‘Inventing the future’: 4 takeaways from UMass Dartmouth’s Blue Economy day
DARTMOUTH — The Claire T. Carney Library on the campus of UMass Dartmouth acted as Robert Johnson’s mixing bowl on Thursday.
The UMD chancellor used the space to host a seminar entitled “Catch the Next Wave: Building for the Blue Economy through innovation and collaboration” that assembled marine industrial ingredients from the state and private sectors with the hopes of making a better future.
“It’s not about how large the pie is now and everyone receiving their fair share,” Johnson said. “It’s about us making the pie so big that it’s too much for any of us to eat all together. It’s all about the possibilities.”
The program included multiple presentations and panels to build on and expand the Blue Economy, or marine related industries that expand further than commercial fishing and offshore wind.
Here’s what stood out during the 6-hour program.
In many ways the Port of New Bedford powers Massachusetts’ Blue Economy already as the host to the most valuable commercial fishing port in the country for 17 consecutive years. It’s only a piece of a large marine industry that employs 93,482, according to Michael Goodman, the director of UMass Dartmouth’s Public Policy Center.
The number extend further to 5,555 marine establishments generating $3.4 billion in wages, which grew by 50 percent over a 10-year period beginning in 2005. The growth occurred through the recession, which crippled other markets.
“If you could ride out the last recession, I think we can be somewhat confident, that it’s going to be helpful to have that as a strength going into whatever comes next,” Goodman said.
One of the steps to prepare New Bedford specifically for the future would be the dredging of the harbor.
“It’s a topic that’s always talked about, but it’s so expensive to do that it’s on the back burner,” Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said at the event. “We’re taking it off the back burner and putting it in the forefront.”
Creating the future
Johnson said the world would have laughed two decades ago if someone said funny sounding names like Google, Facebook and Netflix would become more valuable than Ford, General Motors and Chrysler, titans of his hometown. Not to mention the tech companies would do it without physically building anything.
“It’s about inventing the future,” Johnson said. “It’s about understanding that 65 percent of the jobs that kids in grades school and middle school will have do not yet exist.”
Travis McCready, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Life Science Center, spoke of studying squid and octopus to help study neurological diseases in humans.
Molly Donohue Magee, executive director for the Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance, reminisced when former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel referred to Southeastern New England as the Silicon Valley of undersea technology.
Vic Ricci, CTO for the US Naval Undersea Warfare Center, described the pride that’s taken in defending the country.
“If people knew what we did, they’d be incredibly proud of the men and women who served, not in uniform but in suits,” Ricci said.
Those industries along with more obvious marine industries like commercial fishing and offshore wind will only continue to advance in the future.
Spike the Football
Jay Ash, Massachusetts’ Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, sat on the final panel of the day. As he listened to the previous presentations, he learned more about the region in a three-hour span than in the past three years.
“And I get paid to know about you,” Ash said. “You’re not celebrating yourself enough … The fact of the matter is, if you’re not talking about you, a lot of other people aren’t talking about you.”
Johnson shook his head in agreement as Ash spoke those words.
Many – if not all – in the room were already associated with the Blue Economy in some manner. Ash recommended more than almost anything, the region should share its successes with anyone and everyone.
“As much as strategy is important, as much as collaboration is important, as much as figuring out how to innovate and finding the investments to support that innovation, you need to celebrate,” Ash said. “You need to make sure that people here feel good about what you’re doing and people outside get to see it.”
A new term emerged from the seminar. Molly Donohue Magee referred to a moniker used by businesses she works: “Competimates.”
″(It) means sometimes they’re competitors and sometimes they’re teammates,” she said. “But that dynamic says let’s work together.”
The idea of collaboration not only existed in the title of the program but also it was stated throughout every presentation and panel discussion.
Despite the focused idea on regional collaboration, some speakers lobbied for Massachusetts to emerge on top of other New England states in offshore wind. Speakers from Cape Cod and New Bedford each individually referred to their regions as epicenters of the Blue Economy.
Michael Goodman stressed the importance of cross-pollination between sections of the state and throughout New England.
“New England is unique. We recognize that we’re part of a region, but we don’t have a regional government of any significance so we’re all individual municipal tubs on our own bottom,” Goodman said. “And oftentimes it’s hard to get municipalities next to to one another talking to each other let along thinking broader and more cross border.”
Solving that issue could aid New England’s smaller geographical states to emerge as an even larger giant in the marine economy.
“I think we’re at a point where we have a real opportunity to leverage what we have,” Goodman said “And I don’t think any of us can really truly do it alone.”