NEW BEDFORD — A former Buzzards Bay Coalition leader has been named as the first Executive Director of the New Bedford Ocean Cluster, a new maritime business non-profit.

The group announced Monday that Jennifer Downing, former Vice President of Engagement at the Buzzards Bay Coalition, is taking on the Executive Director role.

Started in 2020, the NBOC aims to establish New Bedford as the leading ocean economy on the East Coast.

It hopes to drive employment and weath creation in the area by assisting growth of the region's 'blue economy' in four main sectors: commercial fishing and processing, aquaculture, offshore renewable energy, and technology.

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Downing brings over 20 years of experience in local economic development, environmental sustainability, and non-profit leadership, according to a press release from the NBOC.

As the group's first director, the Acushnet resident will be responsible for setting up its operational needs, defining development priorities with local maritime stakeholders, and managing cluster activity, the release stated.






Prior to her role at the Buzzards Bay Coalition, Downing served as the executive director of Leadership Southcoast and spent over a decade addressing social and environmental problems with the Garfield Foundation.

“I’m really excited about joining the New Bedford Ocean Cluster,” Downing said. “It is an honor to have the opportunity to leverage my background and skills to develop and lead such a model in New Bedford to advance its ocean economy.”

In 2020, Downing received the John S. Brayton Community Service Award from the One South Coast Chamber of Commerce.

She is currently the Chair of the Acushnet School Committee and has served on numerous local non-profit boards and committees, including at the United Way of Greater New Bedford, the New Bedford Regeneration Committee, SouthCoast Neighbors United, and the YWCA of Southeastern Massachusetts.

“The entire NBOC Board is excited to have Jen lead our team,” said NBOC Board of Directors President John Bullard. “Because of her experience, her leadership skills and her passion for New Bedford she is already off to a very fast start."

"To be successful we need to bring a lot of people together, discover common objectives, work out our differences and move forward with a goal of increasing economic opportunities for all," he added. "Jen has the ability to help us do that.”

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell, who sits on the group's board, agreed.

“Jen is the ideal person to lead the New Bedford Ocean Cluster as it seeks to capitalize on the maritime opportunities that lie ahead for New Bedford," Mitchell said.

"Her track record of facilitating teamwork, coupled with her understanding of New Bedford’s competitive advantages, will put the Ocean Cluster in a strong position to succeed."



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