‘Revival’ spirit buoys economic development gathering
By Brian Boyd
New Bedford – On the same day the city officially welcomed Cape Wind, the New Bedford Economic Development Council held its annual meeting in an upbeat mood.
“If this feels like a revival, it is,” said Matthew A. Morrissey, the council’s executive director, in his opening remarks.
The meeting was held late Wednesday afternoon, a couple of hours after Gov. Deval Patrick formally announced a plan to construct in New Bedford the country’s first port facility designed specifically to support the assembly and installation of offshore wind projects. The planned Cape Wind project will use the facility during its construction and manufacturing phases.
About 150 people gathered in the Waypoint Event Center at Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott for a mix of optimistic speeches and official council business.
Looking ahead, Mayor Scott W. Lang told the audience he wanted to lure Sysco Boston to the New Bedford Business Park. The food service company’s plan to move a $110 million food distribution center to Lakeville was rejected by that town’s residents this week.
“We are going to go after Sysco as hard as we can,” he said.
Morrissey told The Standard Times he had spoken Wednesday with a senior vice president at Sysco about setting up a meeting, and Thomas G. Davis, executive director of Greater New Bedford Industrial Foundation, the park’s manager, is involved in the effort to win over the company. Morrissey said there are several locations in the park that could be suitable for Sysco.
Officials from Freetown and Middleboro have also said they would welcome a proposal from Sysco, which is now in Norton.
Lang also repeated in his remarks the city’s desire to have UMass Dartmouth locate a planned biotechnology facility in the city.
During fiscal 2010, the economic development council loaned $1.2 million. The funds were leveraged with $20.9 million in private investment and helped to create or retain 60 jobs, according to the annual report.
The council’s president, Anthony Sapienza, chief executive officer of JA Apparel Corp., said the outlook for the city is positive thanks to Cape Wind, the development of Riverside Landing, the growing life sciences industry and other developments.
“We are well positioned to emerge from this slow economy in a position of great strength,” he said.
Cape Wind President Jim Gordon, the keynote speaker for the meeting, said he wanted to be part of revitalizing New Bedford, which as a whaling city had supplied the whale oil that once powered lights.
“This city was once the energy capital of the world,” he said. “It lit the lamps and it lubricated the industrial machinery of the world.”
Gordon said he believes the New Bedford area will play a major role in renewable energy in the future, including wind power, tidal power and the design of new vessels.
This is really going to be one of the centers for offshore renewable energy in the world,” he said.
October 21, 2010