By Joe Cohen
Standard-Times Staff Writer
NEW BEDFORD — The state is designating the Fairhaven Mills and Hicks Logan areas straddling Interstate 195 along the Acushnet River as one of 16 “growth districts,” Gov. Deval L. Patrick announced Thursday.
The Hicks Logan Sawyer District will be the focus of a state-city-private effort to provide ready-to-use sites for industry, commercial, retail and housing.
Speaking to about 100 people gathered on the north side of Fairhaven Mills, Gov. Patrick said a growth district is intended to be a “hub” of economic growth and housing development.
Citing the overall national economy along with oil prices, the credit crunch, housing foreclosures and jobs being lost, Gov. Patrick said this is a “worrisome period” for state government and residents.
While Massachusetts has been “faring a little better” than some other parts of the nation, Gov. Patrick said, “when it is your job … your (business’s) sales (that are lost) … that is cold comfort.”
“We are trying to expand opportunity (and) create a culture of opportunity,” Gov. Patrick said. He said the driving idea behind the growth districts is to provide businesses and developers with “speed, simplicity and predictability of development.”
The Hicks Logan Sawyer District includes Fairhaven Mills, Kilburn Mill, Wamsutta Mill and the former Revere Copper and Brass, along with dozens of other parcels, many of which are harbor waterfront. The district encompasses about 70 acres south of I-195 and east of Route 18 and about 16 acres north of I-195, east of Mitchell and south of Sawyer streets.
The 16 districts the Patrick administration is designating throughout the state are part of its Growth Districts Initiative announced earlier this spring under which the state partners with municipalities and property owners to make areas development ready. That means local and state permitting, site preparation including environmental remediation, infrastructure improvements and marketing will be in place.
Gov. Patrick made the announcement while making a swing along SouthCoast promoting jobs and economic development. He made an announcement at Hoppy’s Landing in Fairhaven en route to New Bedford, then went to Fall River where he announced a $157,194 grant to Blount Fine Foods for work-force training.
In New Bedford, Gov. Patrick was surrounded by members of the area’s legislative delegation, Mayor Scott W. Lang and members of the City Council. In addition, area business and civic leaders were present.
Mayor Lang expressed enthusiasm for the Hicks Sawyer District. He promised a “transparent open process” of development and noted that “without the private sector, nothing will happen.”
State Sen. Mark C. Montigny, D-New Bedford, praised the city for its virtues but said it needs government economic development assistance. “Many places do not need government money,” he said, but New Bedford does to leverage private investment. Sen. Montigny pledged that with the Route 18 project, planned changes at State Pier and the recently announced drive to build a new, stand-alone Bristol Community College campus downtown, the city “won’t look the same 10 years from now.”
After the formal presentations, Gov. Patrick said in response to questions:
* Casino plans in the state are off the table. There is still interest, but at this time there are no locations or plans under consideration other than by an Indian tribe.
* Economic problems are cyclical. While the current situation has many people concerned, the state must plan for a future that includes increased global competition and it must invest in education for the longer term.
* State investment in cities is important, especially in places such as New Bedford. Gov. Patrick said other governors may have told cities such as New Bedford and Fall River to take care of themselves, but his administration wants to be a partner with local government and the private sector in supporting economic development.
Contact Joe Cohen at firstname.lastname@example.org
May 09, 2008
By Joe Cohen