On Friday at New Bedford’s Pier 3 – located off of JFK Boulevard – with a backdrop of the harbor and fishing boats that are the foundation of our local economy, Congressman Joe Kennedy III delivered his vision for a stronger New Bedford and SouthCoast region.

Gathered in attendance were community residents, city officials, and some of our elected leaders, virtually all of whom have endorsed Kennedy’s run for Senate. Among them is Hugh Dunn, New Bedford City Councilor and lead on the visionary Blue Economy project in Southeastern Massachusetts.

“Congressman Kennedy has been a strong advocate for Southeastern Massachusetts for years," Dunn said. “His work on the Blue Economy demonstrates that he understands the power of convening government, academia, and industry to make our region more globally competitive. He supports us, and I’m glad to support him.”

Kennedy, whose congressional district includes a large chunk of the SouthCoast, remarked that before the Blue Economy, each subregion of Southeastern New England was working separately, and thus inefficiently, on blue economic development. The goal was to bring the region together for a cohesive shoreline economy that maximizes its enormous resources and natural assets.

“What we’re trying to do is say, ‘Hey, New Bedford’s got a vision!” Kennedy said. “The question for the federal government is: how do we support that vision, and what do we need to do to literally move obstacles to make that happen?”

The Blue Economy is just one of three main pillars proposed by Kennedy Friday when he laid out his vision for New Bedford and the SouthCoast.

Kennedy also proposed rebuilding the NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center in New Bedford.

“The data that’s generated from their work does a number of things, but it certainly has a major impact on the people of this port, the people that work here, and the surrounding region,” Kennedy observed. “One that generates more than $11billion in economic activity. This is a massive economic hub that is also in a highly regulated industry.”

Kennedy believes that having the facility located in Woods Hole, where it is currently situated, doesn’t allow for the region’s most critically important industry to work as efficiently as possible and moving the facility to New Bedford would ensure all industry professionals from the scientists to the fishermen would have a seat at the table.

Most notably, Kennedy presented to New Bedford his Jobs and Justice Initiative, a robust New Deal-inspired program that envisions a post-COVID-19 revitalization of our economy and society as a whole.

The JJI proposes a two-phased response to address the fallout to the global pandemic: 1) an “Immediate Crisis Response” to provide federal funding to states and in-need communities to maintain critical jobs, and 2) a “Large-Scale federal hiring program" that will create jobs in public works, infrastructure and clean energy that will put Americans back to work.

Kennedy began traveling across the Commonwealth to get feedback from residents in each community on how the JJI can work for them. When asked how the JJI will have an impact on New Bedford and the SouthCoast community overall, Kennedy said that in the immediate future it would provide funding and market access for small business and restaurants to reopen, which he emphasized was especially important for New Bedford, given the fact that 70 percent of its fish catch goes restaurants.

“The longer-term is around addressing the structural inequities in our economy that have left gateway cities behind," Kennedy said. “This says look, here’s some ideas lets go out to communities like New Bedford, get that feedback, and then work on them.”

After the press conference, Kennedy approached and assisted a group of fishermen loading supplies into a fishing boat preparing for a trip as he listened to their thoughts and concerns on the industry.

Kennedy also addressed the possibility of bringing offshore wind to the region and its potential to “make sure that New Bedford, Fall River, and this community is the staging area for the growth of an entirely new industry.”

The SouthCoast is an oft-overlooked region of the Commonwealth at the statewide level. But the possibility of having a senator such as Kennedy who is representing our communities, has delivered for our communities, and has a broader vision for our path forward presents the people of this region with an opportunity to solidify the SouthCoast an epicenter for vibrant economic and social growth.

Marcus Ferro is an attorney practicing in New Bedford and a weekly contributor to The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM. Contact him at marcusferrolaw@gmail.com. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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