This article originally appeared on SouthCoast Today on October 17, 2018.
NEW BEDFORD — Robert Johnson didn’t throw away his shot.
Harnessing his inner Hamilton, the chancellor of UMass Dartmouth demanded those seated in front of him to “Rise up!”
Johnson’s words drew a similar reaction to the hit broadway show: a standing ovation.
“This is our time,” Johnson said. “It’s time for the gateway cities to rise up. Imagine the possibilities.”
The message came in front of about 200 people from across the state assembled at the Whaling Museum for the sixth annual MassInc Gateway Cities Innovation Institute.
Prominent voices from within the city and around the Commonwealth spoke at the event, which included Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Mayor Jon Mitchell, Executive Director of the New Bedford Economic Development Council Derek Santos and President of Bristol Community College Laura Douglas.
The four-hour summit allowed a nonstop exchange of thoughts and ideas with the goal of buoying gateway cities.
Johnson was the final speaker listed on the program and no one articulated their message with more passion or fervor than he did. His talk was inspired and the crowd rose in applause about 15 seconds prior to his speech ending.
“We are only limited by our imagination,” Johnson said. “If we work together, we can build a vibrant region that elevates every city and town from Pittsfield, Springfield, Lawrence, Lowell, New Bedford, Fall River, Worcester and everywhere in between. This is our time.”
Alan Berube, a senior fellow and deputy director of the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program, kicked off the day sharing information he’s discovered through research with the program.
His presentation offered five pillars in which gateway cities could build success: research universities, a core downtown, transportation to bigger cities, equal access to economic opportunities and regional partnerships.
“What built New Bedford and other gateway cities is what they built for the nation, is what they built for the world,” Berube said.
The summit also saluted successful individuals and organizations from gateway cities including New Bedford.
State Rep. Antonio F. D. Cabral was honored with a Gateway Cities Champion Award, which recognizes leaders who display exceptional commitment to the advancement of public policies that support gateway cities.
New Bedford also earned three Innovation Awards, which recognize exceptional contributions to gateway cities: New Bedford Regeneration Project, SouthCoast Development Partnership and Spherical Analytics.
“All of the things that are being talked about in terms of why gateway cities can go forward, to acknowledge that we have been doing that and are going to continue to do it is just really important for this city,” said Tony Sapienza, who is a member of the committee.
“One of the pillars of economic development for these rebounding industrial cities is taking a larger regional approach,” said Hugh Dunn, the executive director of the SouthCoast Development Partnership and a Ward 3 New Bedford City Councilor. “Today, it’s basically acknowledging that we’re on the right path.”
Chris Rezendes, the chief business office of Spherical Analytics, served as a panelist for one of the portions of the summit in addition to receiving an award.
“I think we have to start teaching and training people that you don’t necessarily have to be in (Boston) in order to get things done,” Rezendes said.
Follow Michael Bonner on Twitter @MikeBBonnerSCT.