Elected officials tour wind power development site.

Future economic growth now tied to fishing, offshore wind industries

NEW BEDFORD — The whaling industry put New Bedford on the map long ago by bringing the city commercial success, but in this day and age the focus has turned to offshore wind, in combination with the fishing industry as a way to drive New Bedford’s economy.

Civic and business leaders are joining Mayor Jon Mitchell in asking that investment in offshore wind be made a priority in Gov. Maura Healey’s statewide economic development plan as New Bedford strives to be a leader in both the offshore wind and fishing industries.

“We’ve been committed to the proposition that the two industries can coexist successfully, but we also know that it has taken a lot of work and will continue to take an awful lot of work,” he said. “We’re convinced that it’s in the interests of our city that we preserve our leading role as America's leading fishing port and that we also lead on offshore wind.”

In a letter to Healey and legislators from committees focusing on climate and jobs, Mitchell recommends policies and approaches to strengthen the state’s ability to compete for investment the offshore wind industry with other states further ahead.

Economic development a priority in New Bedford

Mitchell said while former Gov. Charlie Baker and other state policymakers in Boston focused on soliciting offshore wind contracts with climate mitigation as a priority, in Greater New Bedford the priority is economic development.

“It’s an unusual opportunity for a city like ours, one that is not a part of the major metro, to create the jobs that would come with it,” he said. “Like lots of older industrial cities in the Northeast and the Midwest, you have to seize opportunity, and it’s an opportunity to really be competitive.”

While other states have “outcompeted” Massachusetts, he said the wind industry will likely make its major investment decisions for its U.S. operations relatively soon, there’s still time to catch up.

A scoring system for economic benefits of offshore wind

Some 17 East Coast projects are now under active permitting review.

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