Business leaders seek funds to promote South Terminal

newsletter-108-5Business leaders from across the city are pulling together to raise $750,000 over the next three years in an effort to make New Bedford a launching pad of the wind power revolution.
“So that’s the part that everybody needs to keep their eye on – can we effectively reposition New Bedford to be the marine, ocean, offshore wind epicenter of what’s happening in the United States,” said David Slutz, head of the CEO Council, a group of local business leaders spearheading the 21st Century Wind Fund.
State government will put $100 million toward the infrastructure needs of South Terminal – a facility that will be the first in the U.S. to support the construction, assembly and deployment of offshore wind farms. But the money doesn’t account for marketing, Slutz said.
According to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, which is managing the project, the federal government is leading an offshore wind permitting and leasing process across nine Atlantic states, in a sector the U.S. Department of Energy estimates could create 43,000 jobs by 2020.
Although the details remain to be seen, the 21st Century Wind Fund will center on boosting the Whaling City as an ideal place for this to happen. That means conducting market research and reaching out to businesses small and large to make the case for their presence – and their capital – in New Bedford.
The council hopes to reach its goal by raising $250,000 a year and so far they’ve raised nearly $100,000. Slutz, who is the CEO of Precix, said his company has pledged $50,000 annually to the effort.
Cape Wind is only the beginning of what could be a half century of wind-based development, Slutz said, with the area’s waters potentially hosting thousands of turbines in future decades.
Paul Vigeant, assistant chancellor of economic development at UMass Dartmouth, said “it’s a big deal; it’s a big, big deal.”
“New Bedford is creating a fundamental new base industry for its economy, that can really transform it into a renewable energy center for offshore wind in all of the U.S.”
BayCoast Bank President Nick Christ agreed. “From what I’ve seen and heard … about the project, the only word that comes to mind is it is transformative,” Christ said. “It could be a tremendous boon to the area.” He referenced two German towns – Cuxhaven and Bremerhaven – both of which grew dramatically thanks to the wind economy. He thinks the same could happen here, landing thousands of jobs for the region with the highest unemployment in the state.
“It’s this type of a project that the Greater New Bedford area has been looking for for 100 years,” Christ said.
In April, a delegation that includes Mayor Jon Mitchell and Matt Morrissey, executive director of the New Bedford Economic Development Council, will visit Germany to examine how the wind economy has affected the region.
The EDC has been working for years on promoting South Terminal and Morrissey said the 21st Century Wind Fund signifies the business community’s dedication to South Terminal, which until now has been shepherded by the government.
The business community is impressed with Gov. Deval Patrick and Mitchell “and they want to put their money where their mouth is,” Morrissey said.
Note: This story was amended on March 19 to reflect the following correction: The estimated $100 million cost for the South Terminal project would be exclusively state-funded, according to Catherine Williams, spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, which is managing the project. No federal money has been allotted. A story on Friday’s business page incorrectly reported the source of the funding.
March 15, 2013 12:00 AM
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