NEW BEDFORD — This Thursday marks the completion of the $3.5 million refrigeration installation at State Pier in New Bedford, which will help expand shipping and help create more jobs.

Senator Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford) and Representative Antonio F.D. Cabral (D-New Bedford), who both worked to secure the $25 million legislative bond that funded the project, will be in attendance at a ceremony Thursday, along with Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito and other legislative leaders and area stakeholders, to celebrate the project's completion.

"I'm obviously excited, for the simple reason that, not only were we in danger of losing a significant number of jobs, but any notion of creating new jobs is right out the window without refrigeration," Sen. Montigny told WBSM News.

"Something even more exciting in the long run is that I worked to get the project bonded for $25 million for a mixed-use plan (at State Pier). There will be much more public access, but in connection with increased freight, increased ferry service," Sen. Montigny said. "(But) it's pretty hard to expand the pier for the future without taking care of the current."

State Pier is a central hub in the Northeast for imported clementines and other perishables, which are later distributed throughout the Northeast and Canada. The lack of proper refrigeration facilities meant that such perishables couldn't be imported during the warm summer months. With this new facility, the shipping season can be extended beyond just the winter months, allowing for more job creation.

"The first thing is, it avoided a serious disaster. If you're a private company risking capital and there's a chance you might have perishable goods ruined, you're not going to expand at all," Sen. Montigny said. "So not only was there a potential to lose all the existing jobs, there's no discussion about expansion."

Sen. Montigny said the languaged he bonded for called for "a complete revitalization of the pier," which will include increased tall ships, cruise ships and freighters coming into port.

"It will also call for expanded ferry service, expanded tourism events, expanded access to the public--everything from concerts to cruise ships, but you can't do that until you shore up your base, and make sure the longshoremen are working and expanding, and the freight is coming in, and the fishing," he said.

Sen. Montigny said the wait is ongoing for MassDevelopment to take control of State Pier, but once it finally does, it should have plenty of funds to get things rolling there.

"There's still over $20 million left, so once MassDevelopment gets their plan together, that money is already bonded. My language is law, and it calls for a serious job-creating expansion at the pier," he said.

Sen. Montigny also said that's why he pushed for legislation to pay for the revitalization of the Star Store and Route 18.

"All of it ties together," he said. "Because ultimately, if you have a thriving waterfront and a thriving downtown, both projects do better. Not only because of expanded possibilities for foot traffic and tourism, but really well-paying jobs in the freight hauling industry, the tourism industry, the fishing industry. Each piece makes the other pieces more viable."