Fall River’s second chance
The symbolic rebirth of an old mill town came complete with bright lights and a raised curtain. For Fall River, Massachusetts, the opening of the town’s only movie theater downtown was a big deal for the mayor and many of the town’s residents.
It’s just the latest bit of good fortune to come the community’s way after years of decline. Fall River, just south of Boston, is an old factory town with a population of 89,000. The theater, which opened in late 2017, may have the shiniest marquee, but it’s far from the only good news here.
Amazon opened a million-square-foot fulfillment center in Fall River in 2016, making it one of the biggest investments in the city in recent history by far, and bringing 1,300 full-time jobs to the county.
The mills, which still loom large over the city with their towering brick smoke stacks, were once part of a thriving textile trade and numbered more than 100 at the town’s height. The mayor’s grandmother was among the many longtime residents who used to work in the mills in the early to mid 1900s. She helped make coats. But as the textile industry hit hard times and shut down or moved, the city’s fortunes were hard hit as well.
Fall River resident Cathy Powell says the result made for a tough upbringing. She says there weren’t a lot of job opportunities in town for much of her life. “We had the fast food industry, the grocery store industry, really nothing,” said Powell.
That changed when Amazon announced it was building a fulfillment center and would be a part of the community. Powell says she immediately put in her application, calling Amazon’s arrival “the biggest thing to hit Fall River in a long time.”
Today, she is among the roughly 1,000 residents working full time in Amazon’s Fall River Fulfillment Center. “I love the people. I’ve met so many people here. We’re just a big family,” she said.
The city is now experiencing a boom in construction and investment, including plans for artist lofts and apartments near the town’s waterfront. He adds that other local businesses have felt the ripple effect as well, providing food and other services to Amazon and its employees.
Based on methodology developed by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), Amazon estimates that the company’s investment in Fall River and Bristol County contributed an additional $100 million into the local economy and led to the creation of more than 1,000 jobs.
“It’s helped our business quite a bit,” said Jesse Santos, who runs the Dunk-N-Munch, a Fall River diner that caters to many employees at Amazon’s fulfillment center. “We love to deliver there.”