Massachusetts Offshore Wind Bids: An Analysis of the Public Versions

The public versions of the bids in response to the Massachusetts 83C II RFP for offshore wind were released late Wednesday, September 4th. Three of four developers with offshore wind lease rights off the shores of Massachusetts submitted bids. They are Bay State Wind (a partnership of Ørsted and Eversource), Vineyard Wind (a partnership of CIP and Avengrid), and Mayflower Wind (a partnership of Shell and EDP Renewables). This leaves Equinor as the only developer with nearby lease rights not to submit a bid. The heavily redacted bids are quite lengthy, but the Offshore Wind Economics Project has read through them so that you don’t have to. We paid special attention to issues related to local economic development. If you are interested primarily in fishing and wildlife impacts, well, you’re both in and out of luck. You’re out of luck because they only get a cursory treatment here, but you’re in luck because these are the least redacted portions of the bids. It seems like the offshore wind developers are more than happy to brag about all of the things they are doing to engage the fishing community and prevent harmful environmental impacts. That makes sense, given that disseminating this information is a major part of improving public relations and that information related to supply chain development is a commercially sensitive part of business strategy. Anyway, let’s get into it.

Bid Strategy

The RFP required bidders to submit at least one proposal for 400 MW. Developers were allowed to submit additional bids for anywhere from 200 to 800 MW. The original enabling legislation mandated that for each round of offshore wind procurement (except the first), the cost must come in lower than for previous procurements. Given the looming expiration of the Business Energy Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and the very low price in Vineyard Wind’s winning bid in 2018, it was determined that future bids could be for higher amounts, provided that the increased cost was accounted for and justified. Massachusetts is somewhat unique among states procuring offshore wind in that their bid evaluation process is driven almost entirely by cost. However, there is mounting pressure to take local economic development effects into consideration.[1] These two factors (the ability to justify a higher cost and pressure to take steps to increase local content) have resulted in some developers offering a buffet of options, ranging from strictly low cost offerings to options with additional spending to support infrastructure and supply chain investments.

  • Bay State Wind offered two proposals: a 400 MW proposal as required and an “alternative bid.” Bay State was extremely guarded of their bid strategy, even redacting the megawatt size of the alternative option.
  • Vineyard Wind offered three options: a 400 MW proposal, a low cost 800 MW proposal, and an “enhanced local content” version of the 800 MW proposal.
  • Mayflower Wind provided four options: a 408 MW proposal and three 804 MW proposals. (Since 12 divides evenly into 408 and 804, perhaps they intend to use the 12 MW GE Haliade-X Turbine?). The three 804 proposals consist of a “Low Cost Energy” proposal at a price they assert will come in lower than any other offshore wind farm; an “Infrastructure and Innovation” proposal, which includes “strategic investments in port infrastructure, technology, and innovation;” and a “Massachusetts Manufacturing” proposal, which builds on the Infrastructure and Innovation proposals by adding on an investment in a new wind tower manufacturing facility somewhere in Massachusetts.

Staging and O&M Locations

It is now generally accepted knowledge that developing offshore wind in the United States will require a network of ports since no one location is ideal for supporting the full range of activities.[2] Furthermore, a lot more space is needed to support the full needs of the industry, with multiple large scale projects slated to be built in the coming years. Therefore, while it is likely that all three bidders are considering the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal, it is also likely that they have additional locations in mind. Indeed, investments are already being made in other ports, such as Brayton Point in Somerset, MA[3] and New London, CT.[4]

  • Bay State Wind: Details on the locations of staging and O&M were redacted.
  • Vineyard Wind: While many details were redacted, it was revealed that in the “Enhanced Local Content” scenario, they intend to invest $14 million in Brayton Point for port and facility improvements to enable secondary steel fabrication and the final outfitting of transition pieces, plus up to another $5 million enable the final outfitting and coating of the offshore substation. The location of the O&M base was redacted, but the bid admits that there will be some “operational efficiencies” from their first wind farm Vineyard Wind I.
  • Mayflower Wind: The location of their staging port was redacted. They said they will use a Massachusetts-based port for O&M and that 75% of O&M jobs will be located in the Commonwealth. It appears they intend to use a Service Operational Vessel (SOV) in addition to some Crew Transfer Vessels (CTVs).

Local Manufacturing

The pipeline of offshore wind projects has grown to the point at which we can expect some manufacturing of the primary components to move to the United States. Developers have limited control over the business decisions of the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), but pressure from states to present high economic development impacts in bid proposals may incent developers to flesh out a deal in advance of submitting a bid.

  • Bay State Wind: Details on local manufacturing were redacted.
  • Vineyard Wind: While many details were redacted, it was revealed that they intend to source secondary steel materials locally.
  • Mayflower Wind: As a key feature of their “Massachusetts Manufacturing” 804 MW proposal, Mayflower Wind has promised to work with Marmen Inc. to locate a tower manufacturing in an Economically Distressed Area in Massachusetts.

Transmission and Storage

It appears that all three developers intend to use the “generator lead line” model of offshore wind transmission, in which the developer that wins the contract is also responsible for building the transmission system. This may change in future bids since the most recent Massachusetts offshore wind legislation permits separate proposals for transmission and generation and companies such as Anbaric Development Partners have been actively showing their interest in securing that business.

It appears that they are also in agreement on forgoing electricity storage. Bay State Wind and Vineyard Wind both redacted these sections, but the sections themselves are so short that it’s hard to imagine that they could contain much more than “sorry, not this time.” Mayflower left this section public, stating that electricity storage does not yet make economic sense. They cite data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which shows that the Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE) of battery storage has been declining rapidly, but is still twice as expensive as offshore wind.[5]

Other Investments in Economic Development

For the first round of bidding, Bay State Wind actively promoted the investments they intended to make in local economic development, but this time they were much more reserved. Vineyard Wind was mostly consistent, in both cases not calling attention to their planned investments in the media, but keeping some details unredacted in the bid. One big change on the part of Vineyard Wind is that this time around they redacted the estimated job and economic impacts. Newcomer Mayflower Wind seems eager to stand out in the crowd and has made their interest in promoting local economic development known in a press release and has left some details unredacted.[6]

  • Bay State Wind: Details on investments and economic development impacts were redacted.
  • Vineyard Wind: Most details were redacted, but it was left public that both proposals include $12 million in direct funding for supply chain, workforce development, and low-income ratepayer initiatives.
  • Mayflower Wind: While they did not provide dollar amounts, Shell touted investments for “expanding South Coast ports” (someone should let them know that locals spell it Southcoast or SouthCoast), a Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC)-administered Offshore Wind Accelerator to foster innovation through “efforts and institutions like New Bedford Ocean Cluster, SeaAhead, and Greetown Labs,” MassCEC-administered training grants, and funding for marine science. Mayflower was the only company that did not redact the job impacts, claiming 10,680 jobs will be created in Massachusetts, including indirect and induced impacts. There are two problems with this number. (1) These are actually FTE job years, but in some cases they report them as individual jobs. To accurately count the number of jobs in Operations & Maintenance, for example, you would need to divide the job count by the approximately 25 years the wind farm is in operation. (2) Even correcting for the fact that these are job years and not individual jobs, this number is implausible. OSWEP rigorously assessed the job impacts of a similar proposal that we vetted through agreements with supply chain partners and came up with just over 3,658 FTE job years.[7] (This did include indirect and induced impacts and the possibility of tower manufacturing.)[8] How can Mayflower be putting forth a lower price while also creating almost three times as many job years? The biggest area of discrepancy with our analysis is in the operations phase, where they claim 4,350 direct FTE job years. On an annual basis, O&M supports about 80 direct year-round jobs (not including supply chain impacts). If they hire the standard size crew, the wind farm would have to be in operation for about 55 years to create the 4,350 jobs years purported by Mayflower. The standard rule of thumb is currently about 25 years.

Fishing Interests

All three developers left public many details about their efforts to engage the fishing community and minimize the potential impacts to the fishing industry. Interestingly, it now appears that Bay State Wind and Vineyard Wind are in agreement to orient the rows of turbines in an East to West layout. (This was previously a major point of contention between developers and different fisheries.)[9] Other measures made public by developers include burying the subsea cables in such a manner as to prevent interaction with fishing equipment and compensation for gear loss.


[1]https://commonwealthmagazine.org/energy/offshore-wind-price-protection-eliminated/

[2]https://commonwealthmagazine.org/energy/perfect-port-an-elusive-goal-for-east-coast-offshore-wind/

[3]https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/cdc-anbaric-sign-agreement-for-650m-renewable-energy-investment-at-brayton-point-300848226.html

[4]https://www.wshu.org/post/new-london-offshore-wind-project-gets-93-million-investment#stream/0

[5]https://about.bnef.com/blog/battery-powers-latest-plunge-costs-threatens-coal-gas/

[6]https://commonwealthmagazine.org/energy/mayflower-wind-promises-lowest-us-price-yet/

[7]http://publicpolicycenter.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/VW-800-MW-Jobs-Report.pdf

[8]https://macleanenergy.com/83c/83c-bids/  See Vineyard Wind Proposal Attachment 14 for supply chain letter of support from Ventower.

[9]https://commonwealthmagazine.org/energy/vineyard-wind-layout-tough-issue-for-regulators/

What Will Determine Offshore Wind Supply Chain Development in the U.S.?

The ability of a region to support the development of the offshore wind (OSW) supply chain will greatly affect the size of the industry’s economic impact. The impacts of OSW are higher when the industry employs people from the region and spends its dollars at the region’s businesses because this keeps dollars in the community. Several factors will affect the level of local content:

Existing industrial base: The ability of a region to attract investment from a new industry is often tied to the presence or absence of similar or complementary industries. For example, the Gulf Coast states may be able to transition from making marine structures for oil & gas to those for OSW wind farms, which would help this region compensate for the drop in demand from the offshore oil & gas industry. The jacket foundations for the first OSW farm in the United States —the Block Island Wind Farm—were manufactured by Gulf Island Fabrication, a company that made large-scale steel structures for the offshore oil and gas industry. A similar pattern was observed in the U.K., with many of the workers with experience working in offshore oil and gas settings finding new employment opportunities in the OSW industry.

Local content requirements and supply chain investment: In the U.K., the development of an OSW supply chain has been actively promoted through local content targets and government investment. For example, the contract with the developer of the Humber Gateway Project in the U.K. specifically stated that local employment must be used. In addition, the U.K. government has contributed £20 million toward the Manufacturing Advisory Service Offshore Wind Supply Chain Growth Programme (GROW: Offshore Wind) and has set aside funding and resources to create the Offshore Wind Investment Organisation, a private-sector-led body to attract inward investment.[1] Local content requirements are not likely to occur in the U.S., where OSW development is being led at the state level, since the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution prevents states from passing laws mandating local procurement and hiring as they serve to restrict interstate commerce.[2] However, vigorous interstate competition to attract investment in OSW supply chain manufacturing facilities can be expected as the nascent OSW industry along the Eastern seaboard of the U.S. develops to scale.

Infrastructure: The massive size of modern OSW turbines limits the transport of finished products over land. As a result, the manufacturing of the primary, finished components must occur at waterfront locations with a large amount of acreage and a quay that has been reinforced to withstand heavy loads. For example, for OSW farms in the U.K., the tower pieces were sent in from Denmark or Spain and assembled on-site. Without a reinforced quay to accommodate on-site assembly and production, all components would have been imported fully assembled from Denmark or Spain, directly to the OSW farm. In addition, the height of some components limits the locations to those without height limitations from features such as bridges. One tower manufacturer cited the need for a 175,000- to 200,000-square-foot facility, Class 1 rail, 50 acres of storage with quayside access, and interstate access. A detailed assessment of potential sites in Massachusetts is provided by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s Massachusetts has laid the groundwork for private investment in secondary locations for future turbine and foundation component manufacturing through MassCEC’s 2017 Massachusetts Offshore Wind Ports & Infrastructure Assessment.[3]

Logistics and the distance to ship components: The sheer distance to transport the components overseas from Europe may incentivize investment in U.S. manufacturing facilities. In one study, which examined the Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE) for OSW in Denmark, the logistics cost was conservatively estimated to account for 18 percent of the total cost.[4] The distance to the U.S. market substantially increases these costs. For example, according to one European foundation manufacturer, it would cost tens of millions of dollars to import the foundations from European to the U.S for one 400 MW project.[5] In comparison, a new manufacturing facility in the U.S. Atlantic would cost up to $500 million to build and take three years to develop.

Workforce: The skills of the local workforce can play a large role in a manufacturer’s location decisions. For example, Hull, U.K. was originally slated to host a nacelle manufacturing plant, but to date this has not happened, reportedly because the region’s workforce lacked the electrical engineering and magnetism skills required. Instead, Hull became the home to a blade manufacturing facility, because they had the substantial deep-water port acreage needed and a workforce skilled in fiberglass manufacturing. In other words, blade manufacturing has skill requirements that better aligned with the capacity of the local labor market.

Size and timing of the pipeline: Manufacturers need to know that there will be consistent demand for their products before they make massive investment decisions. In the case of U.S. OSW developments, interview subjects consistently reported the need for a long pipeline of future OSW developments as a major prerequisite for establishing a U.S. manufacturing facility. One manufacturer described their expectation of a five-gigawatt pipeline in the U.K. when investment decisions were made. However, manufacturers we interviewed consistently noted that the Northeast U.S. is a major emerging market that is too big to ignore. The timing of OSW projects is also important. A dormant foundation factory, for example, can cost up to $6 million per year in facility debt alone. A steady flow of smaller, faster projects or larger projects with long lead times can be expected to increase the chances of a substantial investment in OSW production facilities in the U.S.

[1] Her Majesty’s Government. Offshore Wind Industrial Strategy: Business and Government Action. (2013). https://ore.catapult.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Offshore-Wind-Industrial-Strategy-Business-and-Government-Action.pdf

[2] Building Trades v. Mayor of Camden. 465 U.S. 208. (1984).

[3] http://www.masscec.com/ports

[4] Poulsen, T., & Hasager, C. B. (2016). How Expensive Is Expensive Enough? Opportunities for Cost Reductions in Offshore Wind Energy Logistics. Energies, 9(6), 437.

[5] Tim Mack, Head of Offshore Wind Development, North America, EEW. (2017). Presentation to the Clean Energy Center’s Offshore Wind Supply Chain Forum, May 31, 2017. [PowerPoint Slides.]

Moving Forward: Acushnet Avenue Economic Impact Study

By Michael P. McCarthy, MPP Candidate, Graduate Research Assistant, Public Policy Center at UMass Dartmouth

Our study of the economy of the Acushnet Avenue commercial corridor in New Bedford, “Corridors of Opportunity: Acushnet Avenue Economic Impact Study,” was posted on the Public Policy Center’s website a few weeks ago. This marks the end of the research process that saw myself, along with my fellow research assistants, trekking through the Acushnet Avenue neighborhood and surveying businesses.

The nearly 70 business owners the research team spoke to provided in-depth informant interviews, which allowed us to develop a report that conveys the concerns of the business community. The major takeaways from these interviews can be found in the Key Findings section of the report’s executive summary. Also, some these topics are explored in detail in other posts I’ve written about the project.

The report also outlines recommendations for building upon the foundation of recent improvements and revitalization activities underway in the neighborhood. Our conversations with business owners and stakeholders highlighted the need for a merchants association. Most of these conversations were spurred by a survey question about the feasibility of creating a business improvement district (BID) for the commercial corridor, similar to the efforts underway in downtown New Bedford. When they were willing to speak on the subject, business owners expressed that while the services a BID would provide may be beneficial, there are a number of services the city should be providing more frequently. A merchants association would give the Acushnet Avenue business community a collective voice to advocate for increased and improved services.

Writing about commercial revitalization in Economic Development Quarterly, Stacey Sutton (“Rethinking Commercial Revitalization: A Neighborhood Small Business Perspective,” 2010) explores the value of merchants associations over BIDs in minority and immigrant neighborhoods. “As voluntary organizations,” Sutton says, “merchants associations typically have less public leverage but greater latitude over organization mission, operations, delivery of support services, and participation in political activities.” With interviewees regularly citing the complexity of New Bedford’s licensing and permit process as an obstacle towards doing business, there is a clearly a need for, as Sutton puts it, “institutional mechanisms, such as associations, that can efficiently coordinate and disseminate information regarding the regulatory environment, as well as the norms, practices, and politics shaping day-to-day business activities.” The benefits of a merchant association are two-fold. They can improve communication between existing businesses and city hall, and act as a guide on how aspiring entrepreneurs can best conduct business in the neighborhood.

The point on helping new businesses getting off the ground is particularly important for the Avenue’s future. Many businesses interviewed for the study have been open for five years or more. These interviewees also predicted flat growth for the coming years, saying they did not anticipate increases in their customer base. So sustaining the revitalization momentum may mean opening new businesses, these fledgling establishments will need assistance navigating regulatory requirements. An active merchants association can fill this role.

Also, a merchants association can help shape the future of this changing neighborhood, which has long a destination for immigrants arriving in New Bedford. While the Portuguese were the dominant cultural influence for decades, a recent increase in Latin American immigrants is diversifying the ethnic make up of the Avenue. As new businesses open to support the shifting needs of the immigrant community, they will need guidance in norms and day-to-day practicalities, as Sutton discussed.

Above all, the creation of a merchant’s association would give the Avenue’s business community a collective voice in future decision-making. If a group of merchants were able to collaborate upon and independently articulate a shared vision for the future of Acushnet Avenue, then they could play a key role in shaping discussions on neighborhood’s future.

Major themes emerging from Acushnet Ave study

As you may know from my previous posts, we have been studying the economic impact of businesses in the Acushent Avenue commercial corridor with the help of grant from the Garfield Foundation. With the assistance of the CEDC, we convened a steering committee to help us define a study area for the project and help inform our research team. At the end of September, we began a survey of business owners. Among other things, the survey asked for employment and revenue history, business longevity and estimated customer residency. We also asked for general thoughts on neighborhood conditions, and gauged receptiveness to the formation of a business improvement district. Throughout the survey period, which lasted until early November, we conducted interviews with 69 business owners or managers. The population we spoke with reflects the range of establishments doing business in the neighborhood, from auto service stations and large manufacturers to fledgling cafes and multigenerational restaurants. While, the people we spoke with expressed an array of opinions, they agreed on a few key issues.

A major theme throughout our interviews was the number of opportunities for the neighborhood:

  1. Owners identified the conditions of the neighborhood as crucial to their success. These opinions were tied to questions about cleanliness, safety, and the public perception of the neighborhood. Some owners cited what might be called a lack of pride in the neighborhood, noting that they often have to clean trash left on the sidewalk outside of their business by residents and visitors. Others pointed the lack of proper lighting and a low police presence near their business as incubators for criminal activity. Regardless of their major concern, our interviewees recognized that these elements feed a negative perception of the neighborhood, which they feel limits the number of customers from other areas. Indeed, nearly half said that 50 percent or more of their customers live within walking distance.
  1. However, since their clientele is so hyper-local business owners have many direct interactions with residents throughout the day. There is an opportunity for the business and residential communities to build on this relationship, recognize their shared interests, and work together to effect change. Neighborhood groups must actively engage with the vibrant business community here. Greater alignment between the missions of these major stakeholders means a greater chance of having the needs of this neighborhood met. Through organization, they can broadcast a clear message to city officials.
  1. Our interviews revealed that the business community is ready to organize and receptive to the formation of a merchant’s association. Such a group could advocate for the needs of the community at state and local level, securing more resources for the part of the city they represent. Indeed, our research demonstrated that under current conditions many interviewees lacked knowledge of the number of assistance and incentive programs available. An active and aggressive merchant’s association would be an effective intermediary between the government and nonprofit entities that administer such programs and the community.

The results of our study will be released on December 15, and it is our hope that neighborhood organizations, such as this one, will be able to use our findings to advocate for more resources and better services. Check back here for more updates on this report’s release.

 

Context and Poverty: Mental Health

An observation about American political life that leaves me perplexed and saddened is that we, as a society, seem to ignore the influence of context on individuals. I generally consider “context” in this discussion to mean factors both internal and external to the individual over which they have no control. This observation is most readily detected in debates surrounding poverty in which some argue that the impoverished are responsible for their plight. Yet, contextual factors are strong. For instance, perhaps two children have similar medical conditions that affect school performance but only the family of child A can afford insurance. Child B may not have the same educational opportunities later due to interference from their untreated ailment. Loss of educational opportunities may, in turn, leave child B vulnerable to financial strain or extended poverty. This is an extreme hypothetical case, but we can all find less salient examples of the influence of contextual factors if we are honest about our own lives.

There exist tangled webs of relationships and befuddling patterns of causation that surround the development and maintenance of poverty. To explore this may induce headaches, but it is worth doing. Why, you might ask? If we fully reject the influence of context and instruct the impoverished to “pull themselves up by the bootstraps,” then we write them off as a loss and do not feel compelled to help. This is misguided at best and inhumane at worst. Yet, intuitively we know that contextual factors are not the only ones involved. Reality lies somewhere between these extremes. Exploration of this issue through research allows us to better understand the complex nature of poverty and to develop more effective ways of addressing this social ill. I am planning on posting multiple times regarding this issue, but I thought that I would start by examining mental health and poverty.

A social gradient in mental and physical health exists (Reiss, 2013), which means that health status depends on socioeconomic status such that the poorest citizens have the worst health. Unfortunately, this phenomenon can be observed around the world in both poor and rich nations (World Health Organization, 2014). Please see the graph below for an example of the social gradient. It shows self-reported health status by income for the state and select cities. The data in this graph come from the Massachusetts Community Health Information Profile (MassCHIP), which is managed by the Massachusetts Department of Health.

Consistent with the social gradient, research suggests that poverty-related stress increases the risk for mental illness and that severe mental illness increases the risk of experiencing poverty (DeCarlo Santiago, Kaltman, & Miranda, 2013). The former illustrates the power of the external context of poverty (e.g., increased stress, lack of social support) over the individual, and the latter underscores the impact of “internal context.” Again, I define “internal context” as an attribute of the individual over which they have no control. Moreover, this bi-directional relationship suggests a vicious cycle in which an individual could easily become trapped in poverty. This may have the strongest effect on children in poverty, as development of a mental illness as a child would likely have lifelong negative effects. What can research tell us about the social gradient in mental health in children?

Reiss (2013) reviewed studies published in either English or German that examined the relationship between low socioeconomic status (SES) and mental health issues in individuals between the ages of four and 18. Of the 55 studies reviewed, 52 found an inverse relationship between SES and mental health such that children experiencing poverty were two to three times more likely to develop mental health issues than their peers. Sadly, the review also found that the gradient was strongest in early childhood. Importantly, mental health problems were reduced by an increase in SES, suggesting that societal intervention can be beneficial to children in poverty. Thus, we can short-circuit the bi-directional relationship mentioned above.

In sum, there are complex relationships surrounding the issue of poverty in America. While we often downplay the role of context in our political debates, it is an influential force in the generation and perpetuation of poverty. Development of a mental illness is not a choice, but rather the result of an intricate set of interactions between genetic predispositions and physical and social context. The social context of poverty contributes to the development of mental illness, but mental illness itself is a contextual factor in the social condition of poverty. This bi-directional relationship can be overcome, which has strong and positive implications for efforts to raise children out of poverty.

-Jason Wright

References
DeCarlo Santiago, C., Kaltman, S., & Miranda, J. (2013). Poverty and mental health: How do low-income adults and children are in psychotherapy? Journal of Clinical Psychology: In Session, 69, 115-126. doi: 10.1002/jclp.21951

MassCHIP, Massachusetts Department of Health. (2014). Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System: General health status. Retrieved from http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/researcher/community-health/masschip/general-health-status.html

Reiss, F. (2013). Socioeconomic inequalities and mental health problems in children and adolescents: A systematic review. Social Science and Medicine, 90, 24-31. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.04.026

Poverty Demographics for Fall River & New Bedford, Massachusetts

Poverty, like many other economic phenomena, does not affect all population sub-groups equally. Historically marginalized populations like racial minorities, women and youth are often disproportionately affected by poverty. This is especially true in Southcoast Massachusetts cities Fall River and New Bedford.

Data from the US Census Bureau shows that 23.2% of Fall River and 21.6% of New Bedford residents live below the poverty line. However, in Fall River, 36% of youth live in poverty, and in New Bedford, 31.1% of youth live in poverty. The highest poverty rates are among Hispanics (59.7% in FR and 39.9% in NB) and single mothers of 3 or 4 children (77.8% in FR and 72% in NB).

The charts below present poverty data by race, family type and age group, gathered from the American Community Survey’s 2008-2012 5-year estimates. The percentages depicted represent varying rates of poverty among different demographic groups that compose a portion of total city population.

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image(4)                                  *High margin of error for families with 5+ children, small sample size

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image(5)                                 

*Very high margin of error for families with 5+ children, small sample size, not included

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image(6)


 

Data comes from the US Census Bureau, American Fact Finder. 2008-2012 American Community Survey 5-year Estimates. Access at http://factfinder2.census.gov.

View data tables below.

Read more

Women & wages in New Bedford

This morning, I presented data on what it takes to earn a living wage in New Bedford, and what barriers city women must overcome to afford the expenses of their families. The full presentation can be viewed here:

Women & wages in New Bedford

Acushnet Ave Economic Impact Project Update

After the first meeting of the steering committee, we are moving on to the next phase in our study of Acushnet Avenue’s economy. For early September, our research team is drafting a survey to be distributed to business owners in the Acushnet Avenue commercial corridor. After incorporating helpful comments from our colleagues at the CEDC, who have extensive knowledge of the Avenue’s business climate, we will begin surveying business owners. A major challenge is keeping the survey brief enough to be manageable for busy owners to complete in a short time, but also extensive enough to get an understanding of the challenges facing businesses in the area, where they get materials and employees, their working capital, earnings, access to technology, and opportunities for growth and future investment. Hoping both for a large response rate and meaningful answers from those who do respond, we will open the survey period later this month and conclude in mid-October. 

Since the report will also examine the role place plays in the Acushnet Avenue economy, we have contacted New Bedford’s Office Housing and Community Development. Eddie Bates is hard at work analyzing GIS information so we can have better understanding of the physical and built environment of the Avenue and it’s side streets. The data we receive from Housing and Community Development will show the location of trees, street lighting, public spaces, benches, and give us a detailed look at the housing density surrounding the commercial corridor. The office will also be aiding us as we investigate occupancy and vacancy rates. I’m very interested to see if we can determine vacancy by floor, as well as by building. Although getting street level space occupied is still a challenge for building owners along the Avenue, upper level tenants (whether mixed-income residential or commercial) will be key in securing long-term vitality for the neighborhood.

As the survey period wraps up, I will be going over Census and business records for the study area. With this analysis, I am hoping to show how the make up of the neighborhood’s residents and businesses has changed over time. Culling through the wealth of information we obtained from the ReferenceUSA historical business database, I have already noticed an increase over the last five years in grocery stores serving the needs of Central and Latin American immigrants.

Check back in for updates on the survey process and on our one-on-one discussions with steering committee members.

July project update

Here’s a rundown of our projects and tasks for July:

1. Friends Academy/Center for Education Innovation (CEI) evaluation

We recently wrapped up a survey of elementary school teachers across the New Bedford Public Schools in order to determine the degree to which their feedback about things like technology, collaboration, professional development, and instruction is different than their peers who are working with CEI. We’re also crunching numbers to learn about the impact of CEI’s program on the performance of the students of participating teachers.

2. LifeWork Project

We’ll be writing the first year evaluation report at the end of this month, a report that will document the impact this program has had on participants’ academic performance, career paths, finances, and well-being.

3. New Bedford Regeneration Committee

We’re also approaching the report-writing stage of this project. The report will outline a set of action steps recommended by committee members for regenerating the economy of the city and the region.

4. Health Data SouthCoast

The network of organizations that supported our development of a website that provides easy access to regional and municipal health data is getting ready to publicly launch the site, so we won’t preclude their efforts here. All we’ll say is that it’s ready to go!

5. Taunton HOPE VI

We’re conducting our third and final resident focus group tonight, with the goal of learning about how the program has impacted residents’ abilities to enroll in job training programs and access employment opportunities. Next, we’ll go about updating data to compare current metrics to 2012 baselines in the areas of housing, economy, socioeconomic status, and demographics.

6. NEW: Acushnet Avenue commercial corridor study

Thanks to a just-awarded grant from the Garfield Foundation, we’ll be spending the next six months studying New Bedford’s Acushnet Avenue commercial corridor and the degree to which it influences the local economy. This project will involve data collection and analysis, survey research, and engaging with neighborhood stakeholders to obtain objective information with which to advance the neighborhood’s revitalization.

 

SOC 350 blog post – Minimum wage in New Bedford

Based on what minimum? Getting by on the minimum wage in New Bedford

Authors: Victoria Wood and Lioma Terrero Soto, students in Professor Gloria de Sa’s SOC/ANT 350, ‘Urban Issues in Public Policy’ (learn more about their collaboration with the UI by reading this post)

Editor’s note: Victoria and Lioma wrote a terrific paper that extended far beyond a blog post. We’ve excerpted the document here, but we encourage you to read their full report available as a PDF: Getting by on the minimum wage in New Bedford


 

As researchers who are concerned about this issue, we decided that we would explore what it is actually like to live on the minimum wage our local community. We wanted to better understand and also to bring to light the problems that minimum wage earners face so that citizens, advocates, and policymakers alike have a more accurate picture of this issue. We hope that this valuable information will be used to help formulate effective policies—instead of or in addition to raising the minimum wage—to address these struggles.

Research questions

What is it like to live on the minimum wage in New Bedford? Is the minimum wage in New Bedford enough to cover the cost of living? How do minimum-wage earners make ends meet? What types of policies could address the problems of minimum wage workers?

Methods

We first calculated the monthly and annual wages of minimum wage earners working 40 hours a week in New Bedford using the Massachusetts minimum wage. We then compared the monthly wages of minimum wage earners to current cost of living data for New Bedford. To calculate the cost of living in New Bedford, we used two different cost of living calculators. We used the Crittenton Women’s Union (CWU) Economic Independence Calculator and MIT’s living wage calculator. . . . To supplement our cost of living research, we also looked at apartment listings in New Bedford to find actual rent costs for one and two bedroom apartments. We looked at the rent for one and two bedroom apartments in three different apartment complexes in New Bedford. We also looked independent apartment listings on Zillow and Craigslist and calculated the mean rent for one and two bedroom apartments (based on seven apartment listings for one-bedroom apartments and seven apartment listings for two-bedroom apartments).

Finally, we conducted ten interviews with New Bedford residents earning the minimum wage. Four of the interviews were conducted by phone, and six were in-person. . . . We conducted interviews with seven women and three men. All interviewees were adults over the age of 25.

We were able to compensate each participant with a $20 gift card to Stop & Shop thanks to a generous research grant awarded to us by the Office of Undergraduate Research at UMass Dartmouth.

Findings

Monthly wages of a minimum wage earner before taxes:

$8.00/hour ⋅ 40 hours/week = $320/week

$320/week ⋅ 4.35weeks/month = $1,392/month

$1,392/month ⋅ 12 months/year = $16,704/year

. . .

Interpretations/Policy Implications

Based on our findings, we have concluded that a minimum wage worker does not earn enough money to live independently. Despite this finding, many of the single minimum wage earners were not able to qualify for government assistance because they earned too much money.

Earning the minimum wage has adverse effects on physical and psychological health. Constant stress contributes to depression and feelings of worthlessness. Feelings of embarrassment about their income level were not uncommon. The workers with children expressed concern for their children’s futures because of their inability to pay for necessities and provide opportunities. Many of the minimum wage earners we interviewed felt that they were trapped due to a lack of upward mobility.

Education was regarded by all interviewees as the key to a brighter future. Having access to education seemed to be the problem; many of the workers we interviewed could not afford to go to school.

It is clear that public policy is needed to help address these pressing problems that minimum wage earners face.

. . .

Limitations

There are limitations to our study. The cost of living will inherently vary per individual/family, and the cost of living calculators can’t reflect this. Additionally, we were only able to conduct ten interviews, so we don’t have a representative sample of New Bedford residents.

Reflection

This project was humbling. The people we interviewed gave us intimate glimpses into their everyday struggles, and it made us reflect on how fortunate we are to be in school working towards our goals. This project also helped us learn how to create a detailed work plan in order to explore an issue of interest to us, and this skill will certainly help us both in our future personal, academic, and professional endeavors.