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‘Blue economy’ plan celebrated at UMass Dartmouth

DARTMOUTH — The SouthCoast wants to be the Silicon Valley of marine industries.

Progress toward that goal took a step forward Tuesday as Congressmen William Keating and Joseph Kennedy visited UMass Dartmouth to celebrate a federal grant, announced last week, to help develop a Blue Economy Corridor along Interstate 195.

“I have always said that this region will be the Silicon Valley of marine ... technology and science,” Keating said at a press conference. “It’ll be that cluster — the blue corridor. And

today is the day we start to put all those pieces that were here together.”

The $600,000 grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, which is part of the Department of Commerce, will find a multi-year project to study related industries, write a detailed plan, and begin to execute it.

“The opportunities are immense,” UMD Chancellor Robert E. Johnson said.

He credited Hugh Dunn, executive director of the SouthCoast Development Partnership, with shepherding the project to this point.

Dunn said the goal is to propel sustained economic development.

“The work that this initiative advances — workforce training, research and innovation, and branding of the region, will help return the region to an era of economic prosperity,” he said.

Johnson said the Blue Economy Corridor includes the nation’s No. 1 fishing fleet, supporting industries, an emerging offshore wind industry, internationally recognized tourist attractions, and valuable business and academic connections in nearby Rhode Island and Cape Cod. At the center of it all, he said, is UMD.

Technology and prototypes developed at UMD’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship were on display. They included autonomous and remote-controlled underwater vehicles, a prototype of a solar buoy, and images of floating docks with integrated solar panels on the walking surface.

PowerDocks, which makes Blue Isles solar docks, is based at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Anthony Baro, managing partner at PowerDocks, said the Blue Economy Corridor project comes at a great time.

“I think it’s very needed to bring our industry together and realize the immense opportunity that we have before us,” he said.

Kennedy said the corridor project demonstrates what can be accomplished across the public and private sectors and across community borders. The SouthCoast is “standing on the front lines of our nation’s green energy future,” he said.

The first year of the grant will be devoted to studying the industry, supply chain, areas for potential research, and gaps in the the skill set of the workforce, Dunn said. The Public Policy Center at UMD will conduct the study in collaboration with two regional planning agencies, the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District and the Cape Cod Commission.

The second year will involve creating a regional alliance across sectors and writing a strategic plan, and in the third year, work will begin in research, workforce training, and finding export markets for existing products.

“These are amazing assets to put together,” Keating said.

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