Membership Referral Program in Full Swing

By Meighread Dandeneau, Communications Intern

The new membership referral program has been making waves at the Chamber, and as we’ve reached the halfway point in the year, we’re ready to report a preliminary tally!

More about the Membership Referral Program; for every new member brought on board, references are eligible to receive a free month’s membership* or a $25 Visa gift card! There is no limit to how much your business can earn. For example, if you send the South Coast Chamber twelve new businesses who join the Chamber, your business/organization would receive a free year worth of Chamber membership. Every time your referral signs up and joins our Chamber, your name will also be entered into our database, and at the end of the year you’ll receive one entry for every new member referred into a drawing of a VISA $500 gift card. The more referrals you send us, the better your chances are at winning this $500 gift card!

*Only businesses with 24 or fewer employees are eligible to have their membership extended.


Now, for the tally!


Mitch Zucker (Nerds to Go) leads the race for most referrals!


Following in a cheery second place are Ana Araujo and Chris Johnson (Servpro)


Third is shared by Eric Miranda (First Citizens Federal Credit Union), Tracey Medeiros (New Bedford Credit Union), and Stacey Silva-Boutwell (Stacey Cakes).


Erin Lemeiux (Commonwealth Financial) and Pete Wilde (Simply Sierra Jewelry) hold a respectable fourth.


It’s still anyone’s game. Check back in at the end of the year for the final tally!
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Meet the SouthCoast Chamber Summer Interns!

Hello! My name is Meighread Dandeneau and I’m a recent graduate from Fitchburg State University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Communications Media. I chose to do my internship with the SouthCoast Chamber to strengthen my marketing skills through event assistance and business connectivity on the South Coast. I’ve really enjoyed my time so far, helping with multiple networking events and creating written content for the Chamber. Already, I feel much more in tune with the commerce of the South Coast. I feel like I’m getting great experience to help me enter the workforce. I look forward to working on the SouthCoast Chamber’s 14th Annual Chowderfest preparations!

Hello my name is Galena Gutierrez, and I am a student at Bristol Community College. I am currently studying Business Administration. I’ve decided to do an internship program this summer to help better guide me into opening my own business in fashion and jewelry in the New Bedford area. The SouthCoast Chamber is a great way to learn the in’s and out about my community and get more involved. My first day was great, as everyone is very friendly and so kind. I already got to jump into my internship experience by joining the Global Charter School for their Presentations of Leaning (POL) Day. As a reviewer, I got to help rate student’s presentations using a rubric that was provided. Also, I helped the Chamber by looking up restaurants from Westport to Wareham in preparation for the upcoming Chowder Festival. I’m very excited to learn and network with Chamber members to gain a better understanding prior to starting my own business one day. I’m very grateful to have this opportunity to work with the SouthCoast Chamber.

Rebecca Laliberte, Communications Manager at the Chamber says “We are excited to have Galena and Meighread with us for their summer internships. Both Galena and Meighread have already demonstrated a high level of professionalism. We hope to provide a valuable learning experience and help them develop skills they will utilize as they continue to pursue education and career goals. ”

Meighread can be reached at and Galena can be reached at

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Bristol County Chamber and SouthCoast Chamber Announce Integration

At separate meetings held on June 27, the Boards of Directors of the Bristol County Chamber and the SouthCoast Chamber agreed to integrate under a single corporate umbrella, effective January 1, 2020. With these votes, the two chambers have declared a goal of establishing a (yet unnamed) non-profit corporate entity with both existing chambers as affiliates.

The chambers have engaged in a six-month process through Board appointed representatives of each chamber and professional facilitation. The Integration Task Force was charged with making due diligence recommendations including the following: whether to integrate, the governance model, financial viability, and the leadership model. Their recommendations formed the basis of the due diligence documents and the final Board resolutions on which the two Boards voted.

The Boards of the two founding organizations provided the Integration Task Force with several non-negotiables to help frame their recommendations that included: maintaining two corporate offices, building an inclusive governance model, and building efficiencies without loss of staff positions. Kim Perry, Chair of the SouthCoast Chamber Board, said, “This integration has always been about impacts, not efficiencies. While we knew that efficiencies would emerge, the staff and leadership of each organization are its most important assets. Each organization has a long and storied history supporting the communities each serves, and in building this new model, we needed staff and volunteer leadership to know that their continued service was necessary to the organization’s success. All companies represented on the Board will continue that service.”

With combined memberships of nearly 1,600 businesses, representing tens of thousands of employees in the South Coast region, the new chamber will become the second largest in the Commonwealth in number of member companies. Once brought together, the new chamber will serve the entire South Coast region – from Wareham to eastern Rhode Island. The new chamber will maintain existing offices and staff, but new efficiencies will emerge along with a series of superior value propositions for all sized businesses, especially the small and micro-businesses that make up the vast majority of every chamber’s membership base.

Brian LeComte, Chair of the Bristol County Chamber Board, said “These two healthy organizations, once combined, will present new and exciting opportunities for our business

members that only scale can provide. Whether it is a single, unified voice on Beacon Hill and in Washington or small business opportunities for growth through larger and more targeted programs for business growth, this new chamber will build on the successes of the past and reach for new heights in supporting our region’s business base.”

The new organization will operate with a Co-CEO model, retaining Mike O’Sullivan, the current CEO of the Bristol County Chamber, and Rick Kidder, the current CEO of the SouthCoast Chamber, and with current technology no necessity to relocate staff. Mike O’Sullivan said, “Rick and I have worked out with the Task Force a delineation of responsibilities that will allow members and staff absolute clarity regarding whom to contact and how office operations will take place in order to maximize efficiency and productivity.”

Rick Kidder added, “With this vote, there is much work Mike and I need to accomplish prior to the January 1, 2020 launch. We will be back at work with the Task Force establishing a name and corporate identity for the parent company, filing all appropriate paperwork at the state and federal level, refining bylaws and building a final budget and scope of work for the new Board of Directors to approve in September. Our sole goal is the best possible member experience.”

In a joint statement to both memberships, Kim Perry and Brian LeComte stated, “A new day has begun, one where the South Coast region has a single business voice and an everyday commitment to the success of businesses of all sizes. We are grateful for the hard work of the Integration Task Force and the deep commitment of our staff leaders without whom this integration would not have been possible. Every member will benefit from this coming together of two great chambers.”

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Celebrating the History of the Supported Employment Network Program

By Joanne Rego, Support Employment Network Coordinator

It is amazing the treasures that you find when preparing for a move. Such was the case when sorting through the many boxes and files that the Supported Employment Network Program accumulated for over 30 years. Old photos, article and letters tell the remarkable story of this SouthCoast Chamber’s Supported Employment Network Program.

The Supported Employment Network Program was an idea that was developed in 1987 by a group of interested professionals who worked with individuals with developmental disabilities. This group included the office of the Department of Developmental Services. DDS approached the SouthCoast Chamber with a proposal to form a partnership between the two agencies. This partnership created a new and innovative approach to creating job opportunities for people with developmental disabilities.

Since its inception, the Chamber’s Supported Employment Network has been molded and changed in many different ways in order to meet the needs of the people it served. Over the years, the Supported Employment Network not only addressed the needs of the job seekers, but also provided a valuable resource for chamber members who were looking to hire trained, skilled and capable employees.

The Southcoast Chamber’s Supported Employment Network proved to be a uniquely designed and successful program like no other program within any Chamber of Commerce in this country. The SouthCoast Chamber’s achievements did not go unnoticed. Its outstanding accomplishment has led to not only state recognition, but also led to recognition within the United States and most astounding is that the program has received worldwide recognition.

In 2000, the SouthCoast Chamber received recognition and an award at the ADA 10 year celebration ceremony in Boston, Massachusetts. In 2005, hte SouthCoast Chamber was listed in the United States Department of Labor’s guide and handbook for employers throughout the country who hire employees with disabilities. Our Chamber was listed as the STAR program when it came to practices and procedures to promote hiring people with disabilities. The Chamber’s Supported Employment Network was also highlighted in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s newsletter for its outstanding program.

One of the Supported Employment Network’s most fascinating experiences was meeting with representatives from Rotary Russia. The committee from Russia was given a presentation on the SouthCoast Chamber’s Supported Employment Network Program’s history and accomplishments which included showing the committee the video that the Network had developed “Supported Employment: Make It Work for You.” The Russian committee was so impressed with the message in the video that they were determined not to leave unless the Network gave them a copy of the video. This was a request that the Network was pleased to accommodate. The Russian committee’s plan was to show the Network’s video and its progressive services for people with disabilities at large conferences throughout Russia including in big cities like Moscow, Siberia, Saint Petersburg and Novosibirsk.

Throughout the years, in addition to developing the Supported Employment video, the Network committee also developed a brochure, participated in a UMass Center for Marketing Research survey, met with a mayor and gave panel discussions and presentation at seminars. The Southcoast Supported Employment Network hosted an annual information session for the Greater New Bedford community titled “Social Security and Working: How it Effects Social Security Benefits”. The Supported Employment Network also had a regular column call Enterprising Minds in the SouthCoast Chamber’s Focus newsletter. Articles often highlighted success stories of employees with disabilities who were working in the community, skilled job seekers with disabilities and stories that inspired reader about the many benefits of hiring a skilled, talented and loyal employee with disabilities.

Most recently, there were some individuals who stood out because of their outstanding accomplishments.

-Reece Arnold from Better Community Living, Inc. is a gifted musician who was hired by various members of the chamber to provide musical entertainment at their social events. Reece was hired by the SouthCoast Chamber to play music at the Member Appreciation event and also at the APEX Awards Reception.

-Chris Mercer from Lifestream, Inc. was hired by Donald Giumetti proprietor of Shepard Group, Inc. after Giumetti read an article in Enterprising Minds indicating that Chris was looking for employment, Giumetti said to himself, “I’m want to hire that guy.” The two continue to banter and share their love for sports in between performing job duties.

-Katie Brienzo from M.O .Life, Inc. was a unique and inspirational young woman. Ms. Brienzo was tragically killed at only 29 years old but had accomplished so much in her short life. Prior to her death she had been successfully employed at the New Bedford Economic Development Office, Stop and Shop and Market Basket. Katie was also the founder of “HOPES and DREAMS” and advocacy group for people with disabilities. Following her death, Katie was recognized by various groups for her accomplishments in life including an award from APSE in Washington D.C. In 2012 Katie was given the “Inspirational Person of the Year” Award from the New Bedford Standard Times. Additionally, each year an outstanding person with disabilities is given an award in memory of Katie at the annual M.O. Life Gala. This award is called the Katie Brienzo Lifetime Achievement Award.

These outstanding individuals are just a few of the hundreds of talented people with disabilities in our community who have enriched a local business by being a part of the company’s successful work team.

Hats off! to our chamber members who have hired an employee with disabilities. You already know it is a wise decision. Participating in supported employment has always been good for business. The SouthCoast Chamber is proud to have been a remarkable benefit to helping people with disabilities find meaningful employment in our community.

If you are interested in hiring a person with disabilities please call Better Community Living, Inc. at 508-999-4300, Lifestream, Inc. at 508-991-4840, or M.O.Life, Inc. at 508-992-5978.

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U.S. Senator Edward Markey to Speak at Legislative Lunch

United States Senator Edward Markey will be featured at the SouthCoast Chamber and Bristol County Chamber 2019 Legislative Luncheon on Friday, May 17 at White’s of Westport located at 6 State Rd., Westport, MA. Hear about his new policies and agenda and how he is working to make sure the SouthCoast has a voice in Washington D.C.

While serving for 37 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, Senator Edward Markey fought for his constituents throughout his Congressional District. Senator Markey, a consumer champion and national leader on energy, environmental protection and telecommunications policy, has a prolific legislative record on major issues across the policy spectrum and a deep commitment to improving the lives of the people of Massachusetts and our country. Whether the issue is climate change, clean energy, safeguarding privacy, nuclear non-proliferation, investor protection or preserving an open Internet that spurs competition and consumer choice, Senator Markey stands up for the priorities and values of Massachusetts.

The cost to attend this event, which includes lunch, is $50 per person. Registration is required and can be made online here or by calling 508-999-5231.

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Meet the Chamber Interns


Julia Costa

My name is Julia Costa, and I’m in the Hospitality Program at Bristol Community
College. I chose to do my internship with the Southeastern Mass Visitors Bureau, which is located within the SouthCoast Chamber. The Bureau has increased my love for people, travel, and tourism. I’ve been to so many new places, to events hosted by the Chamber, and I’ve met extremely successful people during my time here. I’m excited to learn more about the business side of tourism as well as marketing and social media. I love the idea of finding an attraction or event that will grasp a tourist’s attention. The amount of research I’ve done on the history of Bristol County has increased my awareness of how far we’ve come as a community. It’s also made me love all the hidden little things that the south coast has to offer. I hope to take everything I’ve learned during this semester and continue to use them in the future as I’ll never forget everything I’ve experienced here.


Shana McAskill

Hello my name is Shana McAskill, and I am a student at Bristol Community College currently studying Business Administration. I ultimately decided to do an internship at the SouthCoast Chamber for the opportunity to learn different aspects of operating a business. I am excited to learn content creation and networking. Being involved in the events and being able to see them in person will give me the variety of useful information in operations and technology that I need. I have already begun to work on press releases and the event pages to give the site updated information. I look forward to going to events like Business After Hours and Meet Your Neighbors to have new experiences and gain new skills. Being here for only the past couple of weeks has already given me new experiences and great people to work alongside with. I hope to learn and grow with them the rest of the semester.

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Apex Awards Night

The SouthCoast Chamber is pleased to recognize the significant contributions and achievements of our region’s businesses with the presentation of the 2019 APEX Awards in the categories of Small Business, Large Business, Non-Profit and Educational Institution. The awards ceremony this past Tuesday was an evening cocktail occasion held at Century House in Acushnet.

With over 30 nominees this year, the painstaking task of narrowing down one of the largest turnouts to date was no easy one. Each nominee has played a unique role within the community and contributed to the economic development of the SouthCoast.


Presented with the Large Business of the Year award was Poyant Signs.

For over 80 years, Poyant Signs has maintained a desire to help customers build their business with high quality products by collaborating with local, regional and national companies to help achieve their clients’ goals.

A third generation family business Poyant Signs shows consistent growth in all areas of the organization including their employment, which recently increased their workforce from 58 to 72.

The majority of these employees are hired from local vocational high schools and colleges.   As a pioneer in innovation, Poyant is constantly updating their equipment and business strategies capitalizing on modern technology.

Poyant is committed to the SouthCoast and heavily involved with local organizations and community events including the New Bedford Whaling Museum, the United Way, the New Bedford Military Museum, the New Bedford Girls Softball League, Chowder Festival and the Taste of Southcoast.

The nominees for this year’s Large Business of the Year award included Eastern Bank, Plumbers Supply Co., Vibra Hospital of Southeastern Massachusetts, Toyota of Dartmouth/Check Collision, The Standard-Times, SouthCoast Behavioral Health, Couto Construction and finalists First Citizens Federal Credit Union and Lafrance Hospitality.

Presented with the Small Business of the Year award was Buzzards Bay Brewery Inc.

Buzzards Bay Brewing has been a major player in the local brewing industry for more than twenty years.

The main mission of Buzzard Bay Brewery is to not to just sell beer, but rather to work side by side with local brewers to build a vibrant craft beer community that will prosper and recirculate resources into the local economy.

The early decision to focus on local consumers and retailers has been the key to their success for the past two decades and allowed the local craft beer industry to succeed.

Buzzards Bay Brewing continuously strives to gather people to enjoy life experiences together.  Heavily invested in the community they have significant relationships with The Zeiterion Theatre, the Buzzards Bay Coalition, the Pink Boots Society and are strong advocates for Women in the Brewing Industry.

The nominees for year’s Small Business of the Year award included Best Western Dartmouth Inn, Primerica, Hannah Grace Beyoutiful, Spectrum Marketing Group, Diversified Marketing Group, Capital House Media, Simply Sierra Jewelry, U.S. Party Supply, Couto Construction, Alferes Realty, Mid City Steel and finalists Servpro of New Bedford and Precision Window and Kitchen, Inc.

The Non-Profit of the Year sponsored by First Citizens Federal Credit Union was presented to YWCA Southeastern Massachusetts

The YWCA Southeastern Massachusetts works towards the elimination of racism, the empowerment of women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.

With a diverse workforce of more than 20 employees ranging from high school students to personnel over 60, they represent and easily communicate with multiple demographics.

Under their current Leadership, the YWCA has completed a $4.5 million campaign to build a 6,550 square foot addition specifically for a school age childcare program and to provide 8 full units of housing for low-income women.

The YWCA serves over 4,000 local residents annually and offers programming in Adult, Youth and Residential services as well as Health and wellness.

Currently the YWCA’s strategic plan focuses on increasing development, communications and branding while expanding programs and services throughout the SouthCoast.

The nominees for this year’s Non-Profit of the Year award included Friendly Sons of St. Patrick of New Bedford Inc., Realtor Association of Southeastern Massachusetts, Coastal Foodshed, MoLife Inc., PACE and finalists Greater New Bedford Community Health and Leadership SouthCoast.

Presented with the Educational Institution of the Year award was Alma del Mar Charter School

Founded in 2011, Alma del Mar’s mission is to put every child on a path to college, while challenging them to be service-minded leaders.

With hundreds of children on the waiting list and more than 10% of the city’s kindergarteners applying for enrollment, Alma del Mar has seen a demand for expansion.

This demand led to the construction of a two-story school in the North End of New Bedford.  Recently, Alma was approved to open a first-of-its-kind neighborhood-based enrollment Commonwealth Charter school.

This innovative model which works in partnership with the City of New Bedford and New Bedford Public Schools will serve 450 young scholars from grades K-8 by 2022.

Alma del Mar’s result have been amongst the highest in the state and their teachers and administration continue to lead by example encouraging their scholars to excel academically and become contributing member of society through civic engagement.

The nominees for this year’s Educational Institution of the Year award included Lesley University, Nativity Preparatory School New Bedford with finalists Rob Roy Academy and Old Colony Regional Vocational High School.


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APEX Nominees Announced

Congratulations to APEX Award nominees. Come join us to celebrate the accomplishments of all the nominees at the April 9th awards ceremony at Century House in Acushnet. Register here.

Large Business

Couto Construction
Eastern Bank
First Citizens Federal Credit Union
Lafrance Hospitality
Plumbers Supply Co.
Poyant Signs
Southcoast Behavioral Health
The Standard-Times
Toyota of Dartmouth/Check Collision
Vibra Hospital of Southeastern Massachusetts

Small Business

Alferes Realty
Best Western Dartmouth Inn
Buzzards Bay Brewing inc.
Capital House Media
Diversified Marketing Group
Hannah Grace Beyoutiful
Mid City Steel
Precision Window and Kitchen, Inc.
SERVPRO of Dartmouth/New Bedford
Simply Sierra Jewelry
Spectrum Marketing Group
U.S. Party Supply


Alma del Mar Charter School
Lesley University
Nativity Preparatory School New Bedford
Old Colony Regional Vocational High School
Rob Roy Academy

Non Profit

Coastal Foodshed
Friendly Sons of St. Patrick of New Bedford inc.
Greater New Bedford Community Health Center
Leadership SouthCoast
Realtor Association of Southeastern Massachusetts
Rise Up for Homes
YWCA Southeastern Massachusetts


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Tax Cuts and Jobs Act: What the Tax Reform Bill Means for You

Submitted by JMR & Company, LLC

Congress has passed tax reform that will take effect in 2018, ushering in some of the most significant tax changes in three decades. There are a lot of changes in the new bill, which was signed into law on Dec. 22, 2017.

Key changes for individuals:

Here are some of the key items in the tax reform bill that affect individuals:

  • Reduces income tax brackets: The bill retains seven brackets, but at reduced rates, with the highest tax bracket dropping to 37 percent from 39.6 percent. The individual income brackets are also expanded to expose more income to lower rates (see charts below).
  • Doubles standard deductions: The standard deduction nearly doubles to $12,000 for single filers and $24,000 for married filing jointly. To help cover the cost, personal exemptions and most additional standard deductions are suspended.
  • Limits itemized deductions: Many itemized deductions are no longer available, or are now limited. Here are some of the major examples:
    • Caps state and local tax deductions: State and local tax deductions are limited to $10,000 total for all property, income and sales taxes.
    • Caps mortgage interest deductions: For newly acquired homes, mortgage interest will be deductible only for mortgage indebtedness of no more than $750,000. Existing homeowners are unaffected by the new cap. The bill also suspends the deductibility of interest on equity debt.
    • Limit of theft and casualty losses: Deductions are now available only for federally declared disaster areas.
    • No more 2 percent miscellaneous deductions: Most miscellaneous deductions subject to the 2 percent of adjusted gross income threshold are now gone.
    • Tip: If you’re used to itemizing your return, that may change in coming years as the doubled standard deduction and reduced deductions make itemizing less attractive. To the extent you can, make any remaining itemizable expenditures before the end of 2017.
  • Cuts some above-the-line deductions: Moving expense deductions get eliminated except for active-duty military personnel, along with alimony deductions beginning in 2019.
  • Personal exemptions have been eliminated with the new tax bill.
  • Weakens the alternative minimum tax (AMT): The bill retains the alternative minimum tax but changes the exemption to $109,400 for joint filers and the phaseout threshold to $1 million. The changes mean the AMT will affect far fewer people than before.
  • Bumps up child tax credit, adds family tax credit: The child tax credit increases to $2,000 from $1,000, with $1,400 of it being refundable even if no tax is owed. The phaseout threshold increases sharply to $400,000 from $110,000 for joint filers, making it available to more taxpayers. Also, dependents ineligible for the child tax credit can qualify for a new $500-per-person family tax credit.
  • Expands use of 529 education savings plans: Tax-deductible contributions to 529 education savings plans can now be used to pay tuition for students in K-12 private schools.
  • Doubles estate tax exemption: Estate taxes will apply to even fewer people, with the exemption doubled to $11.2 million ($22.4 million for married couples).

What stays the same for individuals:

  • Itemized charitable deductions: Remain largely the same.
  • Itemized medical expense deductions: Remain largely the same. The deduction threshold drops back to 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income for 2017 and 2018, but reverts to 10 percent in the following years.
  • Some above-the-line deductions: Remain the same, including educator expenses and student loan interest.
  • Gift tax deduction: Remains and increases to $15,000 from $14,000 for 2018.
  • Kiddie tax threshold: Remains at $2,100 (amount of unearned income that can be taxed at your child’s lower tax rate).

Farewell to the healthcare individual mandate penalty

One of the changes in the tax bill is the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (also known as “Obamacare”) individual mandate penalty. The penalty is set to zero starting in 2019, but remains in place for 2018 and prior years.

  • Tip: Retain your Form 1095s this year, which will provide evidence of your healthcare coverage. Without it, you may have to pay the higher of $695 or 2.5 percent of income, though 2018 may be the last year you’ll need to worry about it.

For more information contact:

JMR & Company, LLC
Fall River Ph: 508-679-6079,
Fairhaven Ph: 508-993-2255
New Bedford Ph: 508-997-5556



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