Commerce RI board approves economic development incentives, funds streetscape projects

Stefan Pryor, R.I. commerce secretary, is shown with Gov. Gina M. Raimondo. On Monday night, Raimondo and the R.I. Commerce Corporation board awarded several grants to promote growth and business in Rhode Island.  / PBN FILE PHOTO/MICHAEL SALERNO
Stefan Pryor, R.I. commerce secretary, is shown with Gov. Gina M. Raimondo. On Monday night, Raimondo and the R.I. Commerce Corporation board awarded several grants to promote growth and business in Rhode Island. / PBN FILE PHOTO/MICHAEL SALERNO

PROVIDENCE – MassChallenge will receive $100,000 through an Innovation Matching Grant to help Rhode Island create a “powerful innovation brand” and build its reputation as “an ideal state for entrepreneurship.”
This was one of many initiatives approved Monday night by Gov. Gina M. Raimondo and the R.I. Commerce Corporation.
MassChallenge, the world’s largest business accelerator and competition program awarding over $1 million annually in prizes to small businesses, will open a new operation in Providence. The funding will support a boot camp accelerator program for Rhode Island entrepreneurs, a RI-Boston bridge-builder event, an innovation entrepreneurial ecosystem analysis for Rhode Island and an innovation roundtable summit, according to information from Commerce RI.
“Rhode Island has terrific resources to offer entrepreneurs,” MassChallenge Founder and CEO John Harthorne said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to collaborating with local innovation leaders to amplify support for startups and better connect resources across New England.”
R.I. Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor said MassChallenge will help officials “ramp up an ever stronger system of support for innovation oriented companies. And the matching grant program will simultaneously enable us to bolster the efforts of invaluable Rhode Island-based innovation organizations.”
MassChallenge was one of four organizations that will share $372,998 in Innovation Matching Grants. This program provides grants to organizations for projects that offer technical assistance, space and/or access to capital to Rhode Island small businesses in key industries.
Other Innovation Matching Grant recipients are:

  • Social Enterprise Greenhouse, a social enterprise incubator and accelerator program: $115,000 to support its SEG University programming and space expansion to accommodate an increase in venture support portfolio to include health and wellness, and food ventures.
  • Hope & Main, Rhode Island’s first food incubator and accelerator cultivating food-related ventures by offering affordable kitchen space and industry-specific technical assistance: $107,998 to support construction of a production kitchen to accommodate 21 to 24 new food ventures.
  • Practico Innovation, an incubator and accelerator program targeting technology entrepreneurs in communities of color: $50,000 to support the identification and cultivation of four to five new technology ventures, increased outreach and mentoring services and an annual pitch competition.

In addition, seven projects will share nearly $1 million in funding from the new Main Street RI Streetscape Improvement Fund:

  • Bristol: $80,000 for signage to direct visitors along Routes 114 and 136 to the downtown commercial district and available public parking.
  • Central Falls: $300,000 for façade improvements along Dexter Street, and a public art installation to conceal overhead wires for free public Wi-Fi within the commercial district.
  • East Greenwich: $32,400 for Main Street sidewalk repair to make sidewalks Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible and increase the sustainability of infrastructure in the town’s historic commercial district.
  • ONE Neighborhood Builders: $196,000 for a Providence project of structural upgrades to bus stops to improve shelter infrastructure and to increase safety and accessibility for pedestrian traffic in Olneyville Square.
  • Pawtucket: $245,000 to replace derelict storefronts near the city’s main municipal parking garage with landscaping, install a wayfinding station outside of the garage and implement a two-way traffic pattern on Main Street.
  • The Providence Foundation: $76,000 for signage around downtown Providence to direct foot and vehicle traffic to downtown commercial destinations, transit centers and landmarks.
  • Woonsocket: $70,000 for landscaping installations and the creation of drop-off areas and handicap accessibility to slow traffic, as well as curbing upgrades, in the city’s Arts District.

“The Main Street RI Streetscape Improvement Fund is a key part of our economic development strategy,” Pryor said. “Enhancing the quality of business districts across Rhode Island will help drive economic growth and make it easier to do business in Rhode Island.”

Commerce RI also approved initial allocations of federal grant money received from the Department of Defense’s Defense Industry Diversification Initiative to several vendors so that work can begin on an Innovation Center for Design and Manufacturing. The center – a part of the $2.9 million grant – will bring together Rhode Island’s design, engineering and manufacturing capabilities to help defense manufacturers diversify products and services.
“It’s a privilege being chosen to assist the Commerce Corporation in this program to support the growth and diversification of Rhode Island manufacturing companies,” Christian Cowen, center director for Polaris Manufacturing Extension Partnership, which was approved as one of the vendors for the ICDM.

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Lastly, the board awarded three Rebuild RI tax credits to construction projects:

  • A $12.2 million, 101-unit residential project in Pawtucket by Winn Development and Omni Development, will receive up to $3,657,000 in tax credits.
  • A Providence Capital III LLC project for a $15.2 million mixed-use project in the Union Trust Company Building at 170 Westminster St. in Providence will receive up to $3,036,032 in credits.
  • A Nordblom Development Co. and Cornish Associates project to build a $48.4 million mixed-use building with market-rate residential units and ground floor retail at 78 Fountain St. in Providence, next to the Providence Journal building, will receive up to $6,115,119 in tax credits.

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