Leaders celebrate the formation of South Coast ‘Blue Economy Corridor’

Sep 11, 2018

The future is looking quite blue for UMass Dartmouth and the South Coast, as business, political, and educational leaders are calling to transform the region into a leading marine science and technology hub.

It’s all through the establishment of a “Blue Economy Corridor,” running along the South Coast of Massachusetts and into Cape Cod and Rhode Island. UMass Dartmouth will become the central hub of the corridor, being located between New Bedford and Fall River -- two of the key locations of the state’s marine industry.

The university was awarded a $600,000 grant from the United States Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration to fund several years of initiatives to study the region’s current marine science and technology sector and expand upon it.

At an event celebrating the grant on September 11, Hugh Dunn, Executive Director of the SouthCoast Development Partnership outlined the university’s three-year plan to begin the project. Dunn spearheaded much of the project, with the help of UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Robert E. Johnson.

With the grant, the university’s Public Policy Center, Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District, and other stakeholders will analyze the industry and identify areas of needed improvement.

Year two will focus on creating a regional alliance and 10-year plan to steer the region’s economy blue. By year three, the program could be ready to go with a focus on building up innovation, entrepreneurship, research, workforce training, and working with existing businesses to identify new markets.

Johnson noted the ocean-related economy employes 3.2 million people, and expanding opportunities could help revitalize New Bedford and Fall River, where median income is half of the state average and unemployment is chronically high.

“We have a moral obligation to confront this economic reality, which is what brings us together today,” Johnson said.

In Fall River, UMass Dartmouth houses its startup incubator and business lab, the Center for  Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and New Bedford is home to the university's SMAST marine campus.

But Johnson noted the initiative will be interdisciplinary, relying on everyone from engineers to build, philosophers to dig into potential ethical and moral issues, and public policy experts to study the politics of the industry.

Congressmen Bill Keating and Joe Kennedy, who both worked to secure the grant funding, were on hand to celebrate the grant and the future of the region.

“It’s about what we can accomplish when the public and private sector unites, when the community embraces a common cause across borders, across towns, and across states,” Kennedy said.

Keating, borrowing from his favorite film, Field of Dreams and its iconic phrase “build it and they will come,” noted the partnerships being built between colleges, research labs, companies, and government will become the South Coast’s baseball diamond.

“These are amazing assets to put together, and today we begin building, and believing those jobs, that economic development, and resources that are so important for our economy nationally and our defense nationally, all those things will come,” Keating said.