Mitchell believes an innovation district would bring the best, brightest to SMAST

NEW BEDFORD — A plot extending roughly 300 feet along Rodney French Boulevard in the South End will be the site of the “innovation district” that Mayor Jon Mitchell announced last week during his State of the City address.

The land extends south toward the wastewater treatment plant for about 200 feet. While it’s not an overly large piece of land, the city believes it’s vital to the future of New Bedford.

“The idea would be to utilize city-owned land to create an environment in which people can live and and be close to research as well as business innovation opportunity,” Mitchell said.

Similar projects also labeled as “innovation districts” have popped up and are being constructed around the world. Mitchell and City Council President Joseph Lopes traveled to Pittsburgh last November to analyze its districts. They’ll travel to St. Louis in April.

“You can learn so much more by having the discussion with those who have gone through it,” Lopes said.

The Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization that conducts research on new ideas for solving problems facing society, has provided Mitchell with research on innovation districts. The organization defines an “innovation districts” as “geographic areas where leading-edge anchor institutions and companies cluster and connect with start-ups, business incubators, and accelerators.”

In this case, UMass Dartmouth’s SMAST facilities would anchor the district. Mitchell said the project won’t affect taxpayers, but instead will focus on private projects.

“By creating something that has these different elements you create that the whole idea of the innovative district,” dean of SMAST Steven Lohrenz said. “Its creating this multipurpose site with a lot of different elements and there is synergy that develops and makes it more attractive to people.”

Mitchell said the district is still years away, but the research and planning underway allowed him to announce it in last week’s State of the City.

No official plans exist for what the district could contain, but Mitchell suggested, like most around the world, it might include housing, business incubators and retail and dining opportunities.

“We want to be seen as a place where ideas can be generated and commercialized,” Mitchell said. “Those ideas are key in having an urban environment in which entrepreneurs can thrive.”

Mitchell pointed to the success of Christopher Rezendes and his Internet connectivity company, IoT Impact LABS, as past examples of innovation within the city.

This project is different in that includes SMAST, which already houses an a core of potential innovators students and professors.

“It’s a way for the city and university to expand on an already good partnership,” said Derek Santos, the executive director of New Bedford’s Economic Development Council.

Mitchell said one of the issues surrounding SMAST is that many of the dwellings in the area of the two facilities are single-family homes, which limit the number of students and professors that can live near campus.

Mitchell, Lopes and Lohrenz agreed, though, any and all projects within the district would only be approved after consideration of the neighborhood.

“This is going have to be sized right,” Lohrenz said. “We’re not building the next strip mall. It has to be something that compliments the surroundings.”

According to the Brookings Institution, innovation districts can increase economic activity and help raise property values. The group states the increased revenue can be used to invest in infrastructure, public safety, affordable housing and schools.

Santos called Cambridge’s Kendall Square, the mother of all “innovation districts.” It combines growth around MIT and along with nearby institutions like Massachusetts General Hospital.

New Bedford’s district would be on a much smaller scale but contain the same ideas.

“You take academics and mix that with private sector,” Santos said. “And you create an environment that can be dynamic.”

Follow Michael Bonner on Twitter @MikeBBonner.

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Moby Dick Brewing Co. closing in on opening day

NEW BEDFORD — A whale of a beer operation is brewing in the city’s downtown historic district.

The Moby Dick Brewing Co. is set to open its doors, and its taps, to the public on March 14 — making it the only grain-to-glass brewery in New Bedford.

Located on the corner of Union and Water street, the nearly 100-seat brewpub is aiming to cater to the craft beer crowd, the roughly 5,000 people working in the downtown area and the 120,000 people that live within 20 minutes of its doorsteps, says co-owner Bob Unger.

“We think we’re going to rejuvenate this whole section of the city,” Unger said.

Moby Dick is a joint venture of Unger, a former editor and associate publisher of The Standard-Times, and six other partners.

They hope to do for the historic district what the whaling industry did for the city two centuries ago.

Calling on the novel that helped put New Bedford on the literary map, Unger thought the name of the brewery was a no-brainer.

“Quite frankly, we felt the name is under-utilized around here,” Unger said. “Given where we’re located and the fact that this corner was once a place that outfitted whaling vessels, as most places in this part of the city did, it seemed to make sense.”

With the name and location out of the way, they enlisted the help of acclaimed local brewmaster Scott Brunelle to handle the beer and former Seattle-based chef Tom Mackley to create a menu to pair with Brunelle’s eight beers brewed in-house.

From the food to the beer to the artwork hanging on the walls the idea is evident: local sustainability. A beer Brunelle produces with wheat grain that’s spent at the end of the brewing process could be sent to a local farmer to be used to feed their livestock. They’d buy the local prepared meats from them in exchange for the wheat grain.

“We want to be good neighbors,” he said. “We want to support the work of other restaurants and businesses around us. Their success contributes to ours.”

Mackley added, “I think the idea was to reach out to the different local producers, purveyors and fishermen and see what type of ingredients were available and figure out what’s sustainable and what’s being caught responsibly.”

The lunch and dinner menus will blend classic pub fare with some of New Bedford’s seafood flare. The city’s well-known fishing industry and the possibility to work with a new set of ingredients are what excited the farm-to-table chef about coming to Moby Dick.

But even the classics will have a local, innovative spin on them. The fish and chips dish will be made from a beer batter of the American lager brewed in one of Brunelle’s five stainless steel brewing tanks, that hold 310 gallons each. The chowder will feature salt cod, a Portuguese favorite. Some more adventurous items will be the pan-seared redfish and skate wing, and the grilled whole fish.

“We’re hoping people won’t be scared off by the head being on the plate,” Mackley said.

Unger and Slutz dove head-first into the brewpub venture a little more than a year ago. He had just left his position at the Standard-Times and SouthCoastToday.com when Slutz had left Precix.

“What do you want to be when you grow up,” Unger asked Slutz while having coffee at the Green Bean one day.

It didn’t take more than 30 minutes for Slutz to be convinced. The seed was planted in Unger’s mind after sharing a few beers with his father, a former brewer for Schaefer Brewery, in St. Augustine, Florida. His 91-year-old father said, “If I was 25 years younger I would open a place like this. And you should too.”

Unger didn’t need to convince many more as he received investment backing with strong local ties.

The investment team includes David Slutz, former CEO of Precix; Maureen Sylvia Armstrong, CEO of the Sylvia Group in Dartmouth; Peter Kavanaugh, owner of Brownell Boat Stands in Mattapoisett and president of La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries in Dartmouth; Richard Lafrance, CEO of Lafrance Hospitality, which operates the New Bedford Fairfield Inn & Suites and White’s of Westport, among other hotel and restaurant holdings; Andy Gomes, owner of A Gomes Equipment in Acushnet; Randy Weeks, the partner-in-charge of Partridge, Snow & Hahn’s New Bedford office, and Unger, principal of Unger LeBlanc Inc. Strategic Communications.

The hope of everyone is to rebirth the area of the downtown facing the waterfont and make New Bedford a destination for tourists and locals alike.

“I think there are going to be more and more people coming to New Bedford, but as we become a local staple hopefully they’ll want to stick around more. We think that’s a good thing for New Bedford,” Unger said.

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Mitchell outlines future success for New Bedford in State of the City address

By Michael Bonner mbonner@s-t.com

NEW BEDFORD — Jon Mitchell looked toward the past to draw inspiration for New Bedford’s future. While he highlighted the immediate successes of last year, including a declining unemployment rate that fell more than any metro in the U.S., a port that represents 2 percent of the state’s gross national product and a shrinking crime rate, the mayor highlighted the prospects of the future by alluding to the past triumphs of nonagenarian Cal Siegal.

“His example is most relevant to us today,” Mitchell said inside the field house at Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School.

Mitchell touched on Siegal’s life story which includes graduating New Bedford High School as its salutatorian. He enrolled at Yale before World War II interrupted his studies. The rifleman and Purple Heart recipient was wounded at the Battle of the Bulge, before eventually returning to the U.S. and earning a degree at Yale.

“Cal had a lot of options. He could have gone anywhere but he decided to come back to New Bedford,” Mitchell said. “…We have our own opportunity, in our own time, to be city builders. That requires us to stretch, to extend ourselves. And we need to work harder than most places, but that’s OK.”

The most difficult work ahead of the city revolves around drug addiction.

“All of our public safety departments have been in the thick of what I believe is the single most vexing public safety challenge of our day: opiate addiction,” Mitchell said. “Any discussion of the well-being of residents of our city has to begin here.”

Mitchell praised the community for being one of the first to arm its first responders with Narcan, which he said is used on nightly basis. He thanked the assistance of Dr. Mike Rocha and Rev. David Lima, who have developed programs to prevent addicts from relapses.

He also pointed to the efforts of police officers and religious groups for offering services to victims and their families.

But the mayor voiced the need for action on top of reaction.

“The most effective way to stem the tide of addiction is through prevention,” he said. “We need to keep people from ever using drugs in the first place.”

It translates to drug education in classes as early as elementary school that describe “the perils of drug use.”

Mitchell described opiate addiction as an issue for everyone in the community, one affecting sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters.

“Let me be clear, this is a complex, multifaceted problem that affects people of every walk of life and all of us in some way or another,” Mitchell said. “So the only way we are going to turn the tide is through sustained, collective effort.”

Mitchell announced a few specific goals in his speech: He called for the creation of a marine science-oriented zone or “innovation district” on land adjacent to the new SMAST marine science campus in the South End. And in arguing for the city to invest in its physical infrastructure, he departed from his prepared remarks to call for the hiring of chief city planner, a position long vacant.

As he has in past addresses, Mitchell again called for the state to address the fixed costs it places on municipalities in the state pension and health care benefits, charter school costs and labor agreements “forced on us by state arbitrators.”

Throughout his nearly hour-long speech, the mayor also stressed the importance of a united effort to bring the city to unprecedented heights.

He established a goal of maintaining the city’s reputation as one of the top fishing ports in the country while also becoming a hub for offshore wind.

“They are all looking at New Bedford for a place to start,” Mitchell said.

Similar clean energy technologies like solar panels have saved the residents of New Bedford millions of dollars on the city’s electric bills, Mitchell said.

In building on that success, he announced the launch of a study of city government to ensure it can provide services as the lowest possible costs.

“By the time we’re done, we will have the most efficiently run city government in Massachusetts,” Mitchell said. “That’s our goal, plain and simple.”

Future growth in technology can be based in education. Mitchell proudly noted improving teaching of non-English speakers, upgrading technology, revamping curriculum and establishing administrator training program.

He stated next year the Accelerated Learning Program will expand to all middle schools.

“Most importantly, the school system now holds itself accountable,” Mitchell said. “…Going through the motions no longer flies.”

The same could be said about the city often labeled as a “working city or gateway city.” Mitchell desires more.

“Though well-intended, (the labels) are all too often understood to mean cities that are looking for help,” he said. “New Bedford is not an ailing patient. We are prepared to compete.”

Follow Michael Bonner on Twitter @MikeBBonnerSCT.

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Birth of a new base industry in New Bedford

It took a century for the epicenter of the whaling industry to shift from Nantucket to New Bedford, and it took half a century for whaling to give way to textiles here.

Things happen a lot faster now, thanks to technology, instant communications and global competition, and by the time this decade is over, the US offshore wind industry will have evolved from a concept to a base energy industry along the East Coast.

Listen to New Bedford Economic Development Director Derek Santos (above) and Wind Energy Center Director Paul Vigeant (below) talk about New Bedford’s position at the center of a new base industry that will supply vast amounts of clean, renewable energy and employ an estimated 43,000 workers by 2030.

Offshore wind industry opens shop in New Bedford

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell (above) welcomed Deepwater Wind’s opening of its Massachusetts headquarters in the former Standard-Times building downtown Friday, saying the city “wants to be the center of it all” as offshore wind matures into a new base industry for the Commonwealth.

“We want the offshore wind industry to form a cluster here,” he said, adding that New Bedford wants not only the assembly and deployment business, and  manufacturing and support services.

“But we also want the front office as well,” he said, as is the case with New Bedford’s top-grossing fishing industry, which brings together labor, capital and research (from the UMass School for Marine Science and Technology).

“We’re not going just to be the city of big shoulders in the offshore wind industry…*(but) the city with the brains and capital as well,” Mitchell said.

Jeff Grybowski (below), the CEO of Deepwater, which last year built the first offshore wind farm in the US off Block Island and next will build a 90MW wind farm off eastern Long Island, said the company has “a string of projects we hope to build in the US in the coming decade.

“New Bedford has always been at the center of our strategy for building out this industry,” he said.

Deepwater Wind’s New Bedford office opens Friday

Deepwater Wind, the successful developer of the first US offshore wind farm, will officially open an office in New Bedford on Friday.

The company is opening southeastern Massachusetts headquarters on the top floor of the historic Standard-Times building, 555 Pleasant St. Deepwater Wind’s Massachusetts vice president, Matthew Morrissey, said the company expects New Bedford — home to the nation’s only marine commerce terminal designed specifically to handle the enormous weight of wind turbine components — to play a central role in the buildout of the new offshore wind industry.

It’s been a busy period for the company. In addition to completing its Block Island project in 2016, Deepater Wind recently completed an agreement with a New York utility to build a 90 MW project off Long Island. It also plans to develop another wind project off Rhode Island and expects to be one of the bidders on a 400MW project that will be bid this spring off Massachusetts — part of a new energy law that requires Massachusetts utilities to purchase 1,600MW of power over the next decade.

 

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

National fiber art magazine’s inaugural exhibit lands in New Bedford

Contemporary fiber art is not your grandmother’s crocheted afghan.

Excellence in Fibers, an exhibition of selected works drawn from the second annual international juried print exhibition published by Fiber Art Now magazine, presents some of the most exciting and innovative work being done today in the world of contemporary fiber art.

The show, up at New Bedford Art Museum / ArtWorks! from Jan. 25 to March 19, is FAN’s first venture into presenting their print exhibition in a real-world venue.

Fiber Art Now received submissions from artists around the world in response to the call for entries. The prestigious panel of jurors were: Emily Zilber, Curator, MFA Boston; Gerhardt Knodel and Norma Minkowitz, both internationally recognized fiber artists and icons in the field of fiber; and Melissa Leventon, principal of Curatrix Group Museum Consultants and a former curator at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Of the over 50 works in the print exhibition, 31 were selected for the show at NBAM/AW.

Excellence in Fibers runs the gamut from established artists to newcomers; from traditional age-old basket weaving techniques to digital manipulation and printing; from familiar sewing and quilt making to laser cutting techniques.

Within the broad category of fiber, the show includes weaving, sewing, applique, embroidery, basket making, sculpture, crochet, felting, screen printing, joomchi and knotting.

As part of the print exhibition, special awards were given and several of those are in this show.

Nicole Benner’s Comfort/Confine is a large work of crocheted copper wire that becomes a performance piece when donned by a wearer. Named as the Paul J. Smith Award for Excellence in Fiber winner, Benner’s work is a thought-provoking piece on the effects of chronic pain.

“In Comfort/Confine, I utilize the copper yarn as a reference to the nervous system: an aspect of my own chronic pain that can be debilitating. Here the body has defined mobility, only capable of reaching where the textile allows,” the artist stated in the exhibition issue of Fiber Art Now. Benner hails from Marshall, Missouri.

Joel Allen’s hand-wrapped, tied and knotted work Hooked on Svelte was named the winner in the installation category. A series of large mixed media pendants are suspended from the ceiling creating a fun, textured and colorful display 12 feet long by this Steamboat Springs, Colorado, artist.

At the other end of the size spectrum, at only 17 inches in height, is Massachusetts artist Lois Russel’s NZ, a little jewel of twined waxed linen thread – and winner in the Vessel Forms/Basketry category.

The Nigerian Riot Girl, by artist Jacky M. Puzey of the United Kingdom, is one of the international submissions. Employing a tour de force of fiber techniques, this winner of the Wearables Award is an intricate couture dress designed and constructed by the artist that dazzles with a complex mix of materials.

In the Wall/Floor Works category artist Heather Ujiie of Langhorne, Pennsylvania was named the winner for her textile mural consisting of five panels that together are 126 inches by 250 inches. Battle of the Sea Monsters was originally hand drawn in markers, pen and ink, then scanned at high resolution, digitally manipulated and printed on canvas. Vibrantly colored, the work is an intense mass of men, women and other creatures waging a ferocious battle on a lemon colored sea.

The complete list of artists also includes David Bacharach, Pat Hickman, Pat Burns-Wendland, Pat Busby, Anna Carlson, Deborah Corsini, Ania Gilmore, Anna Kristina Goransson, Meredith Grimsley, Henry Hallett, Patricia Kennedy-Zafred, Jean Koon, Mariko Kusumoto, Jeannet Leendertse, Dorothy McGuinness, Alicia Merrett, Elizabeth Odiorne, Kathryn Rousso, Chloe Sachs, Diane Savona, Deloss Webber and Wendy Weiss.

The opening reception for Excellence in Fibers will be held Sunday Jan. 29 from 2 to 5 p.m. Marcia Young, editor-in-chief of Fiber Art Now, along with a number of the artists, will be on hand. Workshops by well-known fiber artists Elin Noble and Jeanne Flanagan will be offered in New Bedford the preceding day.

Registrations and special hotel discounts are available through Fiber Art Now.

For further information contact the Museum at 508.961.3072 or visit www.NewBedfordArt.org.

New Bedford Art Museum/ArtWorks! is located at 608 Pleasant Street, New Bedford. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Sunday noon to 5 p.m.; open every Thursday until 9 p.m.

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Joseph Abboud goes 70 percent solar

By

Joseph Abboud has gone solar.

The suit maker’s only manufacturing facility, a 272,000 square-foot mill once powered with coal and then with oil, is now using rooftop solar to generate about 70 percent of its electricity.

Built in 1909, the building has a sawtooth roof with 43 rows of north-facing skylights that let natural light into the mill.

Because the roofing is tilted at 22 degrees and faces south, it was perfect for capturing sunlight, said Phil Cavallo, CEO of Beaumont Solar Co., which installed the solar panels.

Drive down Belleville Avenue in New Bedford, and you can see the panels from the street.

“It’s pretty neat. It’s very photogenic,” he said.

The 1.3-megawatt system can generate 1.62 million kilowatt hours of energy each year.

Joseph Abboud president Anthony Sapienza said the company is a big user of electricity and has been conversant in renewable energy for years. With state tax credits and availability of local solar expertise, the project made sense, he said.

He expects the facility to cut its power costs by 80 percent.

The company has also converted its heating system from oil to natural gas and switched from fluorescent to LED lighting where possible, he said.

Joseph Abboud makes 1,300 suits per day in the facility. It has 800 employees, all of them local and overwhelmingly from New Bedford, Sapienza said.

Its parent company is Tailored Brands, which also owns Men’s Wearhouse, Jos. A. Bank, and other menswear names.

Sapienza said the solar installation cost about $2.5 million and represents the company’s commitment to American-made products and to the city of New Bedford.

The city has become a leader in solar power, and “we’re proud to be a part of that story,” he said.

Sapienza, Cavallo, and New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell gathered on the manufacturing floor Tuesday to announce the project. Mitchell said New Bedford has installed more solar capacity per capita than any other city in the continental United States.

A century ago, when the Abboud building was part of the Nashawena Mills textile complex, coal was trucked in and burned to make steam and generate electricity, according to Cavallo. A tunnel beneath Belleville Avenue still connects the boiler house, on the east side of the street, with the main building to the west, he said.

New Bedford-based Beaumont Solar is the former Beaumont Sign Co., which Cavallo bought in 2006. An electrical engineer with ties to Cape Cod, he previously worked in Silicon Valley but wanted to return to the East Coast, he said.

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New bakery brings artisan pastry to New Bedford

Posted Jan 21, 2017 at 5:41 PM

Brandon Roderick was already a city-boy-made-good before he opened New Bedford’s newest bakery on Dec. 30, but until he found baking, the 27-year-old was taking his hard work in the wrong direction.

He remembers vividly the moment when he decided he would cook for a living. He was a junior studying for a chemistry exam in the library at Tufts University, where he went pre-med on a full scholarship. Although he loved science, the New Bedford High School graduate realized he was happier at his weekend job, as a server at a Wareham restaurant, than he was preparing to be a doctor.

“It just felt so right to close the book and push it aside,” he said.

Right from the library, he called a culinary school and got the ball rolling.

Only later would he embrace the science of baking and make it his calling. His studies didn’t focus on baking, but his mentor would pull him in to work on bread, knowing his interest in science would serve him well. It piqued his interest.

Still, when he took his first job in a bakery, it was only to make extra money by working overnight, baking for the next morning. He soon discovered it was the environment for him.

He opened The Baker quietly, with a word-of-mouth campaign online and a collection of good friends by his side. His shop, at 562 Pleasant St., is tucked into a small storefront next to the downtown police station, just steps from the public library.

Roderick makes croissants filled with chocolate, fruit, and almonds, plus other pastries, English muffins, quiche, and more – all from scratch. Each day’s selection varies, and he likes to give familiar items a creative twist, like cinnamon rolls with orange and cardamom.

Some of his friends from Boston questioned whether he should locate in New Bedford, he said. Would people in a blue-collar town be willing to pay for French pastry, and would they even want it?

So far, locals have been very supportive, he said. The repertoire and the lines have been getting bigger.

A few customers have asked if he’ll make Portuguese malassadas and sweet bread. Roderick, who is Cape Verdean, does make those things, but not necessarily for the shop. New Bedford already has Portuguese sweets. His concept is French-inspired pastry, bread, and breakfast and lunch served on that bread.”Bread is my passion,” he said.

As time goes on, he wants to add more bread to the menu. His bread starter, a fresh leavening, has its own unique story: He made it from the yeast on grapes from Westport Rivers Winery. Every day, he feeds it with water and flour to keep it going. It’s about a year old already.

For now, he makes a lot of croissants with the help of “Old Faithful,” a dough sheeter, which rolls out dough into very thin sheets. He bought it used, from people in Needham who had purchased a bakery and had no idea what the machine was, he said. It’s so heavy, he had to rent a truck with a lift gate. He and Patrick Andrews, a friend since kindergarten, drove up to Needham to pick it up.

Andrews now works as a cook at the bakery, making sandwiches.

“I love it. I absolutely love it,” he said. “For the quality that he puts out, I think it’s a really good thing for the city, the community.”

Homlyke Bakery, once nearby on Union Street, closed in 2002.

Another childhood friend, Ashley Medeiros, helped with the decorating and has worked a few shifts in the shop. She said Roderick is well-educated on the French style.

“He’s worked so hard for so long to make this idea come to life,” she said.

His grandmother, Patricia Roderick of New Bedford, said she is very proud of him. When he first left Tufts, “I was very upset, because I thought I was going to have a doctor in the family,” she said. But as time went on, she saw he could make his dream a success.

“Brandon is the type that if he wants to do something, he’ll do it to the best of his ability,” she said. “That’s Brandon.”

Follow Jennette Barnes on Twitter @jbarnesnews.

If you go:

Where: 562 Pleasant St., New Bedford

Online: facebook.com/TheBakerNB; thebakernb.com

Hours: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays to Fridays; 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays

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