This past spring, I released “Putting Providence Back to Work,” a roadmap for improving the business climate, infrastructure and human capital of Rhode Island’s capital city.
In slightly more than three months since its release, my administration has made important progress in implementing this plan and jump-starting our city’s local economy.
In my plan, I called for freezing the city’s commercial tax rate. Our commercial taxes are among the highest in the country and are acting as a barrier to economic growth and development in Providence.
Working with the City Council, we froze the commercial tax rate this year – sending a clear message that Providence is serious about attracting new business. I look forward to the day when economic growth in the city enables us to lower the tax rate.
My administration is taking further steps to ensure that it is easy to do business in Providence, including modernizing our permitting process so that city government is more efficient and responsive to the needs of builders and developers. To ease backlogs in the permit review process, we have created a new unit in the Department of Inspections and Standards that will focus exclusively on simple, smaller projects.
Later this summer, the city will begin to move its plan-review and permit-application processes online, improving efficiency and turnaround times for local developers.
We need to do even more to remove barriers to redevelopment. In my economic-development action plan, I committed the city to actively engage in the redevelopment of key projects. This work is being spearheaded by the Providence Redevelopment Agency. The PRA is taking a leadership role in the redevelopment of Washington Street’s Arnold Building.
My administration is also working closely with Brown University, the University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College to bring to fruition a jointly run, critically needed nursing school to Providence’s vacant Dynamo House. This will provide education and job opportunities for Rhode Islanders and transform one of Providence’s most iconic landmarks.
We are working closely with a range of stakeholders to bring together a new vision for Kennedy Plaza. This vision will reaffirm Downtown Providence as a center of commerce, culture and community. To complement this effort, we are entering Phase 3 of the Downtown Circulator project, which calls for vehicular and pedestrian improvements from LaSalle Square to Kennedy Plaza. These improvements will make downtown Providence a more-pedestrian, bicycle- and car-friendly area.
Later this summer, we will launch a new marketing effort that showcases Providence and invites visitors to enjoy what our residents enjoy every day.
Last November, Providence voters overwhelmingly approved a major capital infrastructure investment that will repave approximately one out of every six roads in the city. We began our road-improvement project this past spring in lower South Providence, and work is continuing throughout the city so that businesses and residents can enjoy the long-lasting impact of this investment for years to come.
Providence’s fiscal 2014 budget reflects our strong commitment to economic growth. In addition to freezing the commercial tax rate, we are making critical investments in education, public safety and infrastructure. This budget makes the investments necessary to grow our local economy and to ensure that Providence remains a great place to run a business, own a home and raise a family.
Whether it is the restoration that has brought new life to buildings, including the Arcade, the Providence Gas Co. and the C.J. Fox complex, or the vibrancy of our summer farmers markets and neighborhood performing-arts initiative, Providence is filled with a new sense of entrepreneurial energy and optimism.
Working together, we have accomplished an incredible amount in the last 30 months. Thanks to the sacrifice and forward-thinking leadership of many – including our business community – we have pulled Providence back from the brink of bankruptcy and positioned our city as an engine for economic growth throughout Rhode Island and beyond.
We have demonstrated that with collaboration and shared vision, hard work and sacrifice, we can achieve great things. Now, guided by an aggressive economic-development plan and supported by a stable fiscal foundation, we are putting Providence back to work. •