Gloucester Times – Cape Ann workforce in Chamber spotlight – 2/26/14

By Ray Lamont, Editor

A presentation from a regionally and nationally known economic analyst Friday will not only focus on the nation’s economic outlook, Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce CEO Ken Riehl said Tuesday, but also help focus a Chamber mission on helping to grow Gloucester’s and Cape Ann’s job market.

Barry Bluestone, the Stearns Trustee professor of political economy at Northeastern University, the founding director of the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy, and the author of several books, including “The Deindustrialization of America (1982),” and “The Great U-Turn: Corporate Restructuring and the Polarizing of America (1988)” will serve as guest speaker Friday at the Chamber’s annual “Economic Outlook” breakfast at Cruiseport Gloucester.

The event begins with breakfast and a reception at 7:30 a.m., with Bluestone’s presentation slated to run from 8 to 9.

Bluestone has touted the Dukakis Center as a “think and do tank” that tackles issues of worker housing, workforce development, local economic development, manufacturing and transportation.

Riehl said the timing of his visit to Gloucester is a perfect fit into Cape Ann’s evolving local economic picture.

“Part of the Chamber’s mission,” said Riehl, a longtime Essex resident who left a role in corporate America last year and ultimately took the reins of the Chamber last November, “is not only supporting local business, but to help the business environment through advocating for new jobs and business growth.”

Noting that Bluestone will outline new research spotlighting what factors can “affect employment in a given area,” Riehl said the Chamber plans to work, “to the extent we can, with city and state elected officials on legislation that’s conducive to helping local businesses grow.”

Gloucester ended the 2013 calendar year with an 8.7 percent unemployment rate, the same rate as at the end of December 2012, and the second-highest rate in Essex County, trailing only the city of Lawrence.

Bluestone’s visit also comes, however, after city officials announced last week that Gloucester has landed a new seafood processing plant, with the Mazzetta Company LLC out of suburban Chicago bringing a new facility and a projected overall 225 jobs to the former Good Harbor Fillet parcel in Blackburn Industrial Park.

The Gloucester City Council was voting last night and expected to emphatically approve a needed extension to the site’s expiring Economic Opportunity Area designation, and a related $17,000, three-year Tax-Increment Financing — or TIF — property-tax package.

Bluestone’s presentation will provide the latest forecasts on economic growth and employment prospects for the commonwealth, according to a Chamber release. Then, he will discuss his latest research results on successful economic development, titled “How to Win Friends and Spur Economic Prosperity.”

The research, which explored what factors make it possible for cities and towns to attract investment and jobs, was conducted while Bluestone was at the Boston Federal Reserve Bank, where he is a visiting scholar this year.

The Economic Outlook Breakfast will also include the introduction of new Chamber members, special salutes, and the chance to connect with business colleagues and elected officials.

Tickets for the event are priced at $35 in advance and $40 at the door for members and local and state officials, and $50 for future members. Tickets may be purchased online at www.capeannchamber.com or by calling the Chamber office 978-283-1601.

Times Editor Ray Lamont can be reached at 978-675-2705 or via email at rlamont@gloucestertimes.com.

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