Newport gets cold shoulder, ice co. moves to Mass.

By Denise Perreault
PBN Staff Writer 

Newport may have the cultural cachet, the sailboats and the mansions, but a co-owner of Eastern Ice Co. Inc. says there is no better location than Fall River for the family-owned ice manufacturer that recently moved into a brand new $4.5 million expandable facility in the old mill city.

“It’s working out well,” said David F. Rossi, co-owner of Eastern Ice, about the company’s relocation in the first week of June. “We’re right next to the highway, so it’s much easier to get here. Newport is so congested and so crowded.”

Founded by Rossi’s great-grandfather in the late 1800’s, he said, Eastern Ice for many years was located off Thames Street along the Newport waterfront, a site that can be almost impossible to reach by car during the summer months when visitors and their vehicles clog the City by the Sea’s downtown district.

The new plant, a state-of-the-art facility of 25,000 square feet, is in the Fall River Commerce Park off Route 24.

“We outgrew the place,” Rossi said last week of the Newport location.  He and his brother, C. Joseph Rossi, are owners and operators of Eastern Ice., the fourth generation of the family in charge of the ice-making enterprise.  The company currently employs 18 people, and the Rossis intend to hire 13 more workers during the next three years.  David Rossi noted that two workers were added recently to the office, doubling the staff to four.

“This truly is a new business, for Fall River and for the Commonwealth, so we’re particularly pleased to have Eastern Ice locate here,” said Ken Fiola, executive vice president of Jobs for Fall River Inc., a private nonprofit company under contract to operate the Fall River Office of Economic Development.

The $4.5 million cost of the new plant has been offset somewhat by a tax increment financing (TIF) agreement that Fiola said will see Eastern Ice save approximately $66,000 in local real estate taxes over five years.  The company will pay “Just over $200,000” versus the $266,000 that would be owed without the TIF, Fiola said.

The TIF agreements are offered to businesses within certain economic target areas in Fall River, Fiola explained, and since 1994, the city has granted 56 of these tax breaks to various companies.  Under a TIF, the city forgives as much as 25 percent of the property tax value of a newly constructed building for at least five years and no more than 20 years.  Fiola said Eastern Ice received a five-year agreement, which is not renewable, approved by the Fall River City Council and the state.

The company is also receiving a 5-percent investment tax credit offered by the state for all machinery, equipment and depreciation, Fiola said.  “If they need more equipment in the future, the 5-percent credit would apply to those purchases as well.”  He said the plant could be expanded to 40,000 square feet.

Fiola had nothing but praise for the Rossi brothers. “They’re hard-working guys from a solid family,” he said, noting the owners and the city reached a deal on the relocation within just a few weeks of their first meeting.  Eastern Ice is exactly the kind of business Fall River wants to attract, Fiola said, a clean industry “that is going to be around for a long time.”

Questioned about the new jobs Eastern Ice will create, Fiola said the salary range is from approximately $20,000 for clerical jobs to $80,000 for supervisor positions.  Eastern Ice has agreed to give Fall Riverresidents first preference, he confirmed.

Fall River Mayor Robert Correia also commended the Rossi family and the management at Eastern Ice for “having the confidence to invest in Fall River.” He said the company is sure to benefit from “the city’s desirable location and hard-working work force.”

“Other companies should look at the reasons why Eastern Ice chose Fall River over other communities and seriously consider Fall River for their expansion needs,” the mayor said.  “We have all the necessary ingredients in the form of a quality labor force, affordable land and existing infrastructure to make company startups, expansions and relocations possible.”

Eastern Ice announced its decision to move from Newport to Fall River in July 2007, pending approval of the tax increment financing agreement with the City of Fall River and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  Approval was secured in September and the company moved ahead with construction of the new plant throughout the winter months to be ready for the spring and summer product demand.  City officials joined Eastern Ice representatives for a grand opening at the new facility June5