10.6.2021

By Steven Froias / Contributing Writer

NEW BEDFORD, MA -There are certain periods of time that you can look back upon and recognize as an inflection point in the history of a place. In that sense, years from now many will no doubt point to the summer of 2021 as such a time in New Bedford.

Because it was an almost unbelievable season of good news for the offshore wind energy industry in this city. During the summer of ‘21, a series of announcements that were sweeping in scope fixed this point in time, for all time.

And now, the New Bedford Ocean Cluster (NBOC) is poised to gather that purpose and energy together around the city’s fabled port to write another thrilling chapter in New Bedford’s already amazing maritime story.

So promising is the effort to align marine industries of all types and sorts in the hunt for tomorrow that not only does a former New Bedford mayor, John Bullard, serve as NBOC Chair of the Board of Directors, but the current mayor, Jon Mitchell serves on that body, too – alongside the Chair of the New Bedford Economic Development Council itself, Anthony Sapienza.

But before we dive deep into the New Bedford Ocean Cluster, let’s look at the remarkable events of 2021 that brought us here…

 A SEASON OF HEADLINES

On July 8, community leaders, elected officials, and business pioneers joined educators for a tour of the future National Offshore Wind Institute (NOWI), a partnership between Denmark-based Maersk Training and Bristol Community College, in the City of New Bedford.

Within two weeks, many of the same people, joined by others and a horde of media representatives, assembled again in New Bedford on Thursday, July 15. This time for the stunning announcement by New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell that the former Cannon Street Power Plant on the waterfront would be transformed into a second offshore wind facility in the city, with additional plans for a modern seafood offloading facility, along with other uses.

The very next day on Fri. July 16, two United States Senators joined the growing group for yet another milestone event defining the progression of the offshore wind industry in New Bedford.

That day, Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren joined a plethora of other local, state, and national officials to watch Vineyard Wind and the Southeastern Massachusetts Building Trades Council hold a signing ceremony to commemorate the first project labor agreement for an industrial-scale offshore wind project in the United States. The agreement calls for 500 union jobs during the construction of the Vineyard Wind 1 project, which will place 62 turbines in the ocean about 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard and will be staged from the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal.

“This is actually marking the end of the beginning for U.S. offshore wind,” Vineyard Wind CEO Lars Pedersen remarked. “Now we’re moving into the future where we will be creating new jobs, sustainable jobs. So the sky is the limit.”

THE NEW BEDFORD OCEAN CLUSTER

If you feel like events seem to have moved with astonishing swiftness toward this new beginning, you may not be alone. But, you won’t be alone in navigating the future.

Keeping pace with these events is the New Bedford Ocean Cluster – helping to ensure that when it comes to offshore wind the guiding principle is “Act Local.”

The New Bedford Ocean Cluster (NBOC) is a newly established 501(c)(3) non-profit organization created to serve the maritime business community in the greater New Bedford region. It is guided by a local Board of Directors made up of current and former local officials, as noted above, and industry leaders from a variety of marine-based businesses from commercial fishing to offshore wind.

It is based on an Ocean Cluster concept pioneered by Thor Sigfusson Ph. D. with the Iceland Ocean Cluster in 2012. The Iceland Ocean Cluster’s mission is to create value and discover new opportunities by connecting entrepreneurs, businesses and knowledge in the marine industries.

The New Bedford Ocean Cluster follows that path – with a local orientation.

NewBedfordOceanCluster.org states that the  “NBOC’s mission is to leverage New Bedford’s coastal position, marine knowledge base, and landside capacity to drive employment and wealth creation for New Bedford residents. This shall be done through a dynamic approach combining recruitment of targeted businesses, creation of unique economic infrastructure, workforce development, and support for homegrown ocean economy companies.”

A key component of that unique economic infrastructure is an exciting new project called “Act Local.”

ACT LOCAL

The New Bedford Ocean Cluster, in partnership with Vineyard Wind, officially launched “Act Local” the month in September, 2021. Here’s how it works:

The “Act Local” program will assist in maximizing local input for the Vineyard Wind 1 offshore wind project – and beyond –  by providing a streamlined, simplified approach to connecting local companies with opportunities in the developing New England Offshore Wind (OSW) industry.

For the initiative, NBOC and Vineyard Wind – together with the energy consultancy company Xodus – are developing a system whereby local businesses, suppliers and contractors in the Greater New Bedford Area can more easily become a part of the OSW supply chain.

A challenge for any small to medium-size businesses seeking to participate in the OSW supply chain, especially for adjacent maritime industry companies, is the size and complexity of the project/work scope. “Act Local” seeks to bridge any gap between OSW wind companies like Vineyard Wind – and perhaps your company.

And here’s how that’s going to be done.

  • IDENTIFYING OPPORTUNITIES: The New Bedford Ocean Cluster will maintain close relationships with projects and companies operating in the OSW field in order to identify opportunities.
  • INFORMING THE COMMUNITY: The New Bedford Ocean Cluster will then communicate opportunities to local businesses in an efficient, concise, and timely manner.
  • THE NEW BEDFORD OCEAN CLUSTER PORTAL: NBOC has created a registration portal on its website where area businesses can become part of a regional business network.
  • COMMUNITY LEADS: The NBOC board will be actively reaching out to local contacts and getting them registered on the NBOC Portal to view opportunities. They will also be available to answer questions and provide advice to companies as they navigate the bidding process.
  • MEET THE BUYER: And finally, NBOC will soon be launching the first of its “Meet The Buyer” events. On these occasions, NBOC members will facilitate an introduction between companies (as well as at individual meetings when appropriate).

The birth of a new industry can be daunting and challenging. Yet, it doesn’t have to be at all.

The New Bedford Ocean Cluster is here. And, they are letting the greater South Coast business community “Act Local.”

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