The Herald News, Tuesday, December 8, 2015 – Page A10

By Kevin P. O’Connor
Email: koconnor@heraldnews.com

Fall River – The file was opened under the code name real estate developers offered: Project Kayak.

Even before it got a proper name – which turned out to be Amazon – the file had grown thick.

And that was just the start of the work facing Ken Fiola and the staff of the Fall River Office of Economic Development. There were three more years of sales pitches before Amazon decided to make Fall River one of its new homes.

FROED had a good year in 2015. Work began on a 1-million square foot distribution center for Amazon. Developers also announced plans to resurrect the nearly dead New Harbour Mall. The industrial park got faster internet and more powerful water service and several old mills began finding new life.

Fall River is rising from two simultaneous economic blows – the national recession and the withering of the local manufacturing economy.

Unemployment has fallen. Businesses are moving into town. The number of jobs in the city stopped shrinking and has started to grow.

Fiola and FROED were in the middle of all of that.

Despite three mayors in the course of a year, Fiola and company managed to keep the Amazon deal alive. It was all but dead in December of 2014 because lame duck state officials failed to meet their own deadlines for tax credits the company was after.

Smaller deals have struck, too. Commonwealth Landing got the financing for apartments, several businesses in the industrial park expanded, developers bought and began attracting new tenants to the New Harbour Mall.

The glimmer of economic hope now present in the city is real. It is also the result of a lot of hard work. FROED has been a big part of getting that work done.

For that reason, Ken Fiola and the staff of FROED are among the Newsmakers of the year in 2015.