Over 150 people gathered for the New Bedford Economic Development Council 2007 Annual Meeting at the Joseph Abboud Manufacturing site on March 20. Present at the meeting were, business owners who have benefited from NBEDC programs, the NBEDC Board of Directors, members of the Council, state and local economic partners, city officials, owners of prospective businesses, and investors.
Welcoming the Council and guests, Tony Sapienza, 2007 Board Chairman and President of Joseph Abboud, Mfg. Corp., said holding the annual meeting on the floor of a manufacturing facility was testament to the NBEDC focus on the true value of New Bedford’s thriving small businesses and entrepreneurs, and to New Bedford’s industrial history.
The 2006 Annual Report distributed to the group lays the framework for 2007 activities and highlights the 2006 NBEDC lending program: up by 230%, with 34 loans totaling $2,240,470 and a total amount leveraged of $18,998,000. Five small businesses that benefited from the loan program are featured, and start-up, existing and fishing loans given are listed.
Following is a summary of the meeting.
Speaking to the group, Mayor Scott Lang said the NBEDC Board members entice other business to come to New Bedford. “You are our diplomats and our ambassadors who have come out to help us with the economic development process The Council has been a tremendous ally to this administration in a very up-front, above-board way.”
The Mayor continued by saying the Council has helped him through some interesting issues regarding business climate policies, and they have helped him as friends, giving him council and talking up the city with more enthusiasm and conviction than ever before.
Acknowledging the many city department heads attending the meeting, the Mayor said, “City government cannot be successful without a firm partnership between the private and the public sectors.” He invited anyone with a specific question to use this opportunity to “prod” any department head along.
The Mayor told the group that earlier in the day he had met with Ian Bowles, the newly appointed Massachusetts Secretary of Environmental Affairs who visited the city specifically to make sure New Bedford was in the forefront regarding environmental issues. “The Secretary told me, he’s never visited a place where all the department heads have come in, introduced themselves and explained what issues they have with the state and how we can cut through red tape.”
“We want to save jobs. We want to keep New Bedford in a situation that we are growing rather than facing another closing.” he said.
Mayor Lang thanked the banking community and said there will be an announcement in the next few weeks of a tremendous enhancement of our lending abilities.
Mr. Lang said, “Matt Morrissey has come on as executive director of the council. He has done a fantastic job. He has brought the energy, the inside perseverance needed in this role. The perseverance is the key – day in day out – banging his head against any doors he has to. Mr. Morrissey is tenacious in pitching New Bedford in a positive way, which is exactly what we need.”
In closing, Mayor Lang stated that he does not need anyone to state the obvious problems any longer. He knows the obvious problems. “Everyone in the room understands them. We are working to overcome them everyday. We need people to step forward to help the city move to the next venture day in and day out, helping swinging away for the betterment of this city. The days of putting on a “Hair” shirt and bemoaning the fact that you live in New Bedford are over.”
Outgoing board chairman, Scott Costa noted that the past year has been one of growth and transition. “The NBEDC is the only organization charged with facilitating the creation and retention of jobs throughout the entire City of New Bedford. I am proud to have played a part in the implementation of a structure and growing partnerships that fosters dialogue around an inclusive table,” he added.
He pointed to several areas of growth and economic progress. “It seems that more than ever, developers and investors are interested in our city.
“As the outgoing board chairman, I am assured the organization is stronger than ever. As a businessman born and operating in New Bedford, I am enthused about our future,” Mr. Costa said.
Newly elected to the council are: Bill Davis, CEO of Ze-gen, a Boston based Alternative Energy Company who has chosen New Bedford to build its proof-of-concept facility which turns construction debris into natural gas; Katherine Knowles, Executive Director of the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center; John Lees, President of Mar-Lees Seafood, one of New Bedford’s leading distributor of scallops across the globe; Joe Nauman, Executive Vice President, of the Acushnet Company, maker of Titleist, the world’s premier brand in golf.
Board chairman, Tony Sapienza reminded the group that while the NBEDC is a private, 501(C)3, organization, it is also the lead economic development agency that the City of New Bedford entrusts with the awesome responsibility of economic growth and job growth. “There is no other institution that has that single laser focus in that capacity, and everyone should be the conveners of all the agencies and organizations that support economic development.
“And it does start with city government.” Mr. Sapienza said. “There is no economic development if the Fire Department doesn’t put out fires, if the Police Department does not keep our streets safe, if the Planning Department doesn’t have a master plan for the city, if the DPW doesn’t pick up the trash, and if the streets don’t get plowed. We are very pleased to see so many department heads who have joined us this evening. It truly is a partnership between this private organization that has representation from the city, but relies on the city government for all the services that make economic development possible.
Mr. Sapienza continues, “We will enhance our role as the conveners and facilitators of economic development. We will work with the WIB, WHALE, the Chamber of Commerce, SouthCoast Partnership, the Education Compact, South End and North End Business Associations. All of those groups are so committed to the development and the further development of this city.”
He said the council will continue to provide the leadership, the direction and the involvement so that the process can continue to go forward. “We will be salesman just as Titleist is salesman for the city, just as Joseph Abboud is a salesman to the city. All of us will be salesman or saleswomen for the city of New Bedford.”
He added, “It’s the responsibility of the board to ensure longevity necessary to do the job that we want to do. Of course we are reliant on the city for a huge part of our funding but there are other funding resources out there and we are going to be aggressive about securing them so that we can in fact go forward.”
Mr. Sapienza stated that it will not be an easy year. “There is a lot on our plates and we need to be prepared for it, be prepared to be asked, be prepared to deliver the kinds of help that we need to make this happen.”
Matthew Morrissey, NBEDC executive director, stated in his report that last year was a year of reorientation and increased activity. He invited the group to take a look at the annual report for highlights of the year’s activity. He stressed much more is needed, and much more is ahead.
Mr. Morrissey outlined the basic framework for 2007 activities that the people of New Bedford ought to expect, and what the organization will attempt to deliver with a clear, grounded strategic focus.
He outlined six key areas that guide the activity of the NBEDC and the business planning process to which the board and council will have input. Underlying the activities is a very proactive internal and external sales and marketing approach with a fundamental belief that what we have in New Bedford has enormous economic value.
“We are now operating with laser-like focus, an attitude of sales and marketing of all the wonderful assets we have in the city in the following five job creation areas: emerging sectors (marine science and technology, alternative energy, biotechnology, smart growth development), small business development, communications, workforce investment, and catalytic projects,” described Mr. Morrissey, adding about the latter that “certain projects like a new hotel in the city after 40 years, among several others, not only have both immediate job creation potential but present an opportunity to change the way we think of ourselves and our city.”
In other business, the Council elected Jim Mathes, Vice President, (Executive Director, SMILES Mentoring); Peter Kavanaugh, Treasurer, (President, Laz-y-Boy Furniture) and Randy Weeks, Clerk, (Partner, Partridge Snow and Hahn), and adopted amended bylaws and Conflict of Interest policy and procedures.