, Gloucester, MA

September 27, 2013

Harbor data sparks little fury

By Sean Horgan
Staff Writer

---- — The first public forum on the city’s ongoing effort to develop a new harbor plan was well underway Wednesday night when consultant Kevin Hively got ready to segue into the initial stream of economic data that will serve as a baseline for the plan.

”I should have broken out my football helmet,” Hively said, a reference to his expectation that the data was about to create a firestorm of debate and, potentially, opposition.

He couldn’t have been farther off the mark.

What followed from the 56 people in attendance at City Hall were questions, comments and suggestions that were both thoughtful and reasonable — wholly in keeping with Hively’s earlier admonition that the attendees be ready to talk about adult issues with the decorum of adults.

Sunny Robinson questioned Hively on the difference between the economic impact of workers who live in the city as opposed to workers who commute to Gloucester.

”When the workers live locally, the multiplier effect on the community is very different,” she said.

Others questioned how the economic data was generated, and some staked out positions on the need for the final plan to strike a balance between traditional businesses, such as commercial fishing, and new emerging businesses within the city’s designated Port Area. (DPA)

Valerie Nelson, a longtime harborfront activist, stressed the need to generate a final plan that supported the emerging companies in a way that would use those companies to help elevate other traditional businesses that are struggling.

The economic data Hively presented showed employment within the DPA is roughly evenly distributed among fleet (fishermen and boat supports services), seafood (processing, wholesale and electronic markets and trading) and tourism (museums, restaurants, recreational and amusements and specialty retail).

It also reiterated that the average monthly private employment in the DPA is a little more than 2,600 and generates $115 million in private wages.

Adjusted employment figures showed that commercial fishermen represent the largest workforce with 691 workers, followed by tourism and restaurants (545) and seafood product and preparation (379).

Hively, in talking about the makeup of the DPA, said it contains 128 parcels, with 74 of those consisting of less than a quarter-acre.

He also offered a sobering glance of the influence FEMA’s long-awaited boundaries for flood zones and storm surge will have on future development, primarily through its impact on commercial lending and insurance.

“Flood zones and storm surge will shape nearly all development strategies in the harbor going forward,” Hively said. “They will drive development and design and dictate street-level activity (for new construction projects).”

Sean Horgan may be contacted at 978-283-7000 x3464, or Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT