UMass Students Study Business in New Bedford

UMass MBA Students Study City’s Business Needs

NEW BEDFORD – Sixteen graduate students from the University of Massachusetts–Dartmouth Charlton School of Business, worked closely with Mayor Scott W. Lang’s office and the New Bedford Economic Development Council on a month-long project aimed at improving the business climate throughout the city.

The project – part of a “Business Innovation and Creativity” course taught by Prof. Garry Clayton of New Zealand, who has published on such topics as professional education, leadership, innovation and strategy met in the fourth-floor loft space at the mayor’s office, at New Bedford City Hall to launch the project.

The students targeted three inner-city regions – the North End, South End and Downtown business districts – seeking to identify the business needs of each area and recommend ways to encourage each to flourish in a manner that complements the city’s own Master Plan.

A strong proponent of this kind of town-gown partnership, Mayor Lang said,
“This represents a powerful and meaningful way the university and the city
can partner to impact lives of city residents.”

The students spent their first week becoming oriented to the city and its businesses, and their second week administering a survey of the targeted areas. During the third week, they collected and logged the data compiled. In the project’s final week, three teams of four each presented to city officials a 25-page report, outlining their recommendations for the target areas.

Accepting the students’ formal report, NBEDC Executive Director stated, “The work of these sixteen graduate students provides us with a backbone of information that we can build upon to create a better business atmosphere across the city.

Morrissey said the project will be a piece of the puzzle, helping provide the city with the information it needs to decide how to improve its support of local businesses.

Due to the shortness of their study, the students were not able to produce a price tag on their recommendations, but many of the immediate goals were low budget items. Each group presented projects that could be implemented on both a short- and long-term basis. Throughout the three presentations, two themes reoccurred: a need for neighborhood involvement in any changes or initiatives to be made, and a need for a beautification program especially at the city’s gateways.

Eileen Peacock, dean of the Charlton College of Business, said the focus of the program was to create an environment where students can generate innovative solutions to real-world business problems. “Instead of being constrained by normal thinking, we wanted them to devise strategies by using all aspects of business theory. We wanted them to think outside the box here,” she said. “Although we don’t know exactly what will come of this, it may help to identify other projects we may do later on down the line with the city.”

Recommendations ranged from: cleaning up commercial building façades, setting planters and hanging banners – to providing better lighting, public art, and more green space – to those requiring capital investment like building bandstands or a sports complex or providing floating docks in Clark’s Cove. The recommendations offered were a result of carefully collecting and compiling survey data while considering practical elements such as building on existing infrastructure and cultural aspects of the city. The students produced detail maps and charts of their often imaginative and fresh ideas.