Our View: Support NBEDC financially to fuel city's success

Lucem Diffundo, New Bedford’s early motto, traces its roots to the predominantly Quaker city fathers who saw themselves as spreading light in accordance with the words of Christ in the Gospel of Matthew: “I am the Light of the World. A city that is set on a hill shall not be hid.”
We can look today at the struggles that have distracted and blinded those both within and without the city to its brilliance, but realize that light indeed still emanates from the city that once lit the world.
In three weeks, New Bedford voters will chart a new course when they elect the next mayor. In at least one sphere of influence, there is ample reason to hope for continuity with the outgoing administration.
Economic development in New Bedford under the administration of Scott Lang has been a source of light. The city has marked growth that has allowed it to create and retain jobs in the worst economic environment since the Great Depression. New Bedford outpaced its Gateway City peers in average rate of growth from 2006 to 2010. Private investment has fueled emerging technologies and innovative approaches to historical mainstays alike.
Before the Lang administration, luring UMass Dartmouth and Bristol Community College campuses into the city has ultimately sparked a creative economy strong enough to more than weather the challenges of the recession. In fact, it thrives.
Lang worked with the New Bedford Economic Development Council in his first year in office to develop a 10-year plan to attract investment in the city. Hundreds of millions have come in from private investment, tens of millions from public investment. More than 2,000 new jobs are here today because of it.
The council acts through planning, small business loans, advocacy and marketing to support development, on a budget of about a million dollars a year for a period of about five years. Over that time, however, the council’s activities have expanded.
Joe Nauman, a member of the NBEDC board of directors, compares the council’s evolution to that of a start-up company, reorganized in 2006 to sharpen its focus and refine its agenda. It’s reached a point that, to continue to grow, remain effective and shepherd its 10-year plan, it needs more funding. About 40 percent of its funding today comes from lending income, 40 percent from federal Community Development Block Grants and 20 percent from management fees, grants and service fees.
The consensus of the council is that an injection of about $250,000 from the city of New Bedford is what it will take to assure the continued success of the plan (As of now, no city money goes to the NBEDC).Considering that the federal grants are in doubt as the Tea Party in Washington influences budget and tax policy, $250,000 in new funding might be no more than one step forward, two steps back.
Mayoral candidates Antonio F.D. Cabral and Jon Mitchell share among their top priorities employment, education and public safety. Whoever wins Nov. 8 must avail himself of the strength of the NBEDC, the engine behind so much of the city’s economic success.
Whoever wins that election in November must continue the city’s strategic and philosophical support of the NBEDC, but would do a great and valuable service to citizens and businesses in New Bedford with financial support as well.
October 16, 2011 12:00 AM
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