With the announcement of the closure of the ITT plant and the elimination of 87 jobs there, the nationwide recession has hit Gloucester in a very visible way.
The loss of livelihoods in the fishing industry has been a slower and more subtle decline over the past 10 years. But whether the losses are abrupt as in the ITT announcement or over the longer term as fishing regulations have taken hold, the impact to our economy and families is the same.
There is no question that Gloucester's economy is in transition. The initiation of the city's Economic Development Plan comes not a moment too soon. We have just awarded a contract to a team to help develop Gloucester's Economic Development Plan; the contract is funded through a grant from the Seaport Advisory Council.
Today, I would like to introduce the team to you. It is comprised of four organizations, and brings together a set of consultants whose combined expertise can address Gloucester's unique economic development challenges. The project will take about six months to complete, and you will be hearing much about it over the coming months.
Mt. Auburn Associates out of Somerville is taking the lead role on the team. Its fundamental view when approaching economic development is that the goal should be to achieve shared and sustained economic well-being. Its staff are experts in industry cluster analysis and firmly believe that stimulating desirable growth must be based on an analysis of our existing economic base, an understanding of the competitive market, and identification of growth opportunities that are based on market demand.
Only when market opportunities are clearly identified and understood can the city intelligently approach the task of attracting jobs and investment to Gloucester. For the purposes of the project, the geographic area has been scoped to include downtown Gloucester and the working waterfront.
The economic growth opportunities have been scoped to include an in-depth analysis of the harbor's existing industry base (commercial fishing, maritime, and visitor-based), as well as analysis of new and emerging industries that offer the potential to expand our economy in a way that is compatible with current maritime uses.
The firm Karl F. Seidman Consulting Services out of Cambridge provides the expertise in the analysis, planning and financing of real estate development projects. The way that I think about this is that Mt. Auburn will define the "economy" and Seidman will help us figure out where to potentially locate the jobs and investment in Gloucester's physical world.
Vine Associates is a firm based in Newburyport with engineers, scientists, and technicians who specialize in projects "where land meets water." Given the commitment of the city to the state's Designated Port Area program, it is vital that any planning for the waterfront include deep knowledge of the DPA rules and regulations which Vine Associates adds to the team.
Rounding out the team is Boston Interactive which provides expertise in the area of Web design and development. One of the deliverables of the project is an interactive Web site that will help to market the city of Gloucester to companies who might want to locate or relocate here.
We expect to engage the community every step of the way in this process. We have assembled a local Harbor Economic Advisory Team (HEAT) to assist the consultants and bring in local knowledge. Members of HEAT are Larry Ciulla from the Gloucester Seafood Display Auction, Lenny Linquata from the Gloucester House, David Bergeron from the Massachusetts Fisherman's Partnership, Bob Gillis from the Cape Ann Savings Bank, Bob Hastings from the Chamber of Commerce, John Orlando from the Harborview Inn, Sarah Buck from Community Development, and myself.
A guiding principal that the consultants recognize is that the plan emerging from this project must be the community's - not the consultants. This is a very long-winded way of saying we need to attract jobs and investment to our city. However, wishing it to be so will not make it so. We have much work ahead of us on this, and it couldn't come at a better time.
Carolyn Kirk is mayor of the City of Gloucester.