The Charlton College of Business at UMass Dartmouth hosted a Breakfast Summit yesterday with regional chamber of commerce executives and business leaders. The stated goal of the summit was to explore ways in which the Charlton College of Business can engage with the SouthCoast business community and vice versa.
I represented Groundwork! at the summit. I’ll admit that upon entering a room mostly full of men in suits, my immediate thoughts were as to whether my Doc Martins were an appropriate footwear choice. But the dialogue that followed was so relevant and interesting to what we are doing at Groundwork! that I was able to forget about what separates me from this group and start thinking about our common goal: to build a stronger SouthCoast economy.
Dr. Michael Goodman of the Public Policy Center gave a great keynote outlining the state of the SouthCoast economy and the challenges that we face. Among the challenges: lower levels of education, less housing development and growth compared to other parts of Massachusetts, and serious risk of sea level rise as the climate continues to shift.
The talk was followed by a roundtable discussion. Among the ideas that came up: how do we prepare the local workforce to attract more firms and employers? At Groundwork! our focus is more centered on preparing the locals to create their own jobs; in other words, encouraging entrepreneurship. Is it a more sustainable approach to rebuild the local economy from the bottom up, rather than looking to attract outside employers? Or is there room for both approaches to succeed?
A common theme in the discussion was the lack of current collaboration in the SouthCoast; and particularly the disconnect between Fall River and New Bedford. There was agreement on the need to collaborate and arrive at a common vision; the question is how? And will this dialogue continue?
It was fantastic to participate in the university’s initiative to connect with the local business community. The need to collaborate is the definitive resounding theme around the SouthCoast these days, and I’m looking forward to where this wave of energy will take us.