The Marine Technology Society gathered over 100 leaders from the field of marine science and technology during the NW Marine Technology Summit, Oct. 20-22, to strategize about next steps for moving their industry forward. A series of panels organized around the themes of “marine economy” and “marine technology” highlighted industry updates and encouraged coalition building for the purpose of growing a marine technology, or “BlueTech”, cluster in the Pacific Northwest. Just over half of the conference’s attendees came from outside of Oregon— representing seven states and provinces in total—while one-third arrived from within Lincoln County.

Michael Jones, of San Diego’s The Maritime Alliance, a leader in blue economy growth and advocacy in San Diego, shared some critical insight with the Summit audience regarding the great potential and appeal of BlueTech in the Northwest. As part of his keynote address on promoting BlueTech and BlueJobs, Jones remarked that: “This is an industry that everybody should love. It creates BlueTech jobs that are fast growing, a lot of exports, and blue collar jobs on top of that.” Jones’ remarks, which emphasized the maritime industry as a rapidly growing internationally traded sector of the economy, hit home in a region where many coastal communities continue to struggle to strengthen and diversify their economies.

The Northwest region has a localized advantage in terms of its ability to cultivate a BlueTech sector; its abundant ocean resources and related businesses and infrastructure serve as a natural incubator for maritime-related industry and talent. So how does that translate to cluster building? As many presenters were keen to remind the Summit audience, the opportunity to grow business and create family wage jobs in BlueTech sits at the intersection of industry, policy, funding, and education. Expanded partnerships across these arenas will be key to the future growth and success of a maritime cluster in the Northwest. To this end, the format of 2014’s Summit, including back and forth discussions between researchers, private industry representatives, educators, and policymakers, provided an ideal forum for bolstering these partnerships moving forward.

The shared values of community and collaboration in the Northwest stand to be huge assets in terms of building the region’s maritime cluster. Continuing to harness the existing momentum and interest in expanding partnerships that was so clearly present during the Summit will prove key to making progress on the development of a Northwest regional maritime cluster. For more information on this and similar events, and to stay tuned on progress of the Northwest’s maritime cluster, please visit MTS Oregon.

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