Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Portuguese business leaders looking to expand in U.S.

NEW BEDFORD — Although it is a start-up with 11 employees, Cell2B is looking to expand beyond Portuguese borders. And the Bay State — whether in Boston, Cambridge or New Bedford — could be just the place to do it.

New Bedford "is a lovely city near the sea, and I think one of the attractive points would be the low cost of (establishing) a company here," said Dr. Daniela Couto, CEO of the Portuguese biotech firm Cell2B.

Couto was among a delegation of 25 Portuguese business leaders on a three-day tour of Massachusetts. Sitting alongside the U.S. Ambassador to Portugal Allan Katz at the Whaling Museum on Tuesday, the delegation was introduced to SouthCoast by an assemblage of local, state and national officials.

Following the event, Couto cited an array of considerations in deciding where to set up shop. Compared to Boston, New Bedford's advantage is low cost but one of the potential impediments is the difficulty in attracting Ph.D.-level workers to the area, she said.

Delegation organizer Michael Lake, executive director of World Class Cities Partnership, said that in addition to Cambridge and Boston, New Bedford was included in the three-city tour "in part because of the diversity of the group and the diversity of opportunities in the SouthCoast area."

Political, academic and business leaders touted New Bedford's strong Portuguese heritage — in Portuguese when possible — its history as an economic powerhouse and its transition to a 21st-century economy.

Mayor Jon Mitchell spoke to the future of wind power. "The big thing that we're working on now is to become the most competitive port in America "¦ in the nascent offshore wind industry," he said.

Sen. Mark C.W. Montigny highlighted the Portuguese connection in New Bedford, where about four in 10 residents claim Portuguese ancestry. "Literally everywhere I've been I've seen something that the Portuguese discovered or created or built, and that warms my heart," he said.

Roy Nascimento, head of the New Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce, highlighted the industries that call New Bedford home, beginning with the Joseph Abboud suit on his back. "We're very proud of Titleist, one of our largest employers," Nascimento said, handing out packs of golf balls to the crowd.

Fall River Area Chamber of Commerce President Rob Mellion called on the visiting business people to "call our region first."

"We have what you need," he said. "We have everything here. First of all we have the cultural ties, we have the language ties "¦ and our communities understand one another. You wouldn't be here but for some of those cultural ties."