The American Industrial Revolution took root in New England because of an abundant mix of recourses. By 1920, Fall River’s 100 mills supported a population of 130000 people. Many of these individuals were of Portuguese, French Canadian or Irish immigrant origins. Each of the groups brought with them a very strong work ethic as they sought to elevate their economic status. As the region developed, Fall River became recognized as the “Spindle City” that led in manufacturing, health care, culture and vocational education.
Led by private, government and education partners a collaborative effort has been underway since the 1990’s to redesign the 1960’s infrastructure and renovate area assets in order to cultivate existing and emerging industries. The goal is development of a diversified economy built on niche manufacturing, green technology, life sciences, transportation, distribution, professional services and a creative economy. Diversification of the local economy is the key to sustainable growth and employment.
The renaissance of Fall River and the neighboring towns is clearly observable. Significant transportation projects are either underway or have been completed. The Veterans Memorial Bridge project, which replaced the Brightman Street Bridge, was completed in 2011. It serves as the primary connection point for both Fall River and Somerset. The Veterans Memorial Bridge also directs commuter traffic northward to Boston as it interconnects with the northern section of Route 79.
The opening of the Veterans Memorial Bridge compliments the completed Route 24 exit 8B project. That $50 million infrastructure investment created direct highway access to the newly established SouthCoast Life Sciences and Technology Park in Fall River. This is where Mass Biologics is now located. Mass Biologics and the state’s largest solar farm will soon be neighbors to the 1 million square foot Amazon.com distribution center.
The removal of the 1960’s spaghetti ramps system has been a long sought after economic objective by local businesses. As time passed, the twelve bridges within the interchange system aged and deteriorated to a point where they became structurally deficient and in need of serious rehabilitation. An opportunity to correct past mistakes had arisen.
Replacement of the spaghetti ramps with a waterfront boulevard that connects Route 79 to Route 24 is a critical step toward Fall River’s economic sustainability. Upon completion this project directs motorist through Fall River’s waterfront attractions while also opening up approximately nine acres of land for commercial development along the scenic Taunton River. The new boulevard also adds to the quality of life for area residents by providing an enhanced multipurpose waterfront walking and biking pathway which passes Commonwealth Landing, Battleship Cove and several marinas.
Most of the Route 79 Interchange project is slated for completion in 2016. An unobstructed view of the waterfront from areas of downtown Fall River is noteworthy recent benefit. From upper Pocasset Street across from Government Center you can clearly see the “Gates of the City,” the Battleship Massachusetts and vessels navigating the Taunton River. The $200 million Route 79 project is significant, but it is only one of several important infrastructure investments to Fall River.
The old railway lines running along the waterfront are also active once again. Commercial freight moved by Mass Coastal Rail is brought in and carried away daily. The commercial rail infrastructure is currently being upgraded and expanded for higher speeds. These investments (made with both private and public funds) lay the foundation for tourism and commuter rail services to Fall River.
High speed ferry service from Fall River to Newport and Block Island is another feature available at the Stateline Pier facility in Fall River. Industry is also using the deep water Taunton River for niche short sea shipping operations at the Stateline Pier facility. An additional opportunity during the summer months of 2015 will be visitations by passengers on cruise vessels serviced by American Cruise Lines as part of a scenic New England cities voyage.
There are many other commercial enterprises along both the Fall River and Somerset sides of the Taunton River. Gladding-Hearn Shipbuilding, located along the Somerset side of the waterway, was established in 1955 as a builder of tugs and fishing vessels. Gladding-Hearn has expanded to become one of the shipping industry's leaders in the construction of fast ferries and pilot boats.
Sustainable economic development cannot exist without the participation of the business community. A key partner in Fall River’s business development efforts is the Fall River Office of Economic Development (FROED). FROED was established in 1978 as the city’s one-stop shop for economic development with the very clear objectives of creating new jobs, retain existing jobs, and assist local businesses in their efforts to grow. FROED offers an array of incentives to startup, expanding and relocating businesses, including low-interest financing, tax exemptions and connection with employee recruitment and training services as well as site selection assistance. FROED also provides technical support for permitting, infrastructure, licensing and various other business needs. These programs can be packaged with other private and public sector incentives. All FROED services are offered free of charge.
FROED and local government incentives serve as a complement to Fall River’s favorable business climate that is demonstrated through a newly revised business friendly zoning system. Streamline permitting, preferential business districts, lower business costs and a unique collection of business advantages and natural resources make Fall River an ideal city for businesses to expand or locate. Real estate, including raw land and existing space, is inexpensive when compared with other parts of Massachusetts. The city’s tax, water and sewer rates are also among the lowest in the state. Electric and gas costs are competitively priced with neighboring Rhode Island and Connecticut and our state-of-the-art multi-communication network meets the highest technological standards.
With so many assets available, the Fall River area is ready to meet the needs of any business or developer looking to locate or expand in Southern New England. Clearly, the region’s brightest days are being manufactured right now in the Spindle City of Fall River.