Select Board supports tax relief for Ahead, LLC

Aug 3, 2016

New Bedford-based manufacturer Ahead, LLC has asked the Select Board for a six-year tax break for the purpose of funding a 79,000 square-foot addition.

The Select Board gave its blessing at the last meeting for the 97,754 square-foot facility located in the New Bedford Business Park—sections of which are located over the Dartmouth town line—but the vote still needs to go through November Town Meeting.

“Ahead has been responsive to our needs and concerns, and I commend them for doing that,” said Town Administrator David Cressman, suggesting Dartmouth return the favor. It’s a manufacturing company that needs tax increment financing (TIF) to partner the state and grow within the Commonwealth, he said.

The TIF would allow the company to capture a percentage of its property taxes for approximately six years—a sum that would normally all go to the town—to support the $11 million project.

Additionally, Ahead needs a significant TIF so that it can receive state aid. Historically, a minimum five-percent of the property tax would be enough to secure state support, however, the state has built-in guidelines to encourage higher participation.

Chief Executive Officer Anne Broholm first stepped before the Select Board with the proposal about a month ago, but the board pushed back the decision to sort through two main deterrents: the lack of TIFs in Dartmouth history, and the town’s already competitive tax rate.

“[Ahead] is looking for a $15,000 credit per year through a TIF, said Board of Assessors Chairman Robert Michaud, pointing out that Dartmouth also has a $10 million police station and $6 million library on its plate as well. “A company from Sweden has taken most of their profits back to Sweden,” he said, referring to the Swedish-based New Wave Group that owns Ahead.

“An investment such as the one we’re proposing is significant for us, and a partnership with the town and with the state is meaningful and important for this project,” said Broholm. “We’re not a hospital, we’re not a big box, and we’re not located in New Bedford.”

Broholm said the ornamentation process for their headwear, apparel, and accessories happens here, employing 265 people in the area, while their competitors do the same overseas. Ahead is also looking to add about 40 jobs with the expansion.

“At the end of the day, everyone else has said enough. It’s 300 jobs to me. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I voted against something like this,” Board Chairman Stanley Michelson.

Board Member John Haran said there are a lot of undeveloped properties in the industrial park, and supports granting a TIF to Ahead. “A lot of companies have never come forth to ask for a TIF. Their mistake. This sends a message that the Select Board is willing to work with businesses and that we’re pro-business.”

“I generally don’t believe in TIFs,” said Select Board Vice Chairman Frank Gracie. Residents don’t get discounts on their taxes, however, companies normally go overseas where the working environment is better for them, not necessarily for their employees, he said.

“What I would support is enough for you to get that state aid. I’m led to believe that that is around a six-year commitment. If that’s true, I would support that,” said Gracie. “I would have a hard time supporting a 10-year commitment.”

Michaud’s other argument—that the town hasn’t granted a TIF since 2007—was quickly washed out by Select Board Member Shawn McDonald.

Maybe the tone set by previous select boards discouraged proposals, said McDonald. “This is a different time. This is a different board.”

Chair of the Greater New Bedford Industrial Foundation and Dartmouth resident, Liz Isherwood, stood up to show her support. She said nearly 1,000 jobs are going to be lost within the next year due to Symmetry Medical and High Liner Foods leaving the area, and pressed the need to add Ahead’s promised 41 jobs.

”This TIF is part of a package,” said Deborah Melino-Wender, Town Director of Development and Grants. “Without this TIF, Ahead may not get the state aid critical to its expansion. [Forty-one jobs is] not a small amount in this region.”

“Whatever they do for development—that is added revenue for the Town of Dartmouth, even if it’s discounted,” said Isherwood.

The Ahead company had given the Select Board a tour of the facility on June 13, 2016.