Spurred by a recent study, a Gloucester agency is taking new steps to bolster the city’s two industrial parks, including seeking a shuttle bus service to take their workers to and from commuter rail stations.
The initiatives by the Gloucester Economic Development and Industrial Corporation also include efforts to provide those parks with energy improvements and upgrades to roads, Internet service, and signage.
The study, conducted for the EDIC by the University of Massachusetts Boston’s School for the Environment, found that occupants of the Blackburn and Cape Ann industrial parks are generally satisfied with their locations, due to such factors as easy access to suppliers and services, and the local quality of life.
But they also cited concerns, including the need for a “last mile” transportation connection between the parks and the city’s two MBTA stations, and for enhancements to roads, lighting, park appearance, Internet capacity, and energy.
The 173-acre Blackburn Industrial Park, near the Blackburn Rotary off Route 128, and the 71-acre Cape Ann Industrial Park on Kondelin Road were developed by the quasi-public EDIC starting in the late 1970s and are mostly built out.
Though the parks are almost entirely privately owned, the EDIC commissioned the study “to make sure we are optimizing the value of assets we were chartered to help develop,” said Mike DiLascio, a member of the corporation’s board.
Referring to park occupants, he said, “We want to know what folks are satisfied with and what they think we can do better.”
Although the city has other industrial areas — including its working waterfront — the study noted that the two parks together encompass more than 130 businesses that employ 2,339 people, or about 15 percent of Gloucester’s workforce.
Among the city’s industrial areas, the report said, “Cape Ann and Blackburn industrial parks, in particular, represent major economic and industrial engines” for Gloucester and the surrounding region.
The parks’ occupants include such major employers as the Applied Materials semiconductor company, pipe organ manufacturer C.B. Fisk, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and seafood businesses. Other occupants include a new biotechnology academy run by the Gloucester Marine Genomics Institute.
Even before the report was finalized in December, the EDIC had begun steps to address its anticipated findings.
Those actions included supporting a pending state grant application by the Cape Ann Transportation Authority to initiate the shuttle bus service on a pilot basis.
Carl Gustin, chair of the EDIC board, said shuttle service would be of particular value to the Blackburn park, whose occupants “draw many of their employees from outside of Cape Ann who would benefit from that ‘last mile’ connection.”
The EDIC has also been talking to National Grid about potential projects to improve energy efficiency and expanded renewable energy at the parks, and working with the city to increase broadband Internet capacity, add lighting, and upgrade roads. With park businesses, it is exploring ways to make signage clearer and more coordinated.
To address concerns expressed about lack of communication within the parks, the EDIC has begun facilitating regular meetings among park occupants.
“These really build a sense of community,” DiLascio said of the sessions.
Other EDIC initiatives are aimed at helping both the parks and the broader local economy, including its recent decision to join MassEcon, a statewide economic development organization.
DiLascio said part of EDIC’s aim is to bring more visibility to the parks, noting how many people in the city either have jobs in the parks or work for businesses served by them.
“We are trying to build awareness about all that the parks contribute,” he said.
John Laidler can be reached at email@example.com.