It’s High Tech…And It’s New Bedford
By Jack Spillane, Standard-Times Writer
New Bedford. They don’t do high tech there, it’s a fishing town. And a murder capital. You know. The Foxy Lady, Puzzles Lounge, that kind of stuff.
That may be the view of this great city in the green rooms of Boston’s “all crime, all the time” TV stations, but it’s not the view at the Alverox Products plant in the New Bedford Business Park.
That’s where 180 or so local folks work making some of the most high-tech medical devices and “high reliability” aerospace equipment assembled anywhere in the world.
Alberox, a division of Morgan Advanced Ceramics, has been constructing complex ceramic and metal complex ceramic and metal components in New Bedford for more than 45 years. It’s a clean, well-run plant that general manager Brian Roznoy is justly proud of.
He makes a point of letting you know that the company has two of the important ISO (International Standards Organizational) certifications and a third on the way.
“The markets we’re servicing in medical and aerospace are willing to pay for our value. Because we’re giving them a very high reliability product,” he said.
“Reliability” is techno-talk for a product that can withstand extremes of heat, cold and pressure – the type of stuff you need in a jet craft or one of the CT scanners that doctors use to get a good view of your insides.
Roughly 70 percent of the workers at Morgan are women who perform highly detailed assembly and quality-control tasks – think of a fine jeweler, but one who is making products that could save your life or send you to the moon.
Mr. Roznoy said his company – which has nearly doubled in size since 1996 – has had no problem in recent years getting the quality workforce it needs in New Bedford.
Historically, it had recruited professionals from Greater Boston and the West Coast, but because the SouthCoast’s seaports and ocean inlets are not widely known (like a Cape Cod), the company had occasionally been frustrated looking for talent. So in recent years, Morgan turned to the local state school and was pleasantly surprised.
“We have had a phenomenal success working with UMass Dartmouth, hiring mechanical engineers from their program,” Mr. Roznoy said.
If a prospective employee actually knows the southernmost part of Massachusetts, it’s not a hard sell at all, said the New Jersey transplant.
“When they come here and see the area, they kind of fall in love. It’s one of the better kept secrets,” he said.
The working-class folks of the industrial-era cities of New Bedford and Fall River have long been a plus, according to Mr. Roznoy, with many Alberox families sending their second-and third-generation members to labor in the plant.
It’s an extremely dedicated workforce,” he said, adding that the company is running a very successful ESL program.
Most of our employees are cross-trained, which means they have the capability to do multiple jobs. It makes it more interesting for them, it makes them more valuable for us,” he said.
Statewide headlines told us last week that Massachusetts secondary cities – the old working-class towns of New Bedford, Brockton, Lawrence – are falling behind. The places where immigrants crowd the tenements, and where the underclass struggles to get by, have not shared in the Greater Boston high-tech boom over the last 30 years. MassINC’s development planners are puzzled about why, but are “very determined” to figure it out. Very, very smart people with the Brookings Institution – a big, important Washington think tank – say the answer may be to attract a better-educated workforce to Greater New Bedford. (Fewer than 10 percent of area adults hold bachelor’s degrees.)
But in time, affluent folks are going to find their way to SouthCoast on their own as its comparatively low-priced real estate and impressive oceanscapes become more widely known.
But not every part of Massachusetts – or any state, for that matter – is ever going to be an affluent suburb. And there ought to be more places like the Alberox Products plant where regular folks “work in a good job for a good wage,” as the cliché goes.
Date of publication: March 2, 2007
It’s High Tech…And It’s New Bedford