Back in the day when the federal government had more money to spend and there was a broader consensus that it should support local and regional economies, the US Economic Development Administration (EDA) made some key investments in Southeastern Massachusetts that have been paying big dividends ever since.
Starting in the 1970s, the federal agency made a series of crucial grants that provided the seed money for the Fall River Industrial Park and Commerce Park, the New Bedford Business Park, and the Myles Standish Industrial Park in Taunton. Today, these three parks collectively employ more than 15,000 workers.
Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the city was struggling. Unemployment was consistently in double digits and at least 50% higher than the state average.
Then in 1979, EDA funded Phase 1 of what was to become the Myles Standish Industrial Park. An investment of $1.68 million paid for roadways and utilities in the park. At about the same time, construction was beginning on the missing link of I-495 – the 13 mile section between I-95 and Route 24 that traversed Taunton.
Land sales and construction in the park were slow at first, with many Boston based businesses and entrepreneurs regarding Southeastern Massachusetts as a remote and inaccessible backwater. The new highways and industrial park subdivision with “ready to build” lots quickly erased that perception. This pattern was repeated in both Fall River and New Bedford.
Additional federal investments
As the Taunton park’s reputation and success grew, EDA followed with investments in 1995 and 2001 totaling $2.4 million. These grants enabled the park to expand to 809 acres and employ 7,000 people in 100 companies. Equally impressive was the diversity of employers at the park, with an almost equal distribution of manufacturing, distribution and service businesses in 5.9 million square feet of buildings.
Today, the Taunton Development Corporation, which has guided the park’s growth from the start, has acquired an additional 220 acres that was formerly the Paul A. Dever State School.
Fall River & New Bedford
The stories and the role played by EDA are equally impressive in Fall River and New Bedford. In the former city, EDA grants help the development of the initial phase and the expansion when the municipal airport was closed. Likewise in New Bedford, EDA was there from the beginning and supported the park’s expansion into abutting land in Dartmouth.
The federal government’s role in facilitating the development of these important job sites is indisputable. For a total EDA investment in the three parks of $11.8 million over the past 40 years, federal support has enabled the location of over 200 companies, the payment of millions of dollars in local property taxes, and the creation of over 15,000 jobs.
Not a bad return on investment.
Stephen C. Smith is Executive Director, Southeastern Regional Planning & Economic Development District
read the entire article in the June Insider