City's Economic Progress Draws Praise

NEW BEDFORD — The city got a solid pat on the back Thursday for its economic development efforts from the man who heads the state’s public investment bank, along with advice to keep the momentum going.
Robert L. Culver, president and chief executive officer of MassDevelopment, said New Bedford is “on a roll” when it comes to moving the city forward. He cited “really substantial changes” being made in the business and government sectors. Mr. Culver said the city benefits from good leadership and its location and enough positive developments have happened that it has generated “the buzz” among media and movers and shakers in places such as Boston.
“Boston finally is acknowledging New Bedford,” Mr. Culver said, citing as proof stories in The Boston Globe and visits by outside investors looking for a new place to invest in projects.
Going forward, Mr. Culver said, the city needs a well-thought-out plan of development versus being “opportunistic.” In addition, Mr. Culver said, the city needs to focus on smart growth and green growth.
Smart growth has a number of definitions, including restoring community and vitality to center cities with mass transit and good pedestrian access while having a mix of housing, commercial and retail uses. Green growth involves sustainable growth that protects the environment and takes into account global warming and using less fossil fuel.
Mr. Culver was the keynote speaker at the annual meeting of the New Bedford Economic Development Council. About 200 people attended the event at The Waterfront Grille on Homer’s Wharf. MassDevelopment is a quasi-public state agency that functions like an investment bank to support economic development.
Mr. Culver said the city stands out among Massachusetts communities for its leadership, commitment and development efforts. He specifically mentioned Mayor Scott W. Lang and Matthew A. Morrissey, executive director of the Economic Development Council, for their efforts.
When challenged by claims that greater growth is occurring in Sunbelt areas such as Texas and Southern California, Mr. Culver said, “We cannot say that these (Massachusetts) towns are not worth investing in.” He said “first and foremost” the most critical factor for success is “people and leadership.” Mr. Culver said Mayor Lang “is what a good mayor looks like.”
Mr. Culver said that by planning and using “best practices,” the city can control its “own destiny, now that you are on a roll.”
Anthony Sapienza, president of the New Bedford Economic Development Council and also head of Joseph Abboud Manufacturing Corp., said the NBEDC after reorganizing in 2006 after the Lang administration took office is “moving in the right direction” and no longer is the city “timid about dealing with complex issues.” He ticked off a string of statistics about loans made, tax incremental financing used and other economic development activities that have been aimed at retaining jobs and bringing new businesses to the city.
Mr. Morrissey said the past year for the New Bedford Economic Development Council was an “unbelievably good year” at a time when the national economy was not going well. He said the city was “never better positioned” to capitalize on its strengths and economic partnerships.
Mayor Lang praised all in attendance saying “every single one of you makes up part of a successful couple of (past) years and the future.”
To the business and community members present and others, Mayor Lang said, “We may not always see eye to eye, but your cause is my cause.” He said he views his administration as focused on economic development in terms of putting people to work, improving the tax base and enhancing the standard of living.
Contact Joe Cohen at
August 15, 2008
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