Business Park on Upswing

New Companies Expansion Add Hundreds of Jobs to City
By Aaron Nicodemus, Standard-Times Staff Writer

NEW BEDFORD — The New Bedford Business Park had the best year in its history in 2006, with six companies either relocating or expanding in the park, and three new roads allowing for more to come.

Tom Davis, executive director of the Greater New Bedford Industrial Foundation, said the park never had more than four new or expanded companies in any one previous year.

The expansions included two new companies, Commercial Drywall and Horacio’s Sheet Metal, as well as a small electricity plant powered by methane gas from the Crapo Hill Landfill, operated by Commonwealth New Bedford Energy. There were expansions to existing park tenants Natco, Five Star Surgical, and Depuy Johnson & Johnson. First Highland Corp., a national developer, recently purchased the large vacant Velvet Drive Transmission building at the entrance to the park and is renovating it for use by multiple manufacturers.

AFC Cable, which did not appear in the announcements yesterday, is moving into its huge, new facility in the park sometime in 2007. The plant is already under construction.

“This is an all-time record for us, dating back to 1960,” said Mr. Davis of the park’s expansion in 2006.

All told, the new companies and the expansions brought 250 jobs to the business park this year, according to Mr. Davis.

Several business leaders spoke about why they chose to expand in the business park.

Natco Inc. is a wholesale food distribution company that was founded 100 years ago in a Park Street basement. It has since grown into a multimillion-dollar corporation that employs 130 people with an average wage of $60,000 per year.

Mark Eisenberg, CEO of Natco, said the center of the company’s distribution area is not New Bedford. But the company has chosen to stay, and expand.

“We have built in New Bedford because it is our home,” he said.

David Cabral, another New Bedford native, and his partners built up Five Star Surgical from a tiny space in the basement of a city mill building into a 37,500-square-foot facility in the business park. The company recently purchased a surgical product manufacturer from Taunton, and is moving its employees and business into the company’s recently built addition.

“We’ve always wanted to build our business here,” he said.

A small, electric-generation plant has also been constructed near the landfill, turning methane gas produced by buried, decaying garbage into 3.3 megawatts of electricity.

George Aronson, principal of Commonwealth Resource Management Co., said the plant sells its power to a commercial marketer, delivered into the electric grid by NStar.

“It’s green electricity,” he said.

For the past seven years, much of the region’s job growth has occurred in the New Bedford Business Park.

The park has been in an expansion mode since 1999, with the number of businesses there doubling to 36. The total number of employees in the park has increased from 3,000 to 4,500, with a total payroll of $250 million.

And there is more expansion to come, Mr. Davis said. The three new roads open up 125 acres in 10 separate lots to development. The park is set to have another six projects completed this year, bringing 450 more jobs into the park, Mr. Davis said. Seventy-five percent of the newly opened land is in Dartmouth, and 25 percent in New Bedford.

The business park has become the top generator of jobs for the region, Mr. Davis said. And the jobs the park has created are of high quality.

The average pay for a blue-collar job in the business park is $17.50 per hour, with high-quality fringe benefits. Mr. Davis said about 60 percent of the park’s employees live in New Bedford, 25 percent in Dartmouth and the remaining 15 percent from other communities.

“Regardless of where you build the road, it benefits working families in both communities,” he said.

Contact Aaron Nicodemus at anicodemus@s-t.com
Date of Publication: December 06, 2006 on Page A06