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new bedford

The New Bedford Wind Energy Center Initiative

The New Bedford Economic Development Council (NBEDC) is partnering with Bristol Community College, New Bedford Immigrant Assistance Center, and Old Bedford Village Development Corporation to support the New Bedford Wind Energy Center Initiative. The initiative will leverage Massachusetts’ investment in offshore wind in an effort to lower the city’s unemployment, promote job training and placement, and employ a variety of community outreach measures. The Wind Energy Center will benefit from the expertise and resources of as many as 50 public, private, and nonprofit sector partners.

map of massachusetts showing new bedford

Learn about New Bedford

In the early 1800s, when whale oil lamps were a popular lighting source, New Bedford was one of the most prosperous cities in America. But after Col. Drake struck oil in western Pennsylvania in 1859, New Bedford went through its first major transition—from whaling port to fishing port and textile manufacturing center.

Most of the mills closed during the second half of the 20th century, and much of the fishing fleet declined after quotas were imposed on groundfish such as cod. Nevertheless, New Bedford remains the No. 1 commercial fishing port in America in terms of dollar value of the catch, largely because of scallops.

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Census data show that New Bedford's population peaked in 1920 at 121,217 and stood at 106,519 in 2010.

New Bedford MA
Persons under 18 years 23.2% 21.7%
Persons 65 years and over 14.6% 13.8%
American Indian and Alaska Native 1.3% 0.3%
Asian alone 0.9% 5.3%
Black or African-American alone 6.4% 6.6%
Hispanic or Latino 16.7% 9.6%
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander 0.1% 0.0%
Two or more races 5.7% 2.6%
White alone 74.5% 80.4%
White alone (not Hispanic or Latino) 67.9% 76.1%

"Gone are the whalers, but the harbor is still busy with small Portuguese fishing craft, with steamers plying between New Bedford and Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, and with coastwise freighters. New Bedford, once the fourth in the United States, is still a busy secondary port. …Even the mills, employing large numbers of English and French-Canadian operatives, have not destroyed this nautical flavor."

Massachusetts: A Guide to Its Places and People, 1937

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According to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey five-year estimates for 2007-2011, 19.7% of New Bedford residents are foreign born, compared with 14.7% statewide. The city also has sizable Portuguese and Cape Verdean populations. The origins of foreign-born residents are as follows:

  • 16.7% born in Africa
  • 3.5% born in Asia
  • 59.4% born in Europe
  • 19.7% born in Latin America,
  • 0.6% born in Northern America
  • 0.1% born in Oceania

The American Community Survey also shows that:

  • The homeownership rate is 44.2%, compared with 63.6% statewide.
  • New Bedford’s median home value is $239,900, compared with $343,500 statewide.
  • Median household income is $37,494, compared with $65,981 statewide.
  • 21.7% of New Bedford residents are below the poverty level, compared with 10.7% statewide.
  • 67.3% of New Bedford residents 25 and over have graduated high school, compared with 88.9% statewide.
  • 14.6% of residents have earned a bachelor’s degree, compared with 38.7% statewide.
  • 21.7% of New Bedford residents are below the poverty level, compared with 10.7% statewide.
link to city data snapshot of new bedford

Compare a range of demographic data for New Bedford’s low- and moderate-income populations. 
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in-depth data dashboard pdfs

Check out detailed stats on income, employment, education, health, and more provided by Clark University researchers for the Working Cities Challenge.

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According to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, as of June 2013, New Bedford’s unemployment rate was 13.6%, compared with 7.4% statewide.
Clark University researchers found that New Bedford’s five largest employers are:

  • City of New Bedford
  • St. Luke’s Hospital of New Bedford, Inc.
  • Niche, Inc.
  • Joseph Abboud Manufacturing Corp.
  • Aerovox Incorporat

Today, many people know New Bedford for its role in the ambitious wind energy project proposed for the waters off of Martha’s Vineyard. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is investing in the creation of the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal as a base for the construction and operation of offshore wind projects, although Rhode Island is also in competition for the work. For arguments pro and con the project itself, see Cape Wind and Save Our Sound.