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Lawmakers, lenders tour Gloucester harbor with Tarr, Ferrante and Linquata

June 2, 2015 : Gloucester Times, by Sean Horgan

Monday broke rainy and chilly, perhaps not the best conditions for a cruise around Gloucester’s Inner Harbor. But that didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of the three tour guides aboard the 7 Seas Whale Watch & Charter’s Privateer IV.

These weren’t just any tour guides. These weren’t college kids looking to loosen up their tongues and get their rap down for the impending summer tourism season. This was rubber-necking for the people, fact-finding for the common good.

Standing at the front of the boat’s spacious cabin, state Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante and state Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, both of Gloucester, and Lenny Linquata, president of the Gloucester Harbor Community Development Corp., took turns pointing out the various sections of the city’s working waterfront to a group of state legislators from the Committee on Community Development and Small Business, as well as various representatives from MassDevelopment and Massachusetts Growth Capital Corp.

“We really have three goals today,” said Ferrante, who organized the visit of state officials as part of her responsibilities as chairwoman of the House’s community development and small business committee. “We want the committee members to visit different areas of the city today and better understand the nuances of our economic and community development strategy and understand we don’t have a one-size-fits-all approach.”

Beyond that, she said, the trip was to help illustrate the progress the city has made — in conjunction with the Legislature and state agencies — in assembling a harbor plan to address existing problems along the city’s waterfront, as well as partnering with agencies such as MassDevelopment and Massachusetts Growth Capital to create access to investment capital and financing.

“We hope the legislators on board will see things today that will give them ideas that they can take back to their districts,” Ferrante said. “The emphasis, though, will be on the harbor and how we’re transitioning into other areas because of the decline in the fishing industry.”

After Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken welcomed the guests, Ferrante and Tarr offered a sense of what the legislators and state officials would see during the tour of the Inner Harbor of America’s oldest seaport.

“Every boat that you see is a small business and most are family-run,” Ferrante said. “And just about every shoreside business you’ll see is also family-run.”

Tarr stressed that the city’s port has always been steeped in innovation, from the rise of the city’s legendary fishing fleet to the centuries-past practice of salting fish as a method of preservation until the advent of freezing the seafood products for world-wide distribution.

“We have a long legacy, all of it about innovating to bring this protein source to the world,” Tarr said. “There is a tremendous amount of economic potential sequestered in this harbor. You look all around this harbor and you see hope. We just want you to know we haven’t given up. We’ve just begun to fight.”

Linquata then explained how the advent of the Gloucester Harbor CDC is helping galvanize the waterfront by embracing all of the various stakeholders — including the state, the city and various marine-related businesses — and helping them understand their common needs, such as access to financing to generate equity in their properties, as the city tries to address its crumbling waterfront.

Once the pleasantries were over, the Privateer IV backed out of its slip between the The Gloucester House restaurant and Fisherman’s Wharf, where as if on cue a boat crew was unloading its fresh catch of redfish, and into Harbor Cove.

The Privateer IV traced the shoreline from Harbor Cove to Harbor Loop and on toward the head of the harbor. As it passed each business, one of the trio of tour guides identified it, explained what it does and how it fits into the fabric of Gloucester.

The three traded off seamlessly, so smooth it almost felt as if they had rehearsed the patter.

Tarr spoke of the importance of sustaining the city’s three marine railways as a competitive advantage as the boat passed the first two at Maritime Gloucester and Rose Marine.

Linquata talked about the importance of Americold’s massive waterfront refrigeration facilities on both sides of the harbor to companies such as Gorton’s and National Fish & Seafood and its Gloucester-based subsidiary, Matlaw’s.

Ferrante expounded on the versatility and importance of the presence of Cruiseport Gloucester, both as a tourism destination and as a home for innovative companies such as the Gloucester Marine Genomics Institute.

The Privateer then turned toward the Jodrey State Fish Pier and made its way into the South Channel and off toward Rocky Neck and the Gloucester Marine Railways, where the guests also received a discourse on the importance of that marine repair facility and the innovative comingling of marine industrial, residential and artistic forces throughout Rocky Neck.

Then it was time for the trip back to Harbor Cove, but not before Linquata delivered a highly informative and entertaining history of Gloucester around the time of the Revolutionary War and the importance of the city’s Unitarian Universalist Church in the development of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

When he finished, the legislators and state officials burst into applause, for a story well-told and a tour well-given.

“I thought it was really great, really wonderful,” said Lawrence D. Andrews, president and chief executive officer of Massachusetts Growth Capital Corp. “They did a great job. Very impressive.” 

© Copyright 2015 Gloucester Times.