The new facility being built at New Bedford’s South Terminal is currently undergoing something of an identity crisis, with its name being changed twice within 24 hours.
Until sometime Thursday, the offshore wind staging port facility had always officially been called the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal. That has been the name on state brochures, the EPA’s construction management plan for the project and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s web page for the project. The lease signed between Cape Wind and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center for the facility also calls it the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal, according to MassCEC.
But a Thursday press release from Gov. Deval Patrick’s office and MassCEC described the facility as the Massachusetts Marine Commerce Terminal. MassCEC also changed its web page to reflect the change.
That sparked outrage in New Bedford, where officials said they had not been consulted. The City Council passed a resolution to “strenuously object” to the change and asking that the terminal’s “rightful name” be restored.
Mayor Jon Mitchell, who said he and other city officials were not consulted on the change and who was not invited to speak at the press conference, also objected to the change and called it “outrageous.”
On Friday, South Terminal had a new official name, with yet another press release calling the facility the South Coast Marine Commerce Terminal. At that point, a photo slideshow on the MassCEC’s Massachusetts Marine Commerce Terminal showed pictures of the “South Coast Marine Terminal,” though the web page itself had yet to be renamed.
Asked about the name changes at a press conference, Patrick told The Standard-Times that the name has not yet been decided.
“I have heard the kerfuffle about it lately and with as much time as has been spent on it I think we ought to name it the Patrick Marine Commerce Terminal,” he said. “Frankly, with 400 jobs coming, if I were the mayor I would let them name it Disney Land or whatever else they want.”
Mitchell said Friday that he called Patrick in the morning to ask that the facility name keep “New Bedford” in it and that the governor’s response to him was “consistent with what he said at the press conference.”
Mitchell said he disagreed with Patrick implying that the city is ungrateful.
“I have expressed my thanks and have praised the governor publicly on countless occasions for his investment in the New Bedford waterfront,” he said. “But the fact is that names matter.”
So what’s in a name? To Mitchell, it’s important for the city to “maintain the brand” it has been building for excellence in maritime trades and, in the future, as a hub of the offshore wind industry.
“The decision to rename the terminal de-emphasizes the city of New Bedford,” he said. “I am concerned primarily with the way the city is seen by outsiders and its own residents. The name on the terminal can either reinforce or detract from the city brand.”
City Wind Energy Center Director Matthew Morrissey said the city’s ultimate goal is to bring more offshore wind jobs to the city by also attracting offshore wind manufacturers, something that the name would symbolize.
“Our aspiration is to bring thousands of jobs to the region over time,” he said. “The name is essential to immediately convey that this central cluster of the American industry is happening in New Bedford.”
Whatever the Patrick administration decides to name the facility, it can ultimately be changed by the state Legislature. Sen. Mark Montigny, D-New Bedford, said Friday he has already drafted a bill to do just that.
“If they had come to us and discussed this rather than drop it on us willy-nilly, it would be different,” he said.
Montigny said he will give the administration time to respond and change the name back before he files his bill, but that, “You really better have a damned good argument if you’re going to drop us off that.”
“Why wouldn’t I want the words New Bedford all over that letterhead and signage and marketing all over the world?” he said. “There is a real good marketing tool here and if they want us to give that up they better have respect for the process. This isn’t trivial and this isn’t myopic.”
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