The Public Policy Center’s work focuses on a wide range of issue areas, many of which overlap. Click the ‘+’ to read more about each and to see examples of our work.

Economic Development

The Public Policy Center (PPC) has more than two decades of experience in producing custom designed studies for public and private sector clients. PPC’s economic development experts have produced dozens of reports in the areas of economic impact analysis, economic base analysis, workforce development, industry analysis, and market analysis.

The PPC’s work in the area of economic development includes projects that:

  • Inform conversation with data (see our SouthCoast Urban Indicators Project),
  • Support economic development processes and initiatives (for example, New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell’s Regeneration Committee)
  • Study industry sectors like advanced manufacturing and analyzing opportunities for growth
  • Assess the economic impact of institutions, interventions, and even cultural events aimed at stimulating the creative economy (for example, this study of the economic impact of four cultural events in New Bedford)

Community Development

The Public Policy Center (PPC) collaborates with community-based organizations and citizens to develop and conduct place-based and people-oriented projects. The PPC’s community development work spans a number of issue areas, including social and economic development, arts and culture, public health, and the environment.

Many of our community development projects emerge from partnerships with organizations like New Bedford’s Community and Economic Development Center (CEDC), with which we have conducted an evaluation of their small business technical assistance programming.  We are currently working with the CEDC on a comprehensive study of the economic importance of businesses in New Bedford’s North End.   For more information on this ongoing effort, check out recent updates on our blog.

Gateway Cities

Continuing work first begun by the UMass Dartmouth Urban Initiative, the Public Policy Center (PPC)  focuses a substantial amount of its time and energy on the challenges and issues facing Massachusetts’ Gateway Cities. These smaller industrial cities include our neighbors to the east (New Bedford) and west (Fall River), making this focus area a cornerstone of our community and economic development work.

And since urban policy issues are multifaceted, many of our Gateway Cities projects use a multidisciplinary approach.  For example, our dropout prevention program evaluations in Fall River and Springfield systematically consider the community context as an important component of assessing the factors and assets needed for student success.


The Public Policy Center (PPC) works with local, regional, and state leaders and organizations to address challenges and opportunities in the area of K-12 education. Our projects in this area have included:

  • evaluations of dropout prevention programs, conducted in partnership with the National Dropout Prevention Center in the cities of Chelsea, Fall River, and Springfield;
  • applied research, such as this analysis of MCAS performance in the New Bedford Public Schools;
  • providing data and context for a number of education issues in Fall River and New Bedford through the SouthCoast Urban Indicators Project;
  • conducting surveys, such as this one of Fall River Public Schools teachers;
  • and working with partners like MassINC to facilitate community conversations about public education

Public Health

The health of Massachusetts residents is increasingly recognized as a fundamental driver of economic growth and development.  The Public Policy Center (PPC) is deeply involved in supporting health and wellness issues through its healthcare partnerships across the Southeastern Massachusetts region and beyond.

The PPC is currently:

    • Working with the City of New Bedford SHIFT (Southeastern Health Initiative for Transformation) program, a new first-in-the-nation, $60 million grant opportunity funded under the Massachusetts Prevention and Wellness Trust Fund (PWTF).  This program is designed to reduce health-care costs related to tobacco use, hypertension, pediatric asthma, falls among the elderly, mental health issues/depression, and substance abuse.
    • Supporting Health Data SouthCoast that serves as a planning dashboard for SouthCoast public health stakeholders. This includes data related to health outcomes in the region, data collected by the organizations sponsoring the site, resources where users can get more information, and resources to aid the original research efforts of public health stakeholders (e.g., survey tools and best practices).


The Public Policy Center (PPC) works with federal, state, and local entities to analyze and evaluate transportation programs and policies. A recent example of our work in this area is ‘Public Transit Needs & Perceptions in the City of New Bedford.’  This report, conducted for the New Bedford Transit Development Plan Task Force, identified strategies for optimizing local bus service in New Bedford in light of the planned South Coast Rail development and the construction of the Whale’s Tooth Intermodal Terminal off Route 18.

The PPC has also worked with Southeastern Massachusetts Transit Authority (SRTA) to evaluate the success of the NB Line, a shuttle service that connects visitors and residents to cultural and recreational destinations throughout New Bedford.  Read the most recent evaluation report here.


The staff of the Public Policy Center (PPC) have extensive experience in housing policy research including market analysis, economic and fiscal impact assessment, and planning and zoning issues.

Our most recent work in this area involves a multiyear comprehensive evaluation of the HOPE VI project being undertaken by the Taunton Housing Authority. This evaluation integrates data analysis, survey research, and focus groups, all in an effort to document the impact of this development on public housing residents, the neighborhood in which the project is situated, and the City of Taunton, MA.

Reports include our baseline analysis and the most recent evaluation report published in 2014. The evaluation report for the project’s third year will be available in early 2015.


The Public Policy Center (PPC) works closely with faculty experts at UMass Dartmouth to investigate and encourage public discussion of the policy implications of climate change and the community impacts associated with sea-level rise.   On these issues, we work most closely with our colleagues in the Department of Public Policy, which offers a Graduate Certificate in Environmental Policy and which counts among its faculty a leading expert on the legal and community implications of sea level rise.

Recent examples of this collaboration include our 2013 Graduate Student Speaker Series on ‘Sustainable Cities,’ which featured speakers on topics like vacant lots and renewable energy.