New Bedford has landed a $16 million federal grant for port infrastructure improvements to protect commercial fishing businesses from floods and severe weather events.

The investment will be matched with $4 million in local funds, and is expected to create or retain 400 jobs and spur $4 million in private investment. The matching funds will come from from the state and the New Bedford Port Authority. The funding was made possible because the port is located in a federal tax cuts and opportunity zone.

The Economic Development Administration grant was announced by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross on Tuesday.

“The Trump Administration is committed to helping disaster-impacted American communities obtain the modern infrastructure they need to build resilience against natural disasters,” said Ross in a media release. “These port infrastructure improvements will better protect New Bedford’s commercial fishing industry from flooding, and the project’s location in an Opportunity Zone will drive additional private investment to the community.”

The grant represents "another major step in our effort to modernize the Port of New Bedford and maintain its standing as America’s leading commercial fishing port and the economic hub of Southeastern Massachusetts," said Mayor Jon Mitchell. "Enhancing the resilience of port infrastructure is central to both our economic development strategy and climate adaptation efforts."

New Bedford was struck by a severe winter storm with hurricane force winds and flooding in March of 2018. The project will strengthen the vital commercial fishing hub’s resilience to future natural disasters, said EDA chief Dana Gartzke.

Governor Charlie Baker said Massachusetts' ports "are important economic hubs, and this funding will help ensure critical infrastructure and commercial fishing businesses in New Bedford are protected from future natural disasters and the impacts of climate change.” Baker said his administration "is grateful for this partnership with the federal government as we work to create jobs while building a more resilient Commonwealth.”

Massachusetts has 138 opportunity zones created by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The Disaster Relief Act of 2019 provided EDA with $600 million in supplemental funds for areas affected by recent hurricanes and floods.

"Strategic investments in our harbor are absolutely critical towards maintaining a strong commercial fishing industry and emerging offshore wind opportunities," said Senator Mark Montigny, who has led legislative efforts for waterfront infrastructure on the state level, including New Bedford State Pier. "This particular combination of federal, state, and local funding will go a long way to generate local job creation and security at a time when our economy faces enormous challenges."

Mitchell commended Port of New Bedford Director Ed Anthes-Washburn and his team for developing the proposal. He thanked EDA staffer Deb Beavin and the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic District for seeing it through.

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