DARTMOUTH — A functioning offshore wind industry off the coast of Massachusetts is taking closer steps to becoming a reality.

Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito spoke at a forum held at UMASS Dartmouth on Thursday morning that called for area leaders in government, business, and academia to consider innovations and entrepreneurial ventures to shape and grow an economy based on the coastal industries of the south coast.

The event, entitled Catching the Next Wave: Building a Blue Economy through Innovation and Collaboration, was hosted by UMASS and the Council on Competitiveness - an organization that shapes policies and runs programs to jump-start productivity and grow America's economy.

Polito provided opening remarks alongside UMASS Dartmouth Chancellor Robert Johnson and the Executive Vice-President of the Council on Competitiveness William Bates. The Lieutenant Governor praised the years of economic output from the area maritime economy, one that produces $3.4 billion in total wages and generates an annual $6.4 billion for the state. She says, “We need to protect what we have, we need to leverage what we have, and we need to grow what we have.”

“We own this. We have a great maritime economy from tourism and recreation to our commercial fishing industry to our deep water port in New Bedford,” Polito said. “In the 78 coastal communities across our state we should leverage these assets, protect these assets, and grow these assets to create more jobs and opportunities in this commonwealth.”

Polito continued to promote the potential of offshore wind, saying that “the real way to fuel this economy is through a talent pipeline.” She says that if college students graduate with skills that can directly contribute to marine sciences it will contribute to growing economic assets along the coast, and used the offshore wind industry as a primary example.

“We have great assets along the coastline and emerging assets like Deepwater Wind that will require a lot of individuals with skills to both develop and construct Deepwater Wind, and also to service it,” said Polito. “We support and have passed legislation in Massachusetts to allow for the creation of Deepwater Wind to become available. It will be the largest of its kind in the country, and that's happening right here in Massachusetts through good budgeting, good policies, and good collaboration.”

When asked about the Baker-Polito Administration's stance on concerns raised by local fishermen about the potential impacts offshore wind could have on the commercial fishing industry, Polito argues that the focus should be on collaboration.

“We obviously need to support our commercial fisherman, our recreational and tourism industry, and diversify our energy supply. We can do this in a way that we can coexist so that all are supported,” Polito said.

Following the opening remarks, the UMASS event consisted of a multitude of presentations and panels focused on the possibilities for growth and development of the Blue Economy.