Economic Summit and Business Roundtable Fosters Public-Private Partnerships

Officials Hang Out City’s ‘Open for Business’ Sign
By Joe Cohen
Standard-Times Staff Writer

NEW BEDFORD — State Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill and city officials hung out an “open for business” sign on the city Tuesday, making a pitch to create new public-private partnerships to a group of bankers and investors who control hundreds of millions of dollars to do development deals.
Accentuating the positive and focusing on the city’s facilities, infrastructure, schools, work force and geography, Mr. Cahill and city officials said they are ready to work with any bank or investment group willing to enter into partnership to bring jobs and development to the city.
Calling it an economic summit and business roundtable, Mr. Cahill brought together representatives of Sovereign Bank, Bank of America, Citizens Bank, TD Banknorth, Access Capital, the AFL-CIO’s investment fund and the New Boston Fund.
As state treasurer, Mr. Cahill has a large amount of public money to invest and typically does so with banks and other financial entities that agree to engage in so-called public-private partnerships within Massachusetts.
On Tuesday, about 40 people met in the New Bedford Art Museum to listen to a 90-minute presentation about the attributes and potential of the city from Mayor Scott W. Long and Matthew A. Morrissey, executive director of the New Bedford Economic Development Council. Those attending included representatives of the city’s legislative delegation, city officials, current and potential developers, and the bankers and investors.
“My job is to put you all together — I’m just a facilitator,” Mr. Cahill said. “This is a vibrant area … there is affordable housing … great work force.” The city, he said, has “great bones.”
And, he said, the city is “a breath of fresh air … not a NIMBY community as some are,” referring to the acronym for “not in my back yard.”
“This isn’t a charity operation. You want to make profits,” he said to the bankers and investors.
New Bedford, Mr. Cahill said, has “got all the pieces in place” for development to happen quickly and efficiently.
Mayor Lang touted the school system and public safety, including improvements made in the past couple of years since he took office. He also cited the New Bedford Industrial Park, city infrastructure including sewer and water system capacities, the airport and other selling points.
Mayor Lang also told the meeting that so-called “smokestack cities” need a Marshall Plan to recover from decades of job losses. “We need jobs. We know bringing jobs in will grow 10 fold — jobs beget jobs.”
Speaking about the current troubles with the national economy, Mayor Lang said, “We don’t know if (a recession) has started, we are in the middle or at the end.” Regardless, he said, he wants to push for new development and jobs now. He also said he wants to maintain projects that are under way and could be destabilized by negative economic conditions, unless they receive additional public-private partnership support.
Mr. Morrissey, using a projector and screen, took those attending on a visual tour of the city’s many potential sites for development or redevelopment. Those included Aerovox, Cliftex 1 and 2, Whalers Cove, Fairhaven Mills, Hicks-Logan-Sawyer, Berkshire Hathaway Mills, International Ladies Garment Workers Union complex, Goodyear, Elco Dress/Payne Cutlery and Chamberlain manufacturing.
Mr. Morrissey also talked about the State Pier, commercial fishing and working waterfront, Route 18 project, and the future development focus on alternative energy, marine science and high technology sectors. He noted that the city has about 100,000 residents, 48,000 jobs and 2,300 businesses.
City Councilor David Alves raised the issue of a casino, calling it the elephant in the room and noted that the city has “been down this road 12 years ago.” Mr. Cahill said he is in full support of casinos in the state, but one should not be seen as “the savior of the city” and is not a substitute for overall economic development.
Kevin J. Sullivan of Sovereign Bank suggested that the city refine what it is offering, “map out the low hanging fruit … (choose) four sites that are further along … (and) identify funds available.” Mr. Sullivan concurred with others who had indicated that Boston and larger cities tend to get greater attention. “The outlying areas need all the help you can get,” he said.
William Fenton of Bank of America said his impression after hearing the presentations was that the “city is open for business.”
“At the end of the day, it has to make sense,” Mr. Fenton said of the financial justification for doing deals. “We will be sniffing around.”
Contact Joe Cohen at
February 27, 2008

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