Chamber in Action and Upcoming Chamber Initiatives
Zoning and 43D District
The Chamber worked closely with the City of Fall River to draft and implement a new comprehensive zoning ordinance along with a new Medical District. The Chamber provided technical assistance in establishing and advocating for a Waterfront District along the Fall River side of the Taunton River. The Chamber advocated for and helped in the establishment of and LED Sign ordinance in Fall River that now allows businesses to promote themselves with modern technology. The Chamber also assisted in the creation of the largest 43D District in Massachusetts that allowed for the potential of Amazon.com to locate in Fall River.
During the past 6 years, the Chamber has successfully advocated for a reduction in the commercial tax shift rate in the City of Fall River. For the third year in a row, the commercial tax shift rate has been reduced from the maximum 1.75 rate to 1.69%, which is the rate for fiscal year 2016. A reduction in the commercial property tax shift is meaningful relief to businesses.
In 2015, Somerset, Swansea and Seekonk also lowering their tax shifts on commercial properties. It is notable that New Bedford raised theirs to the maximum 1.75%.
In 2013, the Chamber assisted the City Council in establishing a $10,000 commercial personal property tax exemption for small businesses. The small business tax exemption was approved for 2016.
In 2011 the Chamber partnered with the City of Fall River to draft and implement the Waterfront District and the largest 43D District in Massachusetts. These assets were helped attract the interest of Amazon.com to locate in Fall River. Amazon broke grown on a one million square foot Fall River distribution facility in November, 2015.
Federal and State Legislation
In this legislative session alone, the Chamber has testified on state energy projects and policy, Gateway Cities legislation, the State Budget, non-compete agreements, a revision to the independent contractor laws and repeals or amendments to numerous taxes and regulations impacting local businesses.
Working with our partners across southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, the Chamber is working to build a broad coalition to address the high cost of energy in Massachusetts and Southern New England.
The Chamber is also building a coalition to advocate against scheduling legislation.
The Chamber is working with NFIB and RAM to expand the sales tax to internet retailers in order to level the playing field for local businesses who must pay sales tax.
The Chamber was part of a coalition seeking a waiver for Massachusetts from the Affordable Care Act.
The Chamber worked with the U.S. Chamber in support of reauthorization of the U.S. Export-Import Bank.
The Chamber worked with the U.S. Chamber in support of a comprehensive federal highway and transportation bill to repair our national infrastructure. Such funds could be used on HWY 24 and commuter rail.
For the past decade the Chamber has been directly involved with the planning and redesign of an improved Interstate 195/Route 79 interchange system along the Fall River waterfront. The old spaghetti ramp system that once separated the business districts of Fall River from the waterfront is being replaced with a boulevard that invites commuters into the area rather than driving over it.
The Chamber is working with its partners on a redesign of the north section to the Route 79 interchange system.
Working with the Southeastern Regional Transit Authority (SRTA), the Chamber was instrumental in expanding public transportation within Fall River, Somerset, Swansea and Westport, which will includes night services.
The Chamber is working with SRTA to address interstate public transportation from Fall River to Providence.
While advocacy for commuter rail continues the Chamber has been focused on working with the State of Massachusetts to increase commercial freight services by expanding rail and shipping along the Taunton River.
The Chamber was a vital partner in replacing the water tower servicing the Fall River Industrial Park, the north end of Fall River and the SouthCoast Life Sciences and Technology Park. Construction was completed in 2015.
The Chamber was successful in working with the City of Fall River, the Industrial Park Association, FR Development Corp., FROED and Comcast to resolve the infrastructure issues in the Industrial Park that impeded the availability of broadband internet and phone services. Broadband cable was laid by Comcast in 2015.
Broadband cable was laid by Comcast on Pocasset Street down to the Fall River waterfront in 2015. Many businesses are now connected to broadband serves that were not previously available south of Main Street.
Education and Workforce Development
The Chamber’s Education Committee is in the midst of implementing a sustained multi-media marketing campaign aimed at raising educational aspiration levels in the region. The “EdUp” campaign may prove to be one of the most important initiatives undertaken by the Chamber. EdUp is funded through the Chamber Foundation.
In 2015, the Education Committee produced the second regional College Day in the SouthCoast.
For six consecutive years the Chamber has been the leader for increased funding to area schools.
The Chamber introduced and has expanded Teach For America teaching opportunities into the Fall River schools.
The Chamber assisted in the introduction of the UAspire financial counseling program at Fall River area schools that helps students plan for funding a college education.
A billboard sign that advertised the EdUp Campaign was secured for 2 months on I195 through the generous donation of BayCoast Bank.
A new EdUp website was produced and launched in 2015 by the Chamber staff.
EdUp book markers and wrist bands were produced by the Chamber in 2015. They are being distributed to through the area schools.
Workforce Month was produced by the Chamber in partnership with Bristol Community College to highlight and educate area residents about workforce educational opportunities.
The lobby area of the Chamber building is the only Visitor and Information Center (VIC) in Bristol County. Each day the Chamber staff answers questions from the many people who visit Fall River and the surrounding towns. The Chamber directs visitors to area attractions such as Battleship Cove, wine vineyards in Westport, the Lizzie Borden House and the Narrows Center for the Arts. The Chamber’s VIC is sponsored by BankFive.
The Chamber is instrumental in administrating the Regional Tourism Council for Southeastern Massachusetts.
The Chamber worked with the Block Island Ferry, a Chamber member, to continue high speed ferry services in 2015 from Fall River to Block Island and Newport.
The Chamber worked with FROED, DCR, Battleship Cove and the City Council to find a solution that reopened the Fall River Carrousel in 2015.
In 2015, a great effort was placed on the marketing of the region’s assets in order to attract and retain businesses. An example was production of a promotional video in partnership with the City of Fall River.