$40M Rhode Island Ready economic-development initiative unveiled

STATE OFFICIALS introduced Wednesday the new $40 million statewide Rhode Island Ready economic development initiative designed to prepare sites to host new companies and bring new jobs to the state.
STATE OFFICIALS on Wednesday introduced the new $40 million statewide Rhode Island Ready economic- development initiative designed to prepare sites to host new companies and bring jobs to the state.

NORTH KINGSTOWN – Over the last decade, Quonset Business Park’s site-readiness program has created more than 3,500 jobs and approximately $682 million in private investments across the 19 developed sites and 41 companies.

Overall, the state’s largest business park and major economic engine houses more than 200 companies and 12,000 employees on about 3,700 acres.

On Wednesday, state officials unveiled a new $40 million program designed to stretch the business park’s success beyond Quonset Point to attract additional industries across Rhode Island.

Gov. Daniel J. McKee, along with R.I. Commerce Corp. and Quonset Development Corp. officials, introduced the Rhode Island Ready economic-development initiative. The program, in partnership with R.I. Commerce and QDC, is a statewide industrial initiative to prepare sites to host new industrial companies within all 39 cities and towns in the Ocean State, bringing more jobs and tax revenue to each municipality in the process.

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“This initiative will help cities and towns make the most of properties already zoned industrial, creating jobs and economic development that will benefit the entire state,” McKee said in a statement. “This is an important investment in our state, and I’m confident that the program can replicate Quonset’s success with site readiness.”

Chelsea Siefert, Quonset Development Corp.’s director of planning and development and Rhode Island Ready program manager, told Providence Business News the program’s focus will be for the state to reach out to property owners who have industrial-zoned sites and municipalities that may need assistance with its industrial-zoned districts to “activate those sites” to be ready for business opportunities as they arrive.

“If a municipality has an industrial district that is underperforming, they can apply to enroll in the program to get assistance to get whatever they need to capitalize on that district,” Siefert said, “whether it’s a water line or sewer line. We can help get that district functioning in the best way possible.”

In addition to speaking to local municipal planners, Siefert said state is hoping to have a discussion with the R.I. League of Cities and Towns about the new program to further its program outreach. Industrial property owners and municipalities can apply online at RIReady.org to enroll in the program.

Siefert said the industry focus for this program is based on the bond that was passed by voters last year. The bond specified for industrial uses, including warehousing, distribution, manufacturing, supply chains and offshore wind-related uses, to be eligible for the program.

“We want to make opportunities for all of those uses,” she said. “[This program] is really about creating industrial jobs.”

Siefert said the state will look at development feasibility of submitted proposals from interested industrial property owners and municipalities looking to apply to the program. If those sites are deemed feasible for development, they are enrolled in the program and gain access from the state technical assistance – site engineering, surveying and permitting – to get the site ready to hold a business location, Siefert said.

Some of the $40 million in program funding will also be used for capital investments, Siefert said, either making them “pad-ready” or perform off-site infrastructure, such as a bridge improvement or installing traffic lights.

Along with preparing the sites for industrial use, the program requires sites that will allow existing industrial uses or facilities to “significantly” expand; be about 10 acres in size or capable of holding a building approximately 100,000 square feet in size; and are either within a mile of a state highway or zoned for industrial or offshore wind support uses.

The program also has a four-step “Pathway to Green” process that outlines the measures from the application evaluation (Red); to technical assistance, such as full-site engineering and cost estimates (Orange); to capital investment for site improvements (Yellow); and finally having the site pre-permitted and ready to support a business (Green).

Siefert said the application review process and enrolling a site in the program could take between one to two months, depending on the request types. She said the speed of the process to “green” is dictated on how fast the property owners wish to proceed, while also doing the proper work that the program requires.

“We want to bring these sites to a state that can produce jobs as quickly as possible,” Siefert said.

James Bessette is the PBN special projects editor, and also covers the nonprofit and education sectors. You may reach him at Bessette@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter at @James_Bessette.

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