During the election, Gov.-elect Phil Murphy touted the priority to create new and innovative jobs in New Jersey. While the current political trend in economic development is to focus on manufacturing or consumer technology as a silver bullet for generating employment, there is an important sector of the state economy that often gets overlooked: maritime industries. Murphy need a salt-water perspective on economic development to make New Jersey’s maritime industries the envy of the nation.
New Jersey has robust potential for maritime development, particularly in the southern part of the state. With long coastlines on multiple bodies of water, New Jersey has access to the waterways and fisheries which form the bedrock of industries ranging from seafood to biotech. The state has well-trained labor from its community colleges and universities. In particular, Rutgers University and Stockton University support fisheries science and aquaculture operations in both the southern and northern parts of the state.
New developments in the maritime sector make this moment more opportune for supporting maritime industries than in previous administrations. The intrinsic link between maritime industries and the environment is leading to a new emphasis on maritime-oriented impact investments. These investments, which evaluate both the financial return and social impact of a company, are gravitating toward sustainable fisheries, with millions of new dollars in investments every year. This movement is aided by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, which set the global goals for economic development and channels billions of dollars in development funds to maritime industries in the form of public-private partnerships.
The fulcrum of this emerging maritime innovation movement comes in the form of ocean clusters: entrepreneurship and innovation hubs geared toward maritime industries. Although some already exist in the United States, the Ocean Cluster House initiative from Iceland is breathing new life into clusters by providing co-working spaces and networking opportunities for the disparate players in maritime industries. The Cluster House model has expanded far beyond its humble origins in Reykjavik to locations in the United States, including Massachusetts, Alaska, Washington and Louisiana.
What then can Murphy to do to take advantage of this golden opportunity? There are a few concrete programs and policies that can accelerate the development of maritime industries in the state.
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