Andy Cutler, founder of Cutler & Co., has spent the past two years and plenty of his own money working on an initiative that aims to connect Providence with other smaller cities around the world. Drawn to the similarities between Providence and Copenhagen, he selected the Danish city as the first focus of Smaller Cities Unite!, an initiative designed to link Rhode Island’s capital with other cities that have populations of 1.5 million or less, and that share commonalities such as student engagement, economic development, policy, entrepreneurship and arts and culture. After months of forging virtual connections with residents of Copenhagen and trying to build local support, Cutler recently traveled to the city. He spent 11 days there discussing ways to form lasting connections between the two cities.
Providence Mayor Angel Taveras supports the concept. Cutler says he’s raised some money from donors to help defray his costs but declined to say how much. He says he hasn’t decided yet whether to be a nonprofit or for-profit entity.
He hopes to continue the dialogue but says he needs to raise more money to help support what is now a one-man operation.
PBN: In a nutshell, what is Smaller Cities Unite!?
CUTLER: It’s a platform for cross pollination of culture, both domestic and international. I moved [to Providence] in 2003 … and about two years ago, I said to myself, “Gosh, you know, why aren’t we playing more on a global stage than we are? Why don’t people know about us around the world?” And I’m not suggesting we don’t have any global presence, but I’m talking about on a different level. I started asking myself questions like, “What if cities with complimentary resources and assets could work together? What if we viewed what we did as exportable – so knowledge as an export as opposed to a hard good? … And so that kind of led me down another path of looking at those relationships that were currently in existence. … Providence’s sister cities are Riga, Latvia; Santa Domingo in the Dominican Republic; Florence, Italy and Phnom Penh, [Cambodia]. How those places got selected, and what we do with them, is a big mystery. We have these relationships on paper and on paper only, and so what I was looking at was establishing something that was a lot more substantive, things like connecting entrepreneurs - really engaging them – economic development, introducing some of the products that are based here into other markets.