1Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center
Benedict Posadas is an Associate Extension/Research Professor of Economics at the Mississippi State University, Coastal Research and Extension Center and Marine Economist at the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Extension Program
Sea Grant, an organization with a history of working closely with water-dependent industries, has documented many examples where research, education, and outreach (REO) programs have increased private-sector economic activity, including the creation or expansion of businesses and jobs. Yet, there has not been a systematic survey in the Gulf region to assess the full scope of these impacts. This preliminary study provides general information about the benefits the region’s industries have gained from REO efforts sponsored by the Gulf of Mexico Sea Grant Programs. The study is a critical first step in conducting a future systematic assessment of the economic benefits resulting from these programs.
The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium (MASGC) has four focus areas: (1) Environmental Literacy and Workforce Development, (2) Healthy Coastal Ecosystems, (3) Resilient Communities and Economies, and (4) Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture. The North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) was used to identify the U.S. industries targeted by MASGC-REO efforts during the past decade.
Under “sustainable fisheries and aquaculture,” the following industries were listed: (1) commercial fishing, (2) seafood processing, (3) seafood wholesaling, (4) seafood retailing, (5) marine aquaculture, and (6) live-bait dealers.
The “healthy coastal ecosystems” focus area includes (1) research and development in biotechnology; (2) research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences; and (3) research and development in the social sciences and humanities.
Under “resilient communities and economies,” these industries were identified: (1) working waterfronts, (2) commercial marinas, (3) charter boats for hire, (4) saltwater recreational fishing, (5) wildlife watching, (6) coastal restoration, and (6) ship building and repair.
Under the focus area “environmental literacy and workforce development,” five industries were identified: (1) other justice, public order, and safety activities; (2) administration of air and water resource and solid waste management programs; (3) administration of general economic programs; (4) regulation of agricultural marketing and commodities; and (5) household sector.
The long-term data on the economic contributions of the targeted industries to the regional economy of each of the five Gulf States were compiled from various secondary sources. The time-series economic indicators consist of the annual sales and employment impacts of each sector served by Sea Grant projects. In some cases, only the direct employment impacts were available for compilation. When assessing the initial economic impacts on the U.S. industry or economic sectors by Sea Grant projects, these time-series economic indicators set the upper limits to the annual impacts that these projects can generate.
There is a pressing need to adequately measure the significant contributions of Sea Grant projects to targeted U.S. industries or economic sectors. Principal investigators and project managers should consider developing robust theoretical frameworks and primary survey procedures when designing and evaluating the long-term economic impacts and economic benefits associated with each proposed project. These performance measures can be evaluated by project staff and/or outside evaluators.