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“The task before the committee is to articulate a strategy for regional economic regeneration that builds on the committee’s collective experience in leading successful enterprises…
I hope that the committee’s report will prove to be a unifying instrument, a statement by the region’s leaders that will attract broad popular buy-in, shape the strategy of local government over the next few years, and will signal to both private investors and government officials outside the region that Greater New Bedford has a clear set of objectives.”
-Mayor Jon Mitchell
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Planning process and timeline
Committee members will be asked to participate in four meetings between April and June. Each meeting will address a strategic focus area and will feature local and regional presenters. At the conclusion of this process, MassINC and the UMass Dartmouth Urban Initiative will compile the findings of this process into a report. Meeting dates and topics are:
- April 2: Port of New Bedford – Notes from port session
- April 23: Advanced manufacturing & growth industries – Notes from advanced manufacturing session
- May 21: Downtown investment & development – Notes from downtown session
- June 18: Action Plan
This site has been developed to provide committee members with context and resources to guide upcoming conversations. This includes economic indicators, assets, and the strategic focus areas of the conversation around New Bedford’s regeneration.
As the authors of Regenerating America’s Legacy Cities emphasize, “Successful regeneration is not merely about signature buildings or megaprojects. It must be multifaceted and encompass improvements to the cities’ physical environments, their economic bases, and the social and economic conditions of their residents.”
In order to integrate those elements in New Bedford’s economic development strategy, it is important to first understand how the city is doing when it comes to its physical environment, economic base, and the socioeconomic conditions of its residents.
A. Physical environment
- Almost half (47%) of New Bedford’s land is characterized as open space, forest, and wetland; 34% is residential, and 18% is classified as commercial, industrial, or transportation (water and agriculture use 1% of city land)
- New Bedford has a large number of brownfields (abandoned, vacant, or underutilized parcels whose redevelopment may be complicated by contamination): 583 sites are recorded as contaminated (24.3 per square mile), and 78 are recorded as having activity and use limitations
- 29 contaminated sites are part of the EPA’s Brownfields program, which provides financial and technical resources for cleanup and reuse
- New Bedford Harbor is an estuary that comprises over 18,000 acres
- Thanks to its hurricane barrier, the city’s port is one of the most protected deepwater ports on the East Coast
- In terms of value, New Bedford’s fishing port has been the national leader for more than a decade, although catch volume has fluctuated. In 2012, port landed over 140 million pounds, yielding over $400 million in sales. In 2009, the catch was 170 million pounds, and earned nearly $250 million at market.
- New Bedford has nearly 44,000 housing units; 53% were built before 1940
- About 10% of these units are vacant, comparable to statewide rate (9.9%)
- 43% of housing units are owner-occupied; the majority of the city’s housing stock (57%) is occupied by renters
- New Bedford has a median home value of approximately $181,000; median rent is $762, which is slightly lower than the congruent Fair Market Rent of $820 for a two-bedroom rental.
- Slightly more than half (50.5%) of homeowners in New Bedford are considered burdened by housing costs, meaning they spend 30 percent or more of their income on housing.
- A similar portion of renters (50.9%) also spend 30 percent or more of their income on gross rent, which is contract rent plus utility costs.
- New Bedford has 15 designated historic districts
- The city has 8 neighborhood parks, 53 playgrounds/tot lots, and nearly 50 sports fields
- The city’s Walk Score, which measures the degree to which residents can access services and amenities on foot, is 64 (out of 100); this is considered “somewhat walkable”
- New Bedford’s most walkable neighborhoods are downtown, the near North End/Acushnet Avenue, and Goulart Square in the South End (all have Walk Scores of 80+, which is considered “very walkable”)
B. Economic base 
- According to most recently available data, there are 3,206 businesses in New Bedford; that number has increased by 18 percent from 2008 to 2012, with 479 establishments being added during that period (during the same period, the number of businesses statewide increased by 3.6 percent)
- These establishments employed just over 37,000 people per month; those employees earned a weekly average of $831
- Between 2008 and 2012, monthly employment numbers stayed relatively flat, averaging around 36,500 and dipping to 35,800 employees in 2010 at the height of the recession (statewide employment maintained similar relative stability, hovering between 3.2 and 3.15 million)
- Medical employers comprise the three largest employers in the city (St. Luke’s Hospital, SouthCoast Hospital Radiology, and the Greater New Bedford Community Health Center); the manufacturers Joseph Abboud and Acushnet Company round out the top five
- New Bedford’s healthcare and social assistance sector employs just shy of 9,900 people in the average month – 26.6% of all jobs; these workers earn a weekly average of $732
- The manufacturing sector employs an average of 5,800/month (15.6% of all employment); New Bedford’s manufacturing workers earn just over $1,000 in the average week
- Trade, transportation, and utilities employees account for 16.5 percent of the total workforce and earn a weekly average of $676.
- The fishing industry provided 2.6 percent of total jobs (967), with workers earning average weekly wage of $2,930 (this is the highest weekly average among sectors)
- The January 2014 unemployment rate in New Bedford was 12.7% (the statewide rate was 7.1%)
- As of 2012, New Bedford has a labor force participation rate of 62.5 percent, which is the portion of eligible workers (people over age 16) who are currently employed or seeking employment (statewide, 61.3% are in the labor force)
C. Socioeconomic conditions 
- New Bedford’s population has increased 1.4% since 2000; about 95,000 people currently live in the city
- 14.8% of city adults hold at least a Bachelor’s degree; 31.3% have not completed high school
- The median household income is $36,789; those with a graduate degree earn more than twice as much as adults who did not complete high school ($53,000 versus $25,000)
- 21.6% of city residents earn below the poverty level
- Nearly one-fifth (19.2%) of New Bedford residents were born outside of the United States
- 57% of New Bedford’s immigrants are from Europe, while 22% are from Latin America
New Bedford has an abundance of assets that include its physical environment and infrastructure, educational and medical anchor institutions, businesses actively engaged in manufacturing and exporting, an active and growing port in a deep water harbor, and a rich arts and culture sector that contributes to the city’s creative economy. According to Regenerating America’s Legacy Cities, “To regenerate cities must capitalize on these assets to increase their competitive advantages and build new economic engines.”
This table itemizes the assets cities must cultivate and integrate for the purposes of regeneration. It is essential that the New Bedford’s economic development strategy leverages these resources and considers the degree to which underdeveloped assets can be strengthened in the process.
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[av_row row_style=’avia-heading-row’][av_cell col_style=”]CATEGORY[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=”]ASSET TYPE[/av_cell][/av_row]
[av_row row_style=”][av_cell col_style=”]Physical assets[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=”]Traditional downtowns
Historic buildings, neighborhoods, and areas
Physical legacies (parks, museums)
Multimodal transportation networks[/av_cell][/av_row]
[av_row row_style=”][av_cell col_style=”]Institutional and economic assets[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=”]Colleges and universities
Hospitals and medical centers
Downtown employment base
Arts, cultural, and entertainment facilities and activities[/av_cell][/av_row]
[av_row row_style=”][av_cell col_style=”]Leadership and human capital assets[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=”]Local government
Local corporations and business communities
Civic and advocacy infrastructure
Cohesive ethnic communities
Local skill sets
[av_row row_style=”][av_cell col_style=”]Source: Mallach & Brachman, Regenerating America’s Legacy Cities, 2013.[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=”][/av_cell][/av_row]
Strategic focus areas
Much work has already been done to not only account for New Bedford’s assets and opportunities, but also to engage the community in a planning process aimed at translating those resources into attainable, measurable goals. New Bedford 2020: A Citywide Master Plan was adopted by the city’s Planning Board in 2010 after more than a year of research, public meetings, neighborhood meetings, and community events. While the Master Plan is all encompassing, its ‘Jobs and Businesses’ section captures a set of goals related to economic development. This process of defining New Bedford’s short-term economic development strategy is based on a subset of those goals. These focus areas were selected because they represent “low-hanging fruit:” by addressing downtown and neighborhood businesses, growth industries, and the city’s business climate, New Bedford can take advantage of assets and opportunities to make measurable, short-term change happen.
A. Downtown and neighborhood businesses
The first focus area of this process is New Bedford’s Downtown, as well as commercial corridors in the city’s North and South Ends. ‘Jobs and Businesses’ Goal # 4 of New Bedford’s Master Plan reads:
“Increase support and services to existing and small businesses that strengthen pedestrian-friendly neighborhood commercial districts throughout the city and create new job opportunities for New Bedford families.”
In addition to the Master Plan, the city recently commissioned a Downtown New Bedford Market Analysis that assesses current and recent economic development initiatives; the rental, office, and real estate markets; and opportunities for strategic action.
B. Growth industries, advanced manufacturing, Port of New Bedford
The second area of strategic focus includes growth industries, advanced manufacturing, and New Bedford’s port. Several Master Plan ‘Jobs and Businesses’ goals outline the city’s long-term plans for these areas:
1. Expand and secure recent success in developing emerging technology sectors, such as marine science and technology, alternative energy, medical devices, biotech manufacturing, and creative enterprises.
5. Support traditional harbor industries, including fishing and seafood processing, while capturing new opportunities to diversify the Port’s economy in sectors, such as short sea shipping, alternative energy, tourism, and recreational boating.
C. Business climate and human capital development
New Bedford must cultivate the climate and workforce necessary to build the size and impact of neighborhood businesses and growth industries. Therefore, this strategy will also address the degree to which New Bedford can attract and train a talented workforce while making the city a friendly place to do business. Such aims are captured in the following Master Plan goals:
7. Provide workforce development and training that aligns with emerging growth sectors.
8. Continue to foster a transparent and efficient business-friendly environment.
9. Enhance and further develop current efforts of the City to communicate a positive message for economic growth opportunities that will continue to build on our momentum and tell our story—New Bedford is a good place in which to invest, do business, visit, and raise a family.
 Mallach & Brachman, Regenerating America’s Legacy Cities, 2013. Available for download at http://www.lincolninst.edu/pubs/2215_Regenerating-America-s-Legacy-Cities.
 Source: New Bedford 2020.
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