Photo: Titus DosRemedios


A new early childhood champion is being born: Wednesday, January 1, 2020 will be the official start of One SouthCoast Chamber, a regional chamber of commerce that covers Fall River, New Bedford, and parts of Rhode Island.

And the new organization — which unites the SouthCoast Chamber of New Bedford and the Bristol County Chamber of Fall River — has already announced a key area of focus: early childhood education.

“Over the next few months, business leaders and educators will collaborate to develop a plan to expand high-quality pre-kindergarten and childcare in the region, particularly in Fall River and New Bedford,” a SouthCoast Today article says.

And Brian LeComte, the incoming chairman of the One SouthCoast Chamber board, tells SouthCoast Today:

“The business community wants to have a positive impact on the success of our region and there is no greater success we can champion than early childhood education.”

The need was clearly illustrated earlier this month, as SouthCoast Today explains:

“ ‘Early education is about education, but it’s also a workforce development issue, and when you’ve got childcare issues that come up — our caregiver was sick today — it takes people out of the workforce,’ Colleen Dawicki told civic and business leaders gathered for a press conference.”

Dawicki is a New Bedford School Committee member who spoke at the event where the chambers’ commitment to early childhood was announced. And, because her caregiver was sick, she had to bring her one-year-old son to the event.

As for the soon-to-merge chambers of commerce, they have already gotten to work.

Last week, at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, New Bedford’s chamber hosted a screening of “No Small Matter,” a documentary film about the power of high-quality early education.

The movie was simultaneously screened in Fall River at the Narrows Center for the Arts.



At the New Bedford screening, Rick Kidder, president and CEO of the SouthCoast Chamber of Commerce, said, “The Chamber cares because it’s about our future, our economic future as well.”

Beth Purdue, the regional engagement editor for Gannett New England, who attended the screening shared her takeaways from the event on Twitter. Among her tweets:

“Children do not show up for their first day of school on equal footing. In fact, there is as much as a six-month gap in development by the time they are 24 months old. As @NewBedfordArea’s Rick Kidder said, ‘When you start behind, you stay behind.’ ”

“Really striking was data shown in the film on how the lack of experience or negative experience can cause brain activity to die away. Meaning this isn’t extra support that is nice to provide. These social learning experiences are crucial for all children.”

We’re excited to see the launch of One SouthCoast Chamber of Commerce, and we look forward to seeing how the new chamber will continue to support early childhood programs in the new year. Its leadership promises to catalyze more action.

As New Bedford’s SouthCoast Chamber (soon to be One SouthCoast) says on its Facebook page:

“Let’s all rally to support early childhood education.”