Enduring Gloucester Readers- What Does Gloucester Need?

What’s your opinion on this page-one story in today’s Gloucester Daily Times?

Gloucester development: strengths, needs

By Arianna MacNeill,  Staff Writer, Gloucester Daily Times (GDT) 

Posted in the GDT Friday, March 27, 2015

Gloucester development: strengths, needs

ARIANNA MACNEILL/Staff photoNortheastern University economist Barry Bluestone speaksThursday at the Gloucester campus of Endicott College.

As far as city websites go, Gloucester’s fails — at least according to one Northeastern professor and economist.

There are many things that the city is doing right — and many it can also work on — in terms of promoting economic development. But one of those fixes that’s crucial is revamping the city’s website, Barry Bluestone, a professor at Northeastern University and noted economist told city officials and business leaders Thursday morning.

Bluestone visited Gloucester to go through his Economic Development Self Assessment Test — or EDSAT — with city officials and community members and to revisit the answers given on it a year ago.

The survey — 220 questions total — asks about everything from permitting to residents’ levels of education and other matters essential to economic development and attracting industry to the city.

The results are instantly tabulated by computer, but Bluestone said he plans to return to Gloucester in about a month to deliver them. Rockport had the results of a similar survey of that town revealed last week.

Around 50 city officials and community members gathered in one of Endicott College’s conference rooms at its Commercial Street location.

Included were Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken, Chief Administrative Officer Jim Destino, City Council President Paul McGeary, Councilors Paul Lundberg, Bill Fonvielle and Greg Verga; Economic Development Director Sal DiStefano, Chamber Executive Director Ken Riehl, local developer Mac Bell, and Thomas Gillett, the executive director of the Gloucester Economic Development and Industrialization Corporation.

Along with reviewing the survey, Bluestone told city officials that economic development marketing and timeliness of approvals — such as for building permits — are a very important element.

Website woes

While Romeo Theken said the city is working on a full city website overhaul, Bluestone said Gloucester’s current one doesn’t measure up.

“Your website is one of the worst I’ve seen in Massachusetts,” he said, noting that it was difficult to find a phone number for the mayor’s office or those of elected officials, along with other information representatives from businesses looking to come to Gloucester may look for.

Gloucester doesn’t currently have a dedicated webmaster — the answer to one of the survey questions — though city departments do make contributions to the site.

This could change soon, however, since Romeo Theken said via email after the meeting that her administration is hoping to hire a web specialist who could build a new site. Making it “user friendly” and having the ability to easily “connect (to) other links” were a couple of priorities she mentioned.

She did not provide a timeline for the project.

Other survey matters

The survey reviewed other aspects of life in Gloucester.

City officials filled in that as far as education goes, around 85 percent of high school students graduate and between 11 and 20 percent have a bachelor’s degree, though this number could be higher and needs to be firmed up.

City officials also said they maintain relationships with commercial real estate brokers, and they help businesses through permitting at the state level.

Proximity to Logan International Airport and obvious water transportation access were also some positives for the city.

In the quality of life category, officials filled in that the city doesn’t have a major concert hall or professional sports team.

“Does the greasy pole count?” Gillett asked with a laugh, referring to the contest during the annual St. Peter’s Fiesta.

Results

When Bluestone returns in a few weeks, Gloucester’s answers to the survey question answers will be compared to those of other municipalities.

But the discussion Thursday morning seemed to get officials thinking about what can be done to improve Gloucester’s economic development attractiveness as well as letting them see what’s already being done.

“Even though we haven’t given your results yet, you’ve already made major progress just here,” Bluestone said.

Along with the results, he said he’ll talk about improvements, including steps that can be taken that will have a “reasonable expense.”

“We’ll continue working with you as long as you don’t throw us out of town,” he said.

Barry Bluestone

Barry Bluestone, Director

Barry Bluestone is the Stearns Trustee Professor of Political Economy, the founding Director of the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy, and the founding Dean of the School of Public Policy & Urban Affairs at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts.

As a political economist, Bluestone has written widely in the areas of income distribution, business and industrial policy, labor-management relations, higher education finance, and urban and regional economic development. He contributes regularly to academic, as well as popular journals, and is the author of ten books.

Bluestone’s latest work published in 2008 and co-authored with Mary Huff Stevenson and Russell Williams is a major new textbook entitled The Urban Experience: Economics, Society, and Public Policy. This textbook, rich in theory and applied policy, was written for an interdisciplinary audience and can be used at either the undergraduate or graduate level.

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One thought on “Enduring Gloucester Readers- What Does Gloucester Need?

  1. The web site is the least of Gloucester’s economic development problems and the focus on the web site trivializes the problem. I use the web site a lot without difficulty by the way.
    The economist did have the sense to point out that Gloucester has good access to the ocean and to the airport.
    However there is much more to that subject.
    We have good access to the ocean only for small ships. Especially with ocean cargo migrating to ever larger container ships and super tankers, we are increasingly non competitive in that industry. If small scale ocean applications such as fishing did not exist, we would be entirely dependent on making beds for and selling T shirts to tourists. If he is going to help he better look into other ocean industry that can take advantage of smaller, shallow port facilities. (Research, Ocean Engineering…)
    I also believe that he messed up his work in Rockport. The last economist who did an analysis in Rockport found that income from residents who commuted to jobs elsewhere (Gloucester for example) and from retired people on pensions or trust funds was greater than all their retail sector income not only the tourist businesses but also the year around ones such as IGA. As a result Bearskin Neck was a loser from an economic standpoint. The tax revenue and overall income revenue into the town would be higher if those shops were condo units for commuters and retired people. Real estate assessments would be higher if they were expensive housing without the hassle of the summer tourist mess. When I asked an assessor with experience in Rockport about that he said that the shops made so little money in their short season that he could not assess them for much and the employees were short season and low paid.
    Therefore at a quick glance, I think both communities would be better served by finding an economist who was familiar with the types of business in the area and would look a bit more deeply.

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