To the editor:
On the seaside of the former Birdseye building you'll notice in two locations a company logo reading "C & T."
In the 1880s, Cunningham & Thompson built it to administer and process the catch of up to 30 fishing schooners they ran off their two piers in Harbor Cove. One 1889 map shows C&T straddling Commercial Street with its marine-industrial enterprise 130 years ago.
Decades later, the building would be available to Clarence Birdseye to invent the flash-freezing of food for storage and transportation. Across this port's ups and downs, that building thus produced income, jobs and tax-base one way or the other — until recent owners let it decline.
And while the railroad brought seasonal tourism since the mid 1800s, and one hotel emerged further west along the water serviced by Western Avenue, none was deemed viable in the middle of this marine-industrial cluster. After the last hotels shut down, the ocean-centered industries along Commercial Street continued producing.
The draft-report on the "New Maritime Economy" especially praises the entrepreneurial spirit of Ann Molloy's Neptune's Harvest on Commercial Street as one leading example of the ever-evolving "Blue Economy," something on which Gloucester has built a rich history of innovation since 1623.
Nearby lobster dealer Mortillaro has recently been certified by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to ship Gloucester's finest all over the world, straight out of Harbor Cove.
These are just two examples of our local "can-do" spirit of drive and inventiveness, sacrifice and reaping the rewards Gloucester has always counted upon — very much in the tradition of C&T and Clarence Birdseye.
During that Maritime Economy Summit last November, we heard yet again language and concepts this community has defined and expressed in our public discussion since at least "Gloucester 2000," our Harbor Plan deliberations, "Visioning Sessions," "Charettes," the Mt. Auburn Report, before the federal EDA task force last May, and in countless City-Council and boards hearings.
Over two days, experts from near and far — from hands-on industrial to high-end academic to port business organizers — emphasized explicitly how important it is to support and re-invigorate our harborside marine-industrial and marine-scientific infrastructure through a carefully balanced range of regulatory stability and supportive policies:
1. Consistent and steadfast zoning on our harbor is not just imperative to run and grow our successful businesses and industries already there. It is absolutely vital to attract new industrial and scientific ventures dependent on salt-water access, eager to invest in the "Blue Economy" through new ideas, specialized knowledge, unhesitating drive and taking of risks.
One conclusion from that summit is the urgent need for a 10-year moratorium on harbor zoning to re-establish the stability needed for the Blue Economy to take off at last.
2. Unambiguous city commitment to the Blue Economy through innovative public policies to establish a track record as an increasingly reliable partner in private and public collaborations, focused decisively on growing this oldest marine-industrial park well past our 400th year in business.
While they do over $70 million annual business through the worst economic down-turn, we see Commercial Street's row of 21st century Blue Economy enterprises being harassed for the third time now to favor one marine-industrial zone-busting hotel project.
Clearly, for the credit line on hand, a downtown hotel can be put downtown in the Central Business district, over a number of properties, just steps away from restaurants, shops, galleries, theaters, museums — and nowhere near 18-wheelers and 24/7 industrial smells and noise.
Such unbalanced policies send a dark obstructionist message out to the world: How can Gloucester be trusted if it treats its finest entrepreneurs this way?