GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

February 2, 2013

The Mayor's Desk: New 'innovations' through Maritime Summit

The Mayor's Desk
Carolyn Kirk

---- — This coming Thursday, the city hosts our second “Maritime Summit.”

The title of the summit is “Innovations in the Maritime Economy” and we are so pleased to report that registration is completely sold out with approximately 150 people attending, exhibiting, or speaking.

The first summit, held in November 2011, showcased a number of experts who outlined the broad scope of maritime economic opportunities available within our existing port infrastructure. It was the first significant step in aggressively pursuing job growth and investment within the marine science and technology economic sector.

The scope of opportunity in this sector was pegged at nearly $5 billion in New England. In Massachusetts, it’s pegged at about $1.8 billion, and the North of Boston region is second only to Boston in both venture capital obtained and patents granted in the marine science and technology sector.

As a result of the first summit, we have a much greater understanding of ocean resources, ocean economic opportunity, and the changing role of working ports. The upcoming summit will extend the conversation to a tighter focus on regional and local prospects that will yield future growth.

Two research vessels that do ocean mapping will be docked at the Marine Terminal at Cruiseport and available for tours during the day of the Summit. We are a full service port, and in an effort to protect the assets that comprise the port, we need to diversity the types of commercial vessels that rely on the port for services. Ocean-faring research vessels represent one such opportunity.

Ocean Genome Legacy is an exhibitor that will showcase a DNA library and bar code scanning for seafood. Olin College will preview the robotic “sailbots” which will be sailing in the harbor this spring as part of a national regatta. Current businesses operating within the port of Gloucester will highlight the innovation that is currently going on along our waterfront during a panel session on “Innovation in Action — Snapshots from the Working Port.”

Thought leaders in the areas of green chemistry, ocean sciences, and technologies of the new maritime economy will address Summit attendees. We see the event as an opportunity to not only learn but to network and build collaborations among traditional industry, scientists, government and regulators, educational institutions, and working waterfront stakeholders.

This effort is led by Sarah Garcia, the city’s director of harbor planning, and supported by the Maritime Economy Working Group which is helping to capture jobs and investment in this economic sector for Gloucester. We are grateful to the members of the group which includes: Rich Weissman, Endicott College; Marcy Pregent, waterfront property owner; Peter Feinstein, BioVentures; Iain Kerr, Ocean Alliance; Earl Meredith, NOAA; Tom Balf, Maritime Gloucester; and resident Valerie Nelson.

Another project the Working Group completed was the compilation of a database of over 300 companies doing business in this sector, and who might be likely targets for doing business in Gloucester. One of the next steps arising from this week’s Summit will be to que up an event slotted for the spring to bring businesses or institutions to the city for a familiarization tour of the port assets.

All of these efforts are intended to diversify the local economy and leverage our strengths as a working port. Gloucester will always remain true to its proud history as America’s oldest fishing port, and our best protection of the working port is to diversify its uses in ways compatible with our core industry.

The Maritime Summit is a one-day reflection of work that is going on day in and day out towards our vision for a sustainable future for Gloucester.

Carolyn Kirk is mayor of the city of Gloucester.