NEW BEDFORD — Lawmakers from D.C. and Beacon Hill were among those who showed up to a nearly empty New Bedford warehouse Thursday morning for a tour of Bristol Community College's latest project: a planned training facility for offshore wind-related green jobs.

Senator Ed Markey, Congressmen Bill Keating and Jake Auchincloss, New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell, and State Representatives Tony Cabral and Chris Hendricks were among the guests touring the facility.

As the backbone of BCC's new National Offshore Wind Institute, the facility will certify students in basic safety and technical training for jobs in the up-and-coming offshore wind industry, which is expected to take off in the next couple of years in the region.

Jo Ann Bentley from Bristol Community College jokes with Mayor Mitchell during the tour. Kate Robinson/Townsquare Media
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The recently approved Vineyard Wind project, located just south of Martha's Vineyard, will be the first commercial-scale offshore wind project in the U.S.

Another one — the Mayflower Wind project — is already in the pipeline.

Representatives from both companies attended the tour as well.

"The training that they are offering here, we will absolutely need for the workforce that we'll be sending onshore," said Vineyard Wind Manager of Workforce and Supply Chain Development Jen Cullen. "We're looking really to train as many locals into the workforce as we can."

Kate Robinson/Townsquare Media

Cullen said that Vineyard Wind has been coordinating with BCC on what certification and training their future employees will need.

"When second projects pick up, and the workforce needs to be retrained and get recertified, there will continue to be a growing need for these kinds of facilities," she added.

On Thursday, the warehouse and attached offices looked like what they were: an empty industrial facility on the city's working waterfront off Herman Melville Boulevard.

But one area will become a deep water pool for safety training, and another space will be set aside for technical training on repairs and assembly, BCC's Associate VP of Administration and Facilities Jo Ann Bentley told guests.

A photo shows where the deep water pool will be located. Kate Robinson/Townsquare Media

Part of the tallest warehouse will also hold shipping containers cut into mazes with ladders to practice safety while working at height, she noted. "This is the fun part!"

Shipping containers were already placed inside the warehouse, with a photo showing the type of safety ladder training they will facilitate. Kate Robinson/Townsquare Media

Although the training center is not yet fully funded, Vice President of External Affairs at BCC Jennifer Menard said unequivocally, "We are moving forward with this project."

Renovating the warehouse alone will cost around $5 million, Menard said, although they've already managed to gather over $1 million in state grants from the Mass Clean Energy Center and the Skills Capital Program.

"New Jersey just put $3 million to any community college to just do basic safety training...and New York did $10 million of an investment," she noted. "So we're hoping for that kind of support."

"We would like to still lead in Massachusetts," Menard added.

"It's an honor to be here today in New Bedford, a community on the front lines of our clean energy revolution," said Senator Markey. "Bristol's National Offshore Wind Institute will open career pathways to local students, provide advanced training for those in the field, and help employers build and sustain their workforce."

"When Herman Melville wrote Moby Dick by the light of a whale oil lamp, Massachusetts was the nation's leading power producer," he noted. "Once again, New Bedford's shores will launch the world's energy revolution, this time with clean, renewable wind energy."

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