Fall River’s Merrow Manufacturing is a staple of local industry in the South Coast. Established in 1838, Merrow remains one of the last vestiges of a once-bustling manufacturing industry that thrived in the gateway cities of the Commonwealth. It remains one of the few exceptions in an industry otherwise hollowed out by globalization and disastrous trade policy such as NAFTA. Since the outset of the COVID-19, Merrow has also been at the forefront of pandemic response as one of the leading producers of PPE.

On Thursday at the manufacturing site, CEO Charlie Merrow stood with Congressman Joe Kennedy III to make a major announcement about the company’s future. Merrow announced 45 immediate new job openings for skilled operators, project managers, and engineers in the manufacturing of soft goods. Also, Merrow announced that starting in September, the company is going to double its capacity with 155 additional job openings.

For the expansion, Merrow credited the company’s leadership in pandemic response as well as a collaboration with MassHire and Rep. Kennedy. At the event, Rep. Kennedy received a full-throated endorsement from Merrow in his primary challenge to Senator Ed Markey.

Merrow emphasized that Rep. Kennedy has worked harder than Sen. Markey to understand the issues in the local manufacturing industry and to develop solutions for those issues.

“We’re living through an extraordinary moment right now, and you have to understand what is happening on 502 Bedford Street," Merrow said. “You need to understand what each of us is facing as we try to navigate this crisis of COVID and those details are how we can create great policy going forward. So I don't think it’s possible to respond as well as we needed to without there being a level of understanding that Joe has really committed himself to.”

When I spoke to Rep. Kennedy at the event, I remarked on our previous conversation on local industries and asked him how he thinks Sen. Markey has failed gateway cities like Fall River. He hit on Markey’s continued absence in the Commonwealth.

“When it comes to the challenges of many gateway cities in Massachusetts, there’s no substitute for being here, there’s no substitute for asking questions, no substitute for seeing it with your own eyes," Kennedy said.

It’s worth noting that Markey very recently made an appearance at Merrow Manufacturing. In fact, the respective appearances of Markey and Kennedy at the Fall River site mark a stark contrast between the two candidates. A difference hinted at in Charlie Merrow's endorsement, between merely making an appearance, and meaningfully engaging with the people of the Commonwealth. 

On a typical campaign stop for Ed Markey, he rolls up on-site in a garish tour bus – seemingly an overcompensation for his decades-long absence in the Commonwealth – he puts out a podium, and rattles off a list of accomplishments before packing up and hitting the next stop.

On a typical campaign stop for Joe Kennedy, he walks on site, meets the people there, and has a conversation with each of them, asking what can be done to improve their industry and community.

The names of their respective campaign tours echo their message at each stop. Markey’s “Leads and Delivers Tour” seems to be insisting to its onlookers they should "understand and appreciate all I’ve done for you, while Kennedy’s “Jobs and Justice Tour” observes and engages empathetically with, “You’re not getting what you need. How can I help?”

Marcus Ferro is an attorney practicing in New Bedford and a weekly contributor to The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM. Contact him at marcusferrolaw@gmail.com. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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