AHEAD planning $11 million expansion at Business Park in Dartmouth

By Mike Lawrence

June 27. 2016 9:09PM

DARTMOUTH — Hat and apparel company AHEAD is hoping to build an $11 million expansion onto its New Bedford Business Park location, potentially adding about 30 jobs and nearly 80,000 square feet, CEO Anne Broholm told the Dartmouth Select Board on Monday night.

“We’ve outgrown our current footprint,” Broholm told the board, showing sketches for the proposed expansion, on the Dartmouth side of the Business Park.

Broholm said the company bought adjacent land from Crapo Hill Landfill this spring, for $430,000, and has an estimated building cost of $9 million, with about $1.4 million in planned spending on new equipment.

Broholm said AHEAD employs 265 people. The company adds designs to headwear and produces apparel and accessories, primarily for the golf industry.

AHEAD was founded 21 years ago in a Mattapoisett garage, she said, has been in Dartmouth since 1999 and was bought by New Wave in 2011.

Broholm cited that long local history when asking the Select Board to support a tax-increment financing, or TIF, plan, that she said would save AHEAD about $200,000 while bringing the town more than $500,000 in new tax revenue over the course of the expansion project.

Select Board members gave a lukewarm response to the TIF request.

Member Shawn D. McDonald said Dartmouth hasn’t granted a TIF since 2007, despite several large-scale projects in the town in recent years.

“I’ve never believed in TIFs,” added Select Board Vice Chairman Frank S. Gracie. “We’ve established a precedent of what we do in this town and what we don’t do in this town.”

Robert Michaud, chairman of the town’s Board of Assessors, said Dartmouth already is, “just about the lowest-burdened community in Massachusetts, as far as commercial taxes.”

Specific tax rates for the AHEAD property could not be confirmed Monday night. Fiscal year 2016 rates for commercial properties in Dartmouth, for town and fire services, range from $15.33 to $16.54 per $1,000 of valuation, depending on the district, according to town assessor’s data.

New Bedford’s commercial tax rate for fiscal 2016 is $35.83 per $1,000 of valuation. That difference was not lost on Select Board members, who discussed AHEAD’s project location on the Dartmouth side of the Business Park, rather than in adjacent New Bedford.

“If these folks were 100 feet down the road, their taxes would be more than double,” Gracie said.

Select Board member John Haran said he supported the expansion and the proposed TIF, citing the potential for full tax revenue from new equipment and the incremental tax gains that would add to AHEAD’s existing taxes.

The board will consider the proposal further at its next meeting, July 25.

Broholm said the expansion would “all but guarantee continued operations in Dartmouth” for AHEAD. She quickly clarified that the statement was not an ultimatum, and did not mean AHEAD would relocate without the TIF.

She said the company hoped to strengthen its local roots with the project.

“It really puts a real firm stake in the ground, here in our hometown of Dartmouth,” Broholm said.

Follow Mike Lawrence on Twitter @MikeLawrenceSCT

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