Our view: City's investment in seafood expo is money well spent

Of all the initiatives begun last year by then-interim Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken, the return of the city to the international Seafood Expo North America in Boston was a no-brainer, given Theken’s deep ties to the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association.

By all accounts, the endeavor was a success. The city’s booth stood out amid a sea of sterile, cardboard convention center displays, thanks to the presence of the mayor and Angela Sanfilippo, president of the Fishermen’s Wives, and a bubbling, aromatic pot of redfish soup. That end product — the food people actually put in their mouths — is as emblematic of the Gloucester fishing industry as its hard-working fleet or the Man at the Wheel. Gloucester fishes so people can eat. What better way to bring home the point than with 40 steaming gallons of fish stew?

The end result was an increased awareness of the Gloucester brand, and a series of meetings among city officials, waterfront businesses and potential clients from the United States and abroad. It’s exactly the kind of result one would hope for from a long weekend’s attendance at a trade expo.

Last year’s expo, in fact, is still paying off: On the Monday of this year’s event, the city will play host to potential buyers and trade representatives from more than a dozen countries, including Canada, Turkey, Mexico, Iceland, Taiwan, Morocco, Spain, Indonesia and the Netherlands. Those are real contacts.

This year, the city is essentially doubling down.

“Based on last year, we know there’s a great deal of interest in meeting with Gloucester companies and the city of Gloucester,” Patrick J. Bench of Benchmark Strategies told waterfront reporter Sean Horgan. Bench is helping the city come up with a plan for this year’s expo, slated to be held March 6-8 at the Boston Convention and Exposition Center. The city is hoping to make an even bigger splash this year as the only Massachusetts municipality to have a presence at the show.

Gloucester is putting $10,000 toward the event, and a myriad of local businesses and development groups are donating in-kind food and/or services. For example:

The Gloucester Economic Development and Industrial Corporation is matching the city’s spending with a $10,000 grant of its own.