THE VOICE OF BUSINESS IN ACTION

The Bristol County Chamber of Commerce is a group of people who have chosen to serve in an administrative or advisory capacity in order to exercise leadership toward dealing with community challenges and generating economic opportunities for the enhancement of free enterprise. Please know that great progress is made each year through the often invisible work of the Chamber of Commerce and its many members. Some notable examples are listed below.

LEGISLATION

  • Working with partners across Massachusetts and Rhode Island, the Chamber is part of a broad coalition of groups addressing the high cost of electricity. In last year’s legislative session, the Chamber testified on numerous energy projects and at government hearings involving energy policy. The Chamber also was actively engaged in behind the scenes advocacy that led to the passage of the House version to the Massachusetts Energy Bill that became law in 2016.
  • The banning of non-compete agreements, actions to increase the minimum wage, strict scheduling, an employer paid family leave law and a millionaire’s tax that would be a new income tax on businesses are all legislative actions that the Chamber is advocated against right now at hearings and in discussions with legislators.
  • The Chamber is also working on repeals or amendments to numerous taxes and regulations impacting businesses.
  • As an active participant within the Gateway Cities Legislative Coalition, the Chamber assisted with the drafting and advocacy of Gateway Cities legislation that has been infused within the new Municipal Reform Law.
  • The Chamber successfully advocated for the establishment of a trust account for tourism funding in Massachusetts. Operating the only tourism and visitor center in Bristol County the Chamber continues to be strong proponent for the funding of tourism promotion in Southeastern Massachusetts.
  • The Chamber is working with the Retailers Association of Massachusetts to expand the sales tax in MA to include many out of state internet retailers in order to level the playing field for local businesses.
  • At the national level, the Chamber was part of a coalition that secured a temporary waiver for Massachusetts from the onerous conditions within the Affordable Care Act.
  • In partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber submitted an amicus curiae legal brief with the action to enjoin the U.S. Department of Labor from implementing new overtime regulations. That effort ended successfully.
  • The Chamber was also part of a national coalition of business organizations that advocated for reauthorization of the U.S. Export-Import Bank.
  • The Chamber is currently working with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in support of a comprehensive transportation system repair and tax reform.

TRANSPORTATION

  • 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. Now completed, the spaghetti ramp system that once separated the business districts of Fall River from the waterfront has been replaced with a $229 million thoroughfare that invites commuters into the region rather than driving over it.
  • The Chamber has also been a strong advocate in the securing of funding within MassDOT’s Capital Investment Plan for the $80 million Route 79N interchange project. Efforts are currently underway with the planning and redesign of the north section to the Route 79 interchange system and development of the Fall River pier location, which also recently was funded.
  • Working with the Southeastern Regional Transit Authority (SRTA), the Chamber has been instrumental in expanding public transportation within Bristol County, which now includes night and industrial park services. The Chamber is currently working with SRTA, RIPTA and GATRA to address interstate public transportation between Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
  • Great progress has been made on the issue of Commuter Rail. The Chamber has been hard at work with the Baker Administration and MassDOT in making this vital economic game changer a reality. The Chamber is also working with MassDOT and MassDevelopment to increase commercial freight opportunities by expanding rail and water shipping along the Taunton River.

ZONING and 43D District

  • Several years ago, the Chamber worked closely with the City of Fall River to draft and implement the Waterfront District, the Medical District and the largest 43D District in Massachusetts. The benefits of these initiatives were realized as factors that attracted the interest of Amazon, CEA Group and others to locate in Fall River.
  • Amazon, employing almost 1200 people in Fall River, has officially opened their new 1.2 million square foot facility. The Fall River distribution center is the largest Amazon shipping facility in the United States.
  • The Chamber is currently working with the City of Fall River in reviewing and recommending amendments to the Zoning Ordinances of Fall River.

INFRASTRUCTURE

  • In partnership with the Fall River Industrial Park Association the Chamber effectively advocated for a $1 million bond to repair and maintain roads and water drainage within the Fall River Industrial Park.
  • The Chamber successfully advocated for replacing the water tower in the Industrial Park that services over seventy businesses, the north end of Fall River and the new Life Sciences and Technology Park in Fall River. The Industrial Park water tower went on line in 2016.
  • The Chamber worked with the Block Island Ferry and the Stateline Pier to continue high speed ferry services from Fall River to Block Island and Newport. 
  • The Chamber worked with its partners to find a solution that reopened the Fall River Carrousel.
  • The Chamber is currently reviewing the costs and benefits of building a new high school in Fall River. The Chamber’s Foundation is the funding mechanism for the Durfee Rising Campaign.

COMPETITIVE TAX SHIFT RATE FOR LOCAL BUSINESSES

  • During the past 7 years, the Chamber has made its case to reduce the commercial tax shift rate in the City of Fall River. For 3 years in a row, the commercial tax shift rate had been reduced from the maximum 1.75 rate to 1.69%.
  • In 2017, the City Council wanted to reinstate the 1.75% rate, but due to Chamber advocacy, established that the tax shift rate will be 1.72%. The consistent reduction in the commercial property tax shift is meaningful relief to businesses that has been produced through the advocacy efforts of the Chamber.
  • Working to improve the regional business climate, Somerset, Swansea and Seekonk have lowered their tax shifts on commercial properties.
  • In 2013, the Chamber worked with the City Council to establish a $10,000 commercial personal property tax exemption to assist businesses. The personal property tax exemption has been continued through 2017.

EDUCATION AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT

  • Funded by the Chamber’s 501c(3) Foundation, the Education Committee is implementing a sustained multi-media marketing campaign aimed at raising educational aspiration levels in the region. The EdUp Campaign is one of the most important Chamber initiatives.
  • As part of the EdUp effort, the Education Committee produced the fourth all area College Day throughout Bristol County.
  • The Chamber continues to stand up for increased funding to area schools and has worked to expand the role of Teach For America in the Fall River schools, while also assisting in the expansion of the UAspire financial counseling program that helps students plan for funding a college education.
  • The EdUp website is funded by the Chamber’s Foundation. Visit www.edupaspire.org.
  • EdUp book markers and wrist bands are being distributed to students through the area schools via the new EdUp bus sponsored and created by BayCoast Bank.
  • Four years ago the Chamber and Bristol Community College designated November as Bristol County Workforce Month. The Chamber’s newspaper, radio show and TV show are all leveraged to highlight and educate area residents about transitions within the workforce.

BRANDING

  • A great effort has been placed on the marketing of our region’s assets in order to attract and retain businesses.
  • The Chamber successfully advocated for funding of the “Make it Here in Fall River” branding campaign that was launched in 2017. Efforts are underway in producing the “Make it Here” in Fall River campaign.
  • The Chamber has also worked to incorporate area assets into the Massachusetts Marketing Partnership effort through the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism (MOTT) aimed at marketing the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
  • Bristol County’s tourism and visitor’s information area is located in the lobby of the Chamber of Commerce.