delivering today,” said Acosta. “But without the partnerships with the employers we couldn’t get it done.”

In fiscal 2018, Acosta said the career centers around the state have served 132,000 job seekers with 8,000 disabled and over 6,000 veterans while connecting 4,000 with training opportunities. They have also worked with 20,000 employers.

However a poll of employers showed only 6 percent were aware of the career centers’ services, which needs to change, she said.

Acosta said the unveiling of the initiative “is only step one.”

“We also know we need to modernize, we know we need to bring services to where the people are,” said Acosta.

Greater New Bedford Workforce Investment Board Inc.

Jim Oliveira, Executive Director

1213 Purchase St., 2nd Floor, New Bedford

508-979-1504; www.gnbwib.org/

Bristol Workforce Investment Board

Thomas Perreira, Executive Director

One Government Center, 5th Floor, Fall River

508-675-1165; www.bristolwib.org/

Original story here.

‘Taking it in’: Vineyard Wind wins offshore wind contract with Massachusetts

Vineyard Wind has been selected for Massachusetts’ first offshore wind contract, and Deepwater Wind will receive a contract from Rhode Island based on its Massachusetts bid, state officials announced Wednesday.

Together, their projects total 1,200 megawatts and establish a new industry in the region.

Vineyard Wind was awarded an 800-megawatt wind farm — up to 100 turbines — in federal waters about 14 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard. Deepwater’s project, called Revolution Wind, will be half the size, located south of Little Compton, Rhode Island, and Westport, Massachusetts.

“I’m still at the point of … taking it in,” said Erich Stephens, chief development officer for Vineyard Wind, minutes after the public announcement just after 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The two companies were competing with a third bidder, Bay State Wind, in a Massachusetts procurement process, mandated by state law, to provide power to the state’s electric companies. The electric companies selected the winners in concert with the state.

Massachusetts’ choice to award 800 megawatts to a single bidder, rather than split the work into two, came as a surprise to many and somewhat of a disappointment to New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell.

“Overall, I’m pleased we’ve arrived at this day,” he said in an interview. He said the day marks an important milestone, but he would have liked to see two projects receive Massachusetts contracts in the first round.

“There would be a greater level of competition for investment commitments in the port,” he said. In addition, having two projects underway at once would be a hedge against one project’s delay holding up in the industry, he said.

Mitchell did not endorse a project. The city will work with any of the developers, he said.

Both of the companies that were not selected in Massachusetts had made specific financial commitments to local colleges, contingent upon winning a contract. Bay State Wind pledged $1 million to Bristol Community College to endow a faculty position in wind energy. Deepwater Wind committed $1 million for a research project called the Blue Economy Initiative at the University of Massachusetts, to be led by the UMass Dartmouth School for Marine Science and Technology, which is in New Bedford.

Each of the three companies presented a package of enticements, some rolled out over time. For example, Bay State Wind offered $17.5 million for energy assistance and weatherization for low-income families.

Vineyard Wind’s enticements totaled $15 million: $10 million for a fund to develop the wind business supply chain in Massachusetts; $3 million to develop technologies to protect marine mammals from the effects of offshore wind construction; and $2 million to recruit, mentor and train in-state workers.

The mayor said the Massachusetts decision shows Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration chose mainly on price. Details of the pricing have not been made public. However, officials in the Baker administration did agree Wednesday that pricing was the most significant element, but not the only one.

Officials from the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the Department of Energy Resources, who asked not to be named because the administration issued its official comments in writing, said a rigorous analysis of the bids gave Vineyard Wind the overall highest score in both qualitative and quantitative benefits — that is, price and other advantages.

Non-price factors included the effect on the economy and environment, the experience of the backers, and the construction schedule, they said. In addition, Vineyard Wind’s early timeline allows it to take advantage of a tax credit that would not be as generous later, they said.

The officials said they plan to work on new initiatives to address the concerns of fishermen, who have said the turbines could negatively affect the natural habitat.

Significant work lies ahead to reconcile differences with the fishing industry, Mayor Mitchell said.

Tony Sapienza, president of the New Bedford Economic Development Council, said he was excited for the winners and “a little bit surprised” that Massachusetts didn’t go with two bidders. But he believes all three companies will be generating electricity in the region before the state finishes procuring the full 1,600 megawatts required by law.

“I think that’s a given,” he said.

All three bidders have room in their federal lease areas for more turbines in the future.

Derek Santos, the council’s executive director, said the city could still stage the installation of both projects from the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal. All three companies committed to use the terminal for Massachusetts projects, but no such commitment applies to Rhode Island.

Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski said “the overwhelming majority” of his project’s work will take place in Rhode Island.

Although New Bedford is not completely out of the picture, “clearly our principal commitment is to Rhode Island,” he said.

Still, Santos considers the award a positive development, and the council will continue to work to maximize the benefits to the port, he said.

Baker said in a news release that the announcement makes the state a hub for an emerging industry and brings it one step closer to “creating a clean, reliable and cost-effective energy future for Massachusetts residents, and significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change.”

In the Vineyard Wind office on Wednesday, employees fielded phone calls and planned to make a dinner reservation to celebrate, Stephens said.

“New Bedford’s going to be a busy place real soon,” he said.

For him as for others, getting a full 800 megawatts, instead of sharing the award, came as a surprise.

“I was hopeful we might get something,” he said.

Stephens said the company is excited to continue pursuing permits, surveying the ocean floor, and talking to potential suppliers. Construction could begin by the end of 2019.

Vineyard Wind is owned jointly by the Danish investment company Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Avangrid Renewables, a division of Connecticut-based energy company Avangrid, which is owned by Iberdrola of Spain.

Bay State Wind, which did not win a contract, issued a statement attributed to two people from its parent companies: Thomas Brostrøm, president of Ørsted North America, and Lee Olivier, an executive vice president at Eversource.

“We’re disappointed by today’s decision by the Massachusetts evaluation team,” they said in the statement. “We made a compelling offer to help the commonwealth meet its ambitious clean energy goals while maintaining strong financial discipline. Further, our proposal to interconnect our project into the former Brayton Point facility in Somerset, Massachusetts, would ensure clean energy delivery into one of the strongest connections on New England’s electrical grid.”

“We remain fully committed to our Bay State Wind partnership, as together we pursue future solicitations in New England and New York,” they said.

The award to Vineyard Wind is conditional upon the successful negotiation of a contract, and the deal must be approved by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities. The schedule calls for contracts to be negotiated by July 2 and submitted for approval by July 31.

A 2016 state law requires electric companies doing business in Massachusetts — Eversource, National Grid, and Unitil — to buy 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind power in the next decade, enough to power hundreds of thousands of homes.

Bay State Wind signs agreements to build training center in New Bedford


Bay State Wind has signed agreements to develop a training center for future offshore wind workers in the city, the company announced Monday.

Bay State Wind is a partnership between Ørsted and Eversource for an offshore wind project 25 miles off Massachusetts and 15 miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. Bay State Wind is one of three projects, along with Deepwater Wind and Vineyard Wind, competing in a state-led bidding process in which Massachusetts power companies will buy electricity from offshore wind. A 2016 state law requires power companies to buy long-term contracts for at least 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind power in the next decade.

Bay State Wind has signed agreements with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Utility Workers Union of America and its Power for America initiative, and the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers, along with Bristol Community College and the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, according to a news release.

“We are very happy to be working with Bay State Wind, which is the only offshore wind developer that is committing to become a true Massachusetts company, by training and hiring local union labor,” said Mike Monahan, international vice president, second district, of the IBEW, in a statement.

The company said it expects to hire up to 1,000 workers during the construction phase and create 100 permanent jobs over the 25-year life of the turbines, with an operations and maintenance facility that also will be located in New Bedford.

If chosen by the state for the contract, Bay State Wind also has pledged $1 million to BCC, which will “endow a faculty position to help BCC, which would offer the only degree completion program in offshore wind … Bay State Wind will collaborate with BCC faculty and staff to train other teachers, to create an ambitious internship program and to build a new, national model for preparing the workforce for this growing industry and its supply chain,” BCC President Laura Douglas said in March.

“New Bedford has sent its people to sea for nearly 300 years, and in the process, became a global leader, first in whaling and then in commercial fishing,” said Mayor Jon Mitchell in a statement. “We see the establishment of an offshore wind training center here as an important step in staking our claim in the emerging offshore wind industry. We appreciate Bay State Wind’s commitment to preparing the industry’s workforce, and we look forward to working with our partners in higher education and organized labor to make the proposed center a reality.”

Bay State Wind already has signed an agreement with NEC Energy Solutions, headquartered in Westboro, to build a factory to manufacture storage batteries, according to the release. Last month, Bay State Wind reached an agreement with EEW, the international market leader in steel pipe manufacturing, to open and staff a plant to manufacture offshore wind components, in collaboration with Gulf Island Fabrication. EEW is considering a variety of sites, including locations on SouthCoast.

Original story here.

Tony Sapienza proved quality clothing can be made in America

Updated Jan 13, 2018 at 8:47 PM

Manufacturing in the United States allowed Joseph Abboud Manufacturing to be nimble in an ever-evolving world of fashion — a strength not held by foreign competitors.

Decades ago Tony Sapienza shared some feelings of uncertainty with Matt Morrissey, who at the time was the executive director of New Bedford’s Economic Development Council.

The number of American clothing manufacturing jobs continued to decline as companies exported them to foreign countries.

“There was a sense of when was the last shoe going to fall in New Bedford,” Morrissey said. “That was very much in the thinking of that period.”

Sapienza feared Riverside Manufacturing Co. would be next. The facility, which now houses Joseph Abboud Manufacturing, under Sapienza’s guidance, wouldn’t be silenced.

“Tony was very instrumental in holding that together and realizing the value of the factory,” Joseph Abboud said. “You have 750 families there that maybe wouldn’t be there if Tony hadn’t sort of stuck through it and persevered. We owe him a lot. We really do. That’s a big statement.”

Joseph Abboud celebrated its 30th anniversary in New Bedford last year. Sapienza’s trust in the city, it’s workforce and his innovation preserved the factory.

As he looks toward retirement in 2018, the 70-year-old Sapienza, CEO of Joseph Abboud, is SouthCoast Today’s Businessperson of the Year.

“He is clearly the guy that deserves it,” Abboud said. “Because that factory could have easily been gone, which would have been a disaster.”

Sapienza, regardless of how dire the circumstances appeared, said he never entirely lost faith in New Bedford.

He trusted GFT (Gruppo Finanziaro Tessile), the Italian clothing company which owned Riverside. But even more he knew the workforce, made up of mostly Portuguese women, would prevail.

“Folks who came to this country as teenagers, as young adults, kids sometimes, but who grew up in a family environment where, first of all, there were needle trade skills, so they knew how to thread a needle and run a sewing machine and had a tremendous work ethic,” Sapienza said.

The addition of Abboud completed the ingredients for the resurrection of the manufacturing facility.

“He kind of synthesized the brand and the look and he was an American designer born in America, making clothing in America,” Sapienza said. “It was a great story you could tell about his commitment to being an American and being in the right place.”

But it was Sapienza who made the most out of those ingredients, both Morrissey and Abboud said.

During the 1990s it made business sense for companies to outsource jobs. Sapienza looked at having a facility in New Bedford as a positive, specifically in men’s fashion.

As the country exited the 2002 recession, Sapienza introduced an idea Americans take for granted in 2018.

“That was all about treating the consumer to the kind of (service) we’ve all become accustomed to,” Abboud said. “We go online. We order something and it shows up two days later. With men’s clothing we’re not quite as fast as two days later, but when you can get a product in two weeks or three weeks particularly made to your specifications, that’s a pretty good deal.”

Foreign competitors needed weeks to ship products to the United States. Joseph Abboud Manufacturing worked to provide customers with the quickest transaction possible.

“So we made significant investments in 2004 in efficiency and in getting the product to market that much faster,” Sapienza said. “That was probably the single most important additional thing that we as managers here in New Bedford were able to do.”

New machinery cut six days out of the production process.

Sapienza also brought the New Jersey distribution facility to New Bedford. It created upwards of 30 jobs and saved at least another week in shipping.

Often, shipments out of New Jersey required overnight shipping. Since Sapienza had streamlined production, overnighting packages wasn’t needed as often. Not only did Sapienza provide better customer service, he saved the company money.

Manufacturing in the United States also allowed Joseph Abboud Manufacturing to be nimble in an ever-evolving world of fashion — a strength not held by foreign competitors.

“We make a lot of high quality products offshore but there isn’t anything quite like what we do (in New Bedford),” Abboud said. “He was extremely instrumental in understanding the value of the factory to the brand.”

As early as 2009, Sapienza ushered one of the oldest trades in the world into social media.

“We realized we could do it on social media. It’s pretty cheap to do,” Sapienza said. “You don’t have to buy $20,000 ads in men’s magazines. You can blog and do a whole bunch of other stuff.”

As Sapienza steps into retirement, he sees the industry stepping into different, uncharted territory.

Malls are struggling. Brick and mortar retail may not have a future.

“Who could have predicted Amazon and Wal-Mart battling the way they are,” Sapienza said. “That you get your groceries from Amazon. It’s a whole new landscape out there.”

At his core, though, Sapienza believes tailoring is a craft done best with the customer present. That aspect will always steady any uncertain waters.

“I think we’ll see the best retailers are going to survive when they provide exemplary customer service and when they’re selling a product that needs a little bit of hand holding,” Sapienza said.

Abboud refers to Sapienza as royalty in the tailored clothing industry. The two met in their 20s. Sapienza worked at his father’s factory in Haverhill

“You can’t necessarily put down on a checklist, he’s a very special guy,” Abboud said. “I think he’s very connected with the community, committed to the community and I think that makes him. And he’s seen the world.”

Retirement or not, the world will see the chair of the Economic Development Council and trustee at the Whaling Museum and Bristol County Community College again.

“This isn’t the last of me,” Sapienza said. “You’ll see me.”

Follow Michael Bonner on Twitter @MikeBBonnerSCT

Original story here.

 

Bay State Wind pledges $1 million to BCC if it wins contract

Posted Dec 20, 2017 at 7:38 PM

Bay State Wind has committed $1 million to Bristol Community College for wind-energy training in New Bedford, contingent upon Bay State Wind winning a contract for an offshore wind farm.

The money would support a faculty member in wind energy, BCC’s first-ever endowed faculty position in any field, BCC President Laura Douglas said at press conference Wednesday at the New Bedford campus. The position would be funded in 2019.

Douglas welcomed what she called “the start of a long relationship between BCC and Bay State Wind,” saying the company would host student interns, provide a guest lecturer, explore collaborating with BCC and others to develop an offshore wind training center in New Bedford, and participate in other BCC initiatives.

Mike Durand, a spokesman for Eversource, one of the backers of Bay State Wind, delivered remarks on behalf of the developers.

“I can’t think of a more deserving recipient of our support than this institution,” said Durand, who is a BCC graduate.

Bay State Wind, one of three bidders for an offshore wind farm as part of a state-led procurement process, is a joint venture of Eversource and Danish energy company Ørsted.

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell said New Bedford is working to maximize the advantage from its “first-mover status” in the offshore wind industry.

Original story here.

New Bedford’s Joseph Abboud perfectly suited for NBA sidelines

When the NBA regular season kicks off Tuesday night, Kyrie Irving will sit in the visitor’s locker room in Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena and lace up his personalized Nike sneakers for his debut with the Celtics. In the home locker room, LeBron James will have an array of footwear options within his signature shoe line.

Later that night, across the country in San Francisco, the Warriors’ Steph Curry will tie the laces of his signature shoe with Under Armor. Houston’s James Harden will feature his shoe with Adidas. All will don jerseys with their named emblazoned across the shoulders.

The coaches in each contest, meanwhile, from Brad Stevens to Steve Kerr, have their own uniform for the game —a dapper suit, custom made and tailored for them in a style of their choosing. Their names are elegantly embroidered inside the lapels.

All those suits share a common thread: New Bedford.

For the last eight years, every suit worn by an NBA coach in a game, whether played in Boston or Los Angeles, San Antonio or Minneapolis, was tailored at Joseph Abboud on Belleville Avenue.

When coach Doc Rivers walked off the court in 2010 after his Celtics lost in the NBA Finals, he wore a suit tailored in New Bedford. When Brad Stevens took over as head coach in 2013, fabric from Belleville Avenue traveled with him to every NBA city. As he ushers in a new era with Irving and Gordon Hayward, he’ll do so with ties to the Whaling City.

This year also marks the first season the company will tailor NHL coaches. Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy visited the facility recently to be measured. It’s the latest extension into the sports world for Joseph Abboud Manufacturing, which also designs and produces suits for NESN, the official broadcasters of the Boston Red Sox and Bruins.

“From the very beginning of my brand, I’ve always been affiliated with sports and the Olympics because I was able to speak to American men,” Joseph Abboud said. “It didn’t matter the color of your skin, the political preference, your religion, it was always about a great American enterprise like the NBA. Yeah, I’m very proud of it.”

“I always thinks we have a responsibility to make them the best suits we can,” said Abboud, who serves as chief creative director of Tailored Brands Inc., parent company of the firm which bears his name. “When they wear our suits, we want them to feel good. But we also want to be proud.”

Three maps hang in the corporate office of Joseph Abboud in New York City at Madison Avenue and 49th Street. Most of the foot traffic breeze by the outlines of New York City and Milan, Italy. However, the map of New Bedford that hangs alongside draws the most comments.

“We took two world capitals and we also said, for us, New Bedford is just as important,” Abboud said.

That office’s proximity to the NBA store led to its current relationship with the league.

Tony Sapienza, CEO of Joseph Abboud Manufacturing and lifelong Celtics fan, frequented the store quite often, and it was there he bumped into Michael Goldberg, the former executive director for the NBA Coaches Association.

“He had worn the Joseph Abboud brand and he introduced himself,” Sapienza said. “He said we ought to do something together.”

A lunch sparked the deal for the 2009-10 season.

The coaches receive 10 suits a season, 15 if they’re a first-time coach. Joseph Abboud officials travel to Chicago each fall for the NBA coaches summit, meeting with their clients — some familiar faces and always some first-timers — for the fitting sessions. There they meet one of Joseph Abboud’s secret weapons.

‘Best of the best’

Amidst a jungle of hanging suits and the perpetual pounding of industrial sewing machines, Salvatore Mellace reaches into his pocket, fishing out a thimble.

“I was 10-years-old when my father gave me a thimble,” he said with a thick Italian accent. “My father tied this around (my fingers) with a rope for a couple of years — day and night so that this is automatic. So when you sew, the nail will go through this and you don’t poke your skin.”

Now 72-years-old, Mellace possesses more than six decades of tailoring experience and still owns the original thimble his father gave him.

When the NBA coaches flock to Chicago each fall for their coaching summit, Mellace meets each one with tape measure.

The Senior Vice President of Design and Quality needs only about 15 minutes to dictate precise measurements for the perfect fitting suit.

“He is the best of the best. Let me tell you,” Custom Manager Jenny Barroquiero said.

Mellace studied the artform under his father Dominic in Northern Italy. As a young boy in the rebuilding efforts after World War II, Dominic would send his son to the concrete construction sites. Mellace would search for the thick paper bags that once held the concrete and bring them back to his father.

“I used to put the cement bag in this bag, bring it to the factory, clean it, and then we would make the pattern from the cement bag,” Mellace said.

Within the Joseph Abboud Manufacturing facility today, computers efficiently plot the pattern on paper utilizing every inch of the fabric. Machines then precisely cut the fabric. But even with that industrial precision, Mellace keeps his eye on the details.

“I follow through all the garments to make sure that everything is on spec,” he said.

Movable waist-high shelves scatter throughout Joseph Abboud Manufacturing. The small metal racks include a stick with a white piece of paper attached at the top that reads, “NBA Coaches for Salvatore.”

What lies on the racks varies. There could be a portion of a suit, a jacket or pants. Regardless of the point in time of the suit’s life, Mellace examines them.

“I check to make sure that the chest piece is nice and straight, that the pocket is good,” Mellace said. “I check the waist, make sure that … it matches according to my number. Otherwise it’s going to be big or small. It’s no good.”

There are at least six checkpoints a suit has to clear under Mellace’s watch. For efficiency and organizational purposes, an entire order reaches each checkpoint at the same time.

Any issue regardless of its minuscule nature is repaired by hand. It takes about three or four weeks for the process to be fully completed.

“It’s very important that when (Barroquiero) ships the personal suits for them, they’ve got to be perfect,” Mellace said.

“To make a custom suit is an art.”

‘She’s the boss’

After Mellace takes a coach’s measurements, Barroqueiro helps them narrow more than 300 swatches down to 10 suit selections. Additional modifications are possible within each suit, like lapels, buttons, pockets and more.

“When Brad (Stevens) was the new Celtics coach, he was so overwhelmed. He was like, ‘I really don’t need 15 suits. This is a lot,’” Barroquiero said. “You could tell it was too much for him to handle. He was so sweet, though. He was like, ‘I don’t know what else to get.’”

Veteran coaches understand the process. Some waste little time in selecting suits. Others flip through hundreds of swatches, snap pictures on their phones and asked for suggestions from their wives.

Former Celtics coach Doc Rivers fell into the category of coaches who thoroughly enjoyed the process.

“He loves the swatches,” Barroquiero said. “He’ll sit and he loves looking and feeling.”

Other coaches took notice.

Tom Thibodeau, who served as Rivers’ associate head coach in Boston, asked Barroquiero one year to match his order with everything Rivers placed.

″‘He has good taste. I’m just going to do everything he did,’” Barroquiero remembers Thibodeau saying. She said she hoped he and Rivers would text one another to ensure they didn’t wear the same suit to game.

Barroquiero’s role differs depending on the coach.

“They trust Jenny. No question about that,” Mellace said. “They don’t trust me, but they trust her. They trust me for one thing. But when it comes to lining, fabric and style, she’s the boss.”

Barroquiero stacks the swatches categorically in an attempt to make the decision-making process easier.

Coaches flock toward navy. But color only accounts for a portion of the process.

“They’ll pick out a linen. I tell them that’s going to wrinkle,” she said. “You probably don’t want that. If you’re going to Florida and you want to wear it on vacation, that’s fine but not to a game because it’s going to be really wrinkly. So you just guide them.”

‘You don’t believe it’

Tens of thousands of yards of fabric, stacked in spools, rise more than a dozen feet off the ground in the southern end of Joseph Abboud Manufacturing.

They account for most of the swatches presented for the coaches. At times Barroquiero will walk through the tree-trunk sized spools. A specific fabric links her to a coach or NESN client.

“I know Brad Stevens wants just subtle fabrics, so you help him pick those subtle fabrics,” she said. “Whereas you know that Jim Rice, you show him something boring he’s going to say, ‘eh uh, that’s not for me.’”

Some of the spools will only contain 5 to 10 yards of material, but they’re exclusive to Joseph Abboud shows. They’re often referred to as “sample patterns” and right up the alley of the former Hall of Fame left fielder for the Boston Red Sox.

“Jim Rice comes to the factory to pick out his swatches,” Barroquiero said, “because he knows there’s always sample pieces here. He wants something different. He loves to walk through and pick out what he wants.”

At any given time, the unassuming two-story brick building could host Boston sports royalty. Rivers, Rice and newly ordained Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy have all walked through the congestion of sewing machines and hanging fabric.

“You do (have to pinch yourself). You almost do,” Sapienza said “It’s like you don’t believe it. You’re talking to (Hall of Famer Dennis) Eckersley. He’s talking to you about throwing fastballs. Or you’re talking to Jim Rice on how he hits home runs.”

The feelings extend beyond the date when the suits ship out of the New Bedford facility.

There are more than 1,200 NBA games a season. Playoffs can jump the number by more than 100.

Regardless of the contests, Barroquireo’s reaction is the same.

“Every time there’s a game on,” she said. “You’re like ’Ahhh! He’s wearing our suit.”

Follow Michael Bonner on Twitter @MikeBBonnerSCT

Original here:

Your View: Workforce skills and education needed to match strong local work ethic

By Posted Feb 5, 2017

As we begin 2017, our city is continuing a 10-year trend of solid economic progress. Leading indicators such as labor force, business start-ups, average wages, nation-leading fishing port activity, and dropping unemployment rates all reflect steady improvement with particular acceleration over the past three years. While these numbers make for good headlines, they don’t tell the whole story.

Even with our recent successes, one painful reality remains – until the education and professional skill level of the community improves, the strong and durable economy we want for all New Bedford families will continue to be frustratingly out of reach. New Bedford is not alone in this regard; many cities and states across America are becoming increasingly concerned about not having enough skilled workers to fulfill the needs of companies ready for growth. While this is a national issue, we can, and should, take on the responsibility of making our change, for our own benefit.

Helping to bring about that kind of change is what the Regeneration Project is all about. It began in the spring of 2014 when Mayor Jon Mitchell asked many of Greater New Bedford’s business and community leaders to serve as members of the New Bedford Regeneration Committee. The task the mayor put before this diverse group was to articulate a strategy for the city’s economic regeneration that builds on the committee’s collective experience in leading successful enterprises.

The committee’s final report, Uniting in Pursuit of Growth and Opportunity, is a statement intended to attract broad popular buy-in, shape economic development strategy, and signal to both private investors and government officials outside the region that New Bedford has a clear set of objectives.

The report highlights four main strategies:

  • Bolstering local capacity to promote economic development;
  • Fostering the development of Downtown New Bedford;
  • Enhancing workforce development in advanced manufacturing; and
  • Modernizing and growing our greatest asset – the Port of New Bedford.

To continue this work, in 2015 many of the leaders from the original group agreed to form the standing committee of the New Bedford Economic Development Council’s Regeneration Project. Since then, many of the committee’s original recommendations have been acted on, resulting in tangible progress in port development, driving new downtown investment and vibrancy, and in the ways that economic and workforce development services are delivered. A good start to be sure, but not yet game changing.

To help create systematic change to our too familiar pattern of an up and down economy, we wanted to take a closer look at one area of focus from our original report – the workforce readiness of our community. During this past six months, we engaged with the local stakeholders and agencies tasked with this mission; the Workforce Investment Board, New Directions, Bristol Community College, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s Center for Policy Analysis, New Bedford Public Schools, Greater New Bedford Regional Voc-Tech, and the region’s largest employer, Southcoast Health.

All of these conversations and interactions lead to the overarching conclusion that this is not something city government can just fix like a pothole: All partners must do their share to be sure every tool is ready and accessible to those who are most in need. The citizens of New Bedford must also be committed to the hard work that lies ahead. Our workforce can no longer get by on a strong back and solid work ethic. Those attributes will continue to be of great value, but it is no longer enough, and we must adapt if we wish to thrive.

While there are big things that need to be done by all, we would offer that there are several early actions that can be started by the stakeholder agencies and organizations to help build momentum for larger tasks:

 

  • Co-locate the workforce training programs with administration functions to assure the greatest possible delivery of services;
  • Focus efforts on sectors with immediate growth potential, such as advanced manufacturing, health care services, trade skills (specifically waterfront related), and hospitality;
  • Advocate for policy changes that remove unnecessarily burdensome hurdles to job training or placement;
  • Emphasize job readiness skills for all – regardless of educational level or background;
  • Boost local investment in education – both in the New Bedford school system and for those students seeking a vocational style education – to provide the necessary tools to maximize student engagement and the ever increasing demands and requirements for workforce and higher education;
  • Work in regional partnerships to the greatest extent possible, since the labor market is not generally concerned with local municipal borders.

Building a highly skilled and well-educated workforce is a hard thing for any community to do and it will not happen overnight. However, taking some important first steps is critical to our future success. Education and workforce training levels are tied to crime, physical health, and so much more. More than any other determining factor in the well being of a community is its level of educational attainment.

We will continue to do our part to engage the public and private sector leadership of the community and advocate for this and other strategies that will increase the growth and prosperity of our city and region. As we first reported in 2014, the collaborative spirit of the community is alive and well. Our city will not only need that spirit, but the action and commitment of its citizens.

The best way for us to take greatest advantage of the good times and lessen the impacts of slower periods is to have a well balanced and diverse local economy built on the foundation of a skilled, well trained workforce in a community that is as committed to education as much as it values hard work.

Gerry Kavanaugh, Co-Chair: senior vice chancellor for strategic management, UMass Dartmouth

Anthony Sapienza, Co-Chair: president JA Apparel Corp., President New Bedford EDC

Rick Kidder: President & CEO, New Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce

David Wechsler: President and CEO, Maritime International

Maureen Sylvia Armstrong: President, CEO and owner, Sylvia Group Insurance

Keith Hovan: President and CEO, SouthCoast Health System

Nicholas Christ: President and CEO, BayCoast Bank

David Slutz: Managing Director, Potentia Business Solutions

Elizabeth Isherwood: Chair, Greater New Bedford Industrial Foundation

Patrick Murray: President and CEO, Bristol County Savings Bank

Dr. John Sbrega: President, Bristol Community College

Helena DaSilva Hughes: Executive Director, Immigrants’ Assistance Center

James Russell: President and CEO New Bedford Whaling Museum

Bob Unger: Chair, Leadership SouthCoast

James Lopes: Law Offices of James J. Lopes; New Bedford Historical Commission