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New Bedford Economic Development Council’s Spring Fling

By Steven Froias // Groundworker-At-Large

Plumber’s Supply in their expanded Business Park facility.

Let me state right up front: The New Bedford Economic Development Council is our landlord.

Yes, that’s right. Groundwork, New Bedford’s first coworking facility, is located on the first floor of 1213 Purchase Street. Right above are the offices of the NBEDC, or simply EDC.

Well, actually – Groundwork is creeping upstairs. We’ve got some private offices that have mostly been rented out on the second floor – and that’s the point.

The NBEDC isn’t just our landlord. They run the building, for sure – but with a larger purpose in mind. To provide the space, means, and knowledge necessary to spur economic development, not just at 1213 Purchase Street, but throughout the entire City of New Bedford.

And Groundwork has been part of that effort. Being right downstairs (and now alongside) the EDC, Groundwork and many of its members are well aware of what the EDC accomplishes in the city. This very coworking facility is here because the EDC worked with entrepreneurs to bring it into being.

They do a lot of that. Their motto might be, “Forward on all fronts.” Of course, they have some priorities and big goals. And we’ll get to them later. But in between the long-term projects are all the things that enable New Bedford to move forward every day in significant ways.

On Thursday, April 25, the EDC held their spring round table meeting to discuss just how they’re going about that in New Bedford. It was an eye-opener – and an informative primer about what makes the gears turn and pistons fire in 21st century New Bedford.

I’m just not sucking up to the landlord when I write, it was an impressive presentation last Thursday. It takes a lot to make a city function in a global economy. It takes thought, hard work, vision, and persistence, persistence, persistence…

Some of the things that have happened or been helped along by the EDC include the following…

Bringing Cafe Italia to the former Standard-Times building downtown. The EDC was instrumental in providing the support the owners needed to navigate the move from a small space to a large space and thus expand their business.

And this: Plumber’s Supply, a company which has always existed in New Bedford, was running out of space. They were actually thinking the unthinkable – looking elsewhere for room to grow.

But in what EDC head honcho Derek Santos terms a “coup for us,” they helped facilitate a $23 million dollar expansion of Plumber’s Supply’s existing facility in the New Bedford Business Park. The plan even leaves some room for future further development at the site.

At the EDC “Spring Fling,” those items and more were under discussion. Other projects across the city include 11 new downtown businesses and seven residential projects across the city – including the re-purposing of 10 historic buildings – accounting for $116 million in investment in total and 100 artist studios.

Plus, an expansion at the seafood processing company Northern Wind, representing a $15 million investment and the most technologically advanced equipment used in the industry.

Santos noted that the Port of New Bedford, and all its dependent industries, is never far from the EDC’s mind. He said that the port accounts for 2.2% of the state’s economy – again, that’s the state’s economy, not just the city’s.

And on the horizon and getting ever closer is the reality of the looming offshore wind industry…an unequalled opportunity and challenge.

Attracting and properly managing the nascent industry is at the top of the EDC to-do list these days. That entails not only ensuring that the necessary private- and public-sector infrastructure is in place, but also addressing a pressing need: investing in education so that there is a skilled workforce ready to seize the opportunity of offshore wind.

On the agenda at the spring meeting were both an update on their efforts to help advance education funding reform in Massachusetts, and an update on their involvement with offshore wind legislation and funding.

Thinking at street level and over the horizon is baked into the EDC mission. It states, “The NBEDC continues to actively seek new business investment by marketing New Bedford worldwide as a top location for business growth and expansion, while remaining committed to assisting local companies and entrepreneurs with their start-up, expansion, and other business concerns.”

It’s a non-profit organization governed by a Board of Directors, and surprisingly, the EDC only has six employees – five full-time and one consultant – to execute their mission. (Read more about that here.)

It’s certainly not a dull group. Though it’s very concerned with numbers-crunching, it is also very creative. The EDC oversees the city’s Arts and Culture Plan, too. At the meeting, the importance of the arts as not only an economic driver for the city, but also a quality of life indicator, was clear.

Thinking about the arts and industry, education and investment, policy and outcomes, is an everyday occurance on the second floor of 1213 Purchase Street.

Hearing it all packaged into one bundle at the New Bedford Economic Development Council’s “Spring Fling” was an enlightening experience.

We’ve got good a landlord here at Groundwork – and again, we’re not just making nice-nice. We have a lease.

But, this column may be a good time to bring up that roof deck we’ve been wanting at 1213 Purchase Street….

(The EDC is always interested in helping you do business in New Bedford. Feel free to contact them at info@nbedc.org.)

DEEP DIVE: The Regeneration Committee is “a platform within the NBEDC that focuses on research, engagement, and the development of policies that encourage dynamic and sustainable economic growth for a thriving New Bedford.” READ ITS LATEST REPORT HERE.

Steven Froias

Mad Man at Groundwork!
Steven Froias is Groundwork!'s resident blogger. He sleeps in the boiler room at 1213 Purchase Street.
Steven Froias