Rhode Island

Rhode Island Economic Development Incentives Secure Ivory Ella Relocation

The Rhode Island Commerce Corporation Board of Directors has approved incentives for a new hotel project, the redevelopment of an old mill, and the relocation of jobs by a socially-conscious online retailer that helps save elephants.

Ivory Ella

Ivory Ella (photo – ivoryella.com)

Ivory Ella is an online retailer that strives to introduce virtuous aspects of commercial and charitable practices into its business, and subsequently donates 10 percent of their net profits to wildlife conservation non-profit Save the Elephants, and other such causes.

The company will relocate 40 of its current jobs from Connecticut to Westerly, RI. Out of these 40 jobs, nineteen are being incented under a Rhode Island economic development program called the Qualified Jobs Incentive Tax Credit.

Furthermore, the company has committed to creating at least another 20 new jobs over the next three years, bringing the cumulative total to 60 jobs. All told, the Board approved approximately $362,055 in tax credits under the Qualified Jobs Incentive Tax Credit Program for Ivory Ella.

Ivory Ella CEO and Founder Ryan Duranso explained in a statement that they evaluated nearly 40 locations in numerous communities, focusing the search on the region around our existing locations in Connecticut.

“Incentives and programs, including the Qualified Jobs Incentive Credit, the Rhode Island Governor’s Workforce Board and Westerly Real Jobs all were important factors in our decision,” said Duranso.

Duranso also mentioned that the facility they are moving into in Westerly, formerly housing The Paragon, offered room to expand, a supportive building owner and a very welcoming community.

Governor Gina M. Raimondo likewise noted that “Companies are choosing to relocate and grow in Rhode Island because our state is a great place to live, work, and do business.”

The RI Commerce Board also approved $3 million in its first Tax Increment Financing agreement for a $24.5 million hotel project – the Homewood Suites Hotel –Exchange Street LLC. This is a 120-room hotel project with ground floor retail located in downtown Providence, RI.

Finally, the Board also approved approximately $3.6 million in Rebuild Rhode Island tax credits to be issued over five years to support the adaptive reuse of the historic but vacant Pontiac Mills complex along the Pawtuxet River in Warwick into approximately 200,000 square feet of mixed-use development. This is a $34.6 million redevelopment project.

RI Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor added that “The projects announced today demonstrate that our economic development tools are continuing to bring new jobs and new investment to our state.”

Rhode Island Approves Seven Industry Cluster Economic Development Grant Awards

The Rhode Island Commerce Corporation Board of Directors has approved seven grants awards totaling nearly $750,000 in funding under the Industry Cluster Grant program.

RI Industry Cluster Grants

RI Industry Cluster Grants (photo – commerceri.com)

This Rhode Island economic development grant program encourages companies in an industry sector to work together to solve problems, exchange ideas and develop talent in key clusters in the areas of R&D, tech transfer, workforce development, and marketing.

The Industry Cluster Grant Program is a new tool created with an initial allocation of $750,000 in this year’s fiscal budget. Grants of $75,000 to $250,000 are available to fund planning and organization building for the cluster, and grants of $100,000 to $500,000 are available to implement programs that strengthen their cluster.

The Rhode Island Commerce Corporation received 26 applications seeking over $5.7 million in funding under the first round of grant awards. Out of these, the board has approved seven grant awards totaling $748,640 in funding.

Governor Gina Raimondo said in a statement that “These grants will make it easier for industries with some of the highest potential for growth to come together to collaborate, innovate, and overcome barriers to success.”

For example, the Highlander Institute was awarded a technical assistance grant of $149,750 to leverage compact size and existing education networks as a unique platform for education technology product developers to test new products. The project is expected to enhance Rhode Island as an Edtech Hub that can retain and recruit talent and businesses.

The other six projects that are receiving funding under the Industry Cluster Grant Program are:

DesignXRI – Technical assistance grant of $100,000 to make Rhode Island design expertise visible through marketing materials and promote design as an important investment for Rhode Island businesses.

International Yacht Restoration School, Inc. – Technical assistance grant of $75,290 to develop plans for a “Mobile Maker Lab.”

Polaris & RI Composites – Technical assistance grant of $99,600 to promote the adoption of composites as a new material for manufactured products.

Partnership for a Greater Future Providence & Southside Community Land Trust – Technical assistance grant of $115,000 to grow urban food cluster businesses.

Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance – Implementation grant of $109,000 to provide small firms with information on Department of Defense and Homeland Security budgets, programs and points of contact.

Rhode Island Manufacturers Association – Implementation grant of $100,000 to increase access to advanced manufacturing facilities and expand local supply chains.

Rhode Island Secretary of Commerce Stefan Pryor noted that “These grants, in concert with our other innovation-focused programs, are making our business ecosystem ever stronger.”

Rhode Island Awards Main Street Streetscape and Innovation Network Matching Grants

Governor Gina M. Raimondo and the RI Commerce Corporation Board of Directors have announced approval of Rhode Island economic development incentives, including through use of newly created tools and programs, to spur business growth, construction projects and job creation.

Main Street RI Streetscape Improvement Fund

Photo – ri.gov

The new tools used, passed as part of Gov. Raimondo’s budget in partnership with the General Assembly, include the Main Street RI Streetscape Improvement Fund, the Innovation Network Matching Grant program and the Rebuild Rhode Island tax credit program.

Gov. Raimondo said in a statement that “We are continuing to deploy our economic development tools as we move Rhode Island’s economy forward on all fronts.” The Governor added that “Together these initiatives will help make our economy stronger for the long term and put Rhode Islanders back to work.”

Several cities and towns have been awarded the first round of funding under the new Main Street RI Streetscape Improvement Fund, which provides funding to enhance central business districts. A total of seven projects are receiving a total of $999,400 under this Fund, as follows:

Bristol ($800,000) – Signage to direct visitors along Routes 114 and 136 to the downtown commercial district and available public parking.

Central Falls ($300,000) – Facade improvements along Dexter Street, a public art installation to conceal overhead wires, and the provision of free public Wi-Fi within the commercial district.

East Greenwich ($32,400) – Main Street sidewalk repair to make them ADA-accessible and increase the sustainability of infrastructure in the town’s historic commercial district.

ONE Neighborhood Builders ($196,000) – Providence project of structural upgrades to bus stops to improve shelter infrastructure and to increase the safety and accessibility for pedestrian traffic in Olneyville Square.

Pawtucket ($245,000) -Replace derelict storefronts on the ground level of 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) – Signage around downtown Providence to direct foot and vehicle traffic to downtown commercial destinations, transit centers, and landmarks.

Woonsocket ($70,000) – 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.

Rhode Island Secretary of Commerce Stefan Pryor said in a statement that “The Main Street RI Streetscape Improvement Fund is a key part of our economic development strategy.” Sec. Pryor added that enhancing the quality of business districts across Rhode Island will help drive economic growth and make it easier to do business in Rhode Island.

The RI Commerce Corporation Board also awarded Innovation Network Matching Grants totaling $372,998 to four organizations. These grants are meant for intermediary organizations for projects that offer technical assistance, space, and/or access to capital to Rhode Island small businesses in key industries. The four awardees receiving grants under this program are as follows:

Social Enterprise Greenhouse ($115,000) – SEG is getting this grant 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 ($107,998) – Rhode Island’s first food incubator and accelerator is receiving this grant to support the buildout of a production kitchen that will accommodate 21-24 new food ventures.

Practico Innovation ($50,000) – This incubator and accelerator program targeting technology entrepreneurs in communities of color is getting funding to support the identification and cultivation of 4-5 new technology ventures, increased outreach and mentoring services, and hosting of an annual pitch competition.

MassChallenge ($100,000) – This business accelerator and competition program is getting funding to support a boot camp accelerator program for RI entrepreneurs, a RI-Boston bridge-builder event, an innovation entrepreneurial ecosystem analysis for Rhode Island, and an innovation roundtable summit.

The RI Commerce Corporation Board also awarded three Rebuild RI tax credits to construction projects in Providence and Pawtucket.

Another major step forward was the approval of initial allocations of federal grant funding received from DoD’s Defense Industry Diversification Initiative. Several vendors received funding under this initiative to begin work on the Innovation Center for Design and Manufacturing (ICDM) that will help defense manufacturers diversify their products and services in order to access new markets and grow the economy.

Rhode Island Senate’s Grow Green Jobs RI Legislative Action Plan

Later today, President of the Rhode Island Senate M. Teresa Paiva Weed will host a roundtable discussion of the Senate’s new Legislative Action Plan entitled “Grow Green Jobs RI” and related legislation.

RI Statehouse

RI Statehouse (photo – Infrogmation/wikimedia)

Currently, Rhode Island’s clean energy economy already supports 9,832 jobs across 1,295 business establishments.

In addition to the jobs created by energy efficiency program investments, there is another job creator that results from consumer savings on energy bills. When businesses and households see reduced energy costs, they are able to spend elsewhere in the economy, resulting in additional jobs. On average, this shift in spending supports about 17 jobs per $1 million.

The legislative action plan is intended to take advantage of such factors and facilitate job creation in a wide spectrum of green industries such as renewable energy, conservation, constructing environmentally sound infrastructure, agriculture, seafood, and recycling.

The recommendations in the Grow Green Jobs RI Legislative Action Plan report are listed under eight broad categories. The first one is about expanding workforce development opportunities. Recommendations under this category include an expansion of the Real Jobs RI planning and implementation grants program to include green industries.

Real Jobs RI is a recently launched demand-driven Rhode Island economic development initiative that is collaborative, flexible and business-led. The program aims to address the skills gap across various industries in Rhode Island, from manufacturing to healthcare.

The report also recommends that the Governor’s Workforce Board should create workforce training programs to support well-paying clean energy jobs, including establishing career pathways and internships to ensure accessibility at all income levels.

The second category lists recommendations related to creation of educational and training pathways for jobs in the green economy. This includes encouraging public higher education institutions to further develop degree programs leading to employment in the areas of climate change risk evaluation, sustainability, resiliency and adaptation.

Another recommendation is to encourage public higher education institutions to partner with green sector businesses to identify areas of job demand and to develop certificate and degree programs in a public report. The report also suggests Incentivizing the creation and expansion of STEM/STEAM into all Rhode Island elementary and secondary schools.

A third category deals with recommendations for supporting the growth of renewable energy industries. The report suggests incentivizing in-state generation of renewable energy by expanding the Renewable Energy Growth (REG) Program, ensuring that more jobs and the economic benefits of renewable energy stay in Rhode Island.

Another recommendation is to extend the Renewable Energy Standard (RES) that provides for annual increases in the percentage of electricity from renewable sources that National Grid supplies to its customers.

Here’s the full list of the eight categories under the Grow Green Jobs RI Legislative Action Plan:

  1. Expand workforce development opportunities;
  2. Create educational and training pathways for jobs in the green economy;
  3. Support the growth of renewable energy industries;
  4. Expand energy efficiency programs to include delivered fuels;
  5. Enhance the growth of renewable thermal industries;
  6. Reduce costs to continue the growth of Rhode Island’s solar industry;
  7. Expand Rhode Island’s agriculture and seafood industries; and
  8. Apply strategies that increase recycling and reuse, creating resources and local jobs.

Rhode Island Awards Grants For Promoting Growth of Green Economy

As part of its efforts to expand the state’s green economy, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) has announced the availability of $380,000 in grant funding to local small businesses under two different programs.

RI LASA grants

RI LASA grants (photo – dem.ri.gov)

The programs in question are the Local Agriculture and Seafood Act (LASA) and federally funded Farm Viability program. The Rhode Island economic development grants under these programs are being awarded to increase the competitiveness of state products in the marketplace and help local farmers and food partners grow their businesses.

DEM Director Janet Coit said in a release that “We’re proud to invest in the continued growth of local food and green industries and to support the many new businesses, working families, and innovative initiatives funded under these programs.”

In partnership with the Rhode Island Food Policy Council, the LASA grant program provides up to $20,000 awards to new and small farmers, producer groups, and non-profits to support the growth and sustainability of Rhode Island’s farming, aquaculture, and seafood industries. LASA is a public-private partnership funded through the state with generous support from charirable foundations.

Kenneth Payne, Chair of the Rhode Island Food Policy Council, said in the release that “Adequate nutritious food is essential to human wellbeing and the bedrock of economic development.” Payne added that LASA is a building block in strengthening Rhode Island’s agriculture and seafood sectors.

The Farm Viability Grant Program, funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, supports efforts to increase specialty crop production and grow the marketplace for these crops in Rhode Island.

The grants, which are open to individual farmers or agricultural or educational groups, fund projects up to two years in duration that support the continued vitality of local agriculture. To date, DEM has awarded more than $2 million in Farm Viability grants to support the competitiveness of locally-grown specialty crops.

In addition to these grant programs, DEM also works across many fronts to accelerate growth of the local food economy, which supports 60,000 jobs in Rhode Island.  Rhode Island’s food system now includes 1,243 farms, an increase of 44 percent from 2002, and nearly 70,000 acres of farmland. The state’s green industries alone account for more than 15,000 jobs and contribute $2.5 billion to the economy.

For grant guidelines and to apply, visit dem.ri.gov. Grant awards will be announced as part of the Rhode Island Agriculture Day held each spring.

Rhode Island Awards $3.7M in Brownfields Remediation and Economic Development Fund Grants

RI Governor Gina Raimondo announced the award of $3.7 million in matching grants under the new Brownfields Remediation and Economic Development Fund for 14 projects.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island (photo – taberandrew/flickr)

The grants will fund Rhode Island economic development projects that support more than 2,700 jobs, with a focus on cleaning up blighted property and promoting redevelopment, particularly along the state’s urban corridor.

Grants for both site preparation and redevelopment projects will be issued to municipalities, non-profit organizations and private entities throughout the state.

Five of the 14 grants are site preparation grants for sites that have already been identified as a brownfield based on previous site investigations, but lack an approved clean-up plan. The grant proceeds can be used to fill gaps that exist in supporting data and/or to develop and analyze potential remedial strategies necessary to clean up and develop the site.

The remaining nine are redevelopment grants, which fund remediation as well as redevelopment, being awarded to sites with an approved clean-up plan.

Here’s the full list of the 14 Brownfields Remediation and Economic Development Fund grant awards.

Site Preparation Grants:

45 Division Street/School Street, Pawtucket (City of Pawtucket) – $100,000;

65 Manchester Street, West Warwick (Evolution Mill) – $23,760;

Taft Street, Pawtucket (Town Landing) -$80,000;

90 Bay Spring Avenue, Barrington (Bay Spring Realty) – $34,426; and

825 Main Street, West Warwick (Lippitt Mill) – $40,000

Redevelopment Grants:

342 and 350 Eddy Street | 11 & 15 Point Street,  Providence (South Street Landing) – $496,650;

59, 65, 70 Blackstone Avenue, Pawtucket (Blackstone Pawtucket) – $295,456;

500 Wood Street, Bristol (Bristol Industrial Park) – $427,737;

5 Exchange Street, Providence (Parcel 12) – $175,036;

152 Dudley Street, Providence (Ronald McDonald House) – $150,000

300 Bourne Avenue, East Providence (East Pointe -Ocean State Steel) – $240,000;

31-39 Manton Avenue, Providence (ONE New Builders/Paragon Mills) – $425,000;

310 Bourne Avenue, East Providence (Phillipsdale) – $500,000;

17 Canal Street, Westerly (Westerly Higher Education and Job Skills Center) – $712,000

Rhode Island voters approved creation of the Brownfields Remediation and Economic Development Fund with the passage of the 2014 Clean Water, Open Space, and Healthy Communities Bond. Grant funding covers up to 80 percent of a project’s cost, while a 20 percent match is required.

It is estimated that Rhode Island has between 10,000 to 12,000 brownfields sites, many of which occupy desirable commercial and industrial space within the state’s urban corridor.

“Redeveloping brownfields is a win all around for Rhode Island,” said Gov. Raimondo in a release announcing the grant awards. “We’re cleaning up blighted properties, creating jobs, opening up valuable real estate, and promoting public health.”

Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management Director Janet Coit added that “Decades of effort have gone into improving the health of our lands and waters, and we’ve made significant progress. Cleaning up these former industrial sites is yet another critical step forward in safeguarding these precious resources and ensuring Rhode Island remains a wonderful place to visit, live, and raise a family.”

U.S. States Lead Under 2 MOU Climate Agreement Expansion at COP21

California not being an official UN member state isn’t stopping Governor Jerry Brown from leading the way at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) at Paris.

Under 2 MOU event at COP21

Under 2 MOU event at COP21 (press photo – Stéphane Lemouton/ca.gov)

On his second full day in Paris for COP21, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. and U.S. Ambassador to France Jane D. Hartley welcomed 15 new signatories to the Under 2 MOU climate agreement at a signing ceremony hosted at the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence in Paris.

The Under 2 MOU is an agreement to limit the increase in global average temperature to below 2 degrees Celsius, the warming threshold at which scientists say there will likely be catastrophic climate disruptions.

This is the level which the COP21 talks are seeking to achieve by getting member states to agree on levels for emissions cuts and clean energy technology investments. California, Vermont and other states and jurisdictions aren’t waiting around for such a global agreement, and have forged their own path towards this goal with the help of agreements such as the Under 2 MOU.

Under this particular agreement, signatories commit to either reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80 to 95 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 or achieving a per capita annual emission target of less than 2 metric tons by 2050. These targets allow each individual government to tailor emission reduction plans to fit regional needs.

Since California first began seeking signatories to the Under 2 MOU in May, a total of 80 jurisdictions representing 22 countries and six continents have signed or endorsed it. Together, the signatories now represent more than 614 million people and $18.6 trillion in GDP, equivalent to nearly a quarter of the global economy.

“Make no mistake, as leaders of the world’s cities, states and regions, we are on the front lines in the battle to combat climate change,” said Governor Brown, in a release issued by the Governor’s Office.

Among the 15 new signatories is Rhode Island, which became the ninth American state to join the Under 2 MOU. Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo said in the release that “Rhode Island is making every effort to address climate change and mitigate its impacts on the environment, public health, and the economic strength of our communities… We look forward to working within our borders and with our partners nationally and around the world to achieve a strong, sustainable, clean energy future.”

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin is one of the three governors attending COP21 in person. Vermont is already a signatory to the Under 2 MOU, and the Governor will be participating in the Driving Climate Action through Compact and Under2 MOU event hosted by the Network of Regional Governments for Sustainable Development and the Climate Group.

“I am proud to join leaders from around the world who are serious about climate action and working towards regional, national, and global agreements that will curb the devastating effects of global warming,” said Gov. Shumlin in a release.

For more information on the agreement, visit www.under2mou.org.

Boston Fed Selects Rhode Island For Working Cities Challenge Economic Development Program

The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston announced that Rhode Island will be the second state for its Working Cities Challenge competition.

Working Cities Challenge

Working Cities Challenge (photo – bostonfed.org)

Working Cities Challenge was launched by the Boston Fed in 2013 in Massachusetts with the aim of improving public-private cooperation and collaboration in smaller cities, and support economic development projects to help improve the lives of low-income families.

In January 2014, six cities in Massachusetts received $1.8 million in funding for projects to address issues impacting low-income communities. Funding for a similar process in Rhode Island will be provided by the state, the Rhode Island Foundation, Living Cities, and other public and private partners.

The State has committed $150,000 in matching funds annually for the next three years that will be provided through a collaboration of the RI Commerce Corporation, Department of Labor and Training and RI Housing.

In a release announcing the state’s participation in this project, Gov. Raimondo said that “Rhode Island is committed to economic development. Everyone has a role to play in our state’s comeback and my administration wants to make sure that no one is left behind in this process.”

Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor added that collaborative efforts like this help to build upon new Rhode Island economic development initiatives including the Main Street Rhode Island streetscape improvement fund, the tax stabilization agreement incentive program, and the Rebuild Rhode Island tax credit program.

Federal Reserve Bank of Boston President Eric Rosengren noted that many partners have come together to make this possible – precisely the model of cross-sector collaboration that forms the basis of the Working Cities Challenge.

The Boston Fed modeled the Working Cities Challenge program as a regional model of the Living Cities “The Integration Initiative” which targets inner-city populations in large cities. Research conducted by Boston Fed on small cities showed that many of the smaller cities had managed to recover their economic stability with the help of collaborative leadership, infrastructure investments and the assistance of anchor institutions.

Depending on the success of the Working Cities Challenge in Massachusetts, the Boston Fed had at that time planned to expand it to other New England states.

Rhode Island Foundation President and CEO Neil Steinberg said in the release that this model has been rolled out successfully in Massachusetts, and they look forward to helping lead the effort in Rhode Island.

President and CEO of Living Cities Ben Hecht added that the success of the Boston Fed’s Working Cities Challenge in Massachusetts further underscores the need for more public-private cooperation and investment in smaller and medium-sized cities.

A steering committee is being assembled to design the framework for the competition in Rhode Island, which is expected to be launched early next year. The grant application process and eligibility criteria will be announced later this year.

Navy-Rhode Island Economic Development Partnership to Strengthen Defense and Ocean Technology Sectors

The U.S. Navy’s Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) has announced a new joint partnership with the State of Rhode Island focused on defense commercialization and diversification.

NUWC Newport

NUWC Newport (photo – navy.mil)

As part of this partnership, NUWC will place an employee on a two-year assignment to the offices of Rhode Island economic development agency Commerce RI in order to strengthen the defense and ocean technology sectors’ contribution to the state economy.

The partnership will focus on supporting defense commercialization by growing business opportunities for start-ups and small- to medium-size businesses with capabilities relevant to undersea and naval technologies.

The NUWC-RI partnership will be able to leverage NUWC’s intellectual property, patents, lab facilities, capabilities, personnel and expertise in undersea technologies to help the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation meet its economic development goals for defense diversification and commercialization.

The NUWC position at Commerce RI will serve as the state’s expert for developing policies and programs to implement technology transfer with NUWC and other federal labs, in addition to providing expert insight about coordinating a Rhode Island-based technology transfer pilot.

In a release announcing the partnership, Rear Adm. Michael Jabaley, Prospective Program Executive Officer Submarines (PEO Subs) and former commander of the NUWC, said that the position will assist the Commerce Corporation in identifying and attracting Rhode Island businesses and academic institutions that have technology developments or requirements in common with NUWC.

Governor Gina M. Raimondo said in the release that “Through this partnership with the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, we will develop bigger and better ways to work together to advance our technology, foster innovation in government, and create jobs.”

Gov. Raimondo added that this is a great example of the type of smart, new approaches needed to jumpstart the economy and spark Rhode Island’s comeback.

RI Secretary of Commerce Stefan Pryor said in the release that this partnership will help them to strengthen Rhode Island’s already well-positioned defense and ocean technology industries. Sec. Pryor added that that they will be able to advance economic development and create more high quality jobs for Rhode Islanders through this extraordinary collaboration with NUWC.

The Navy and DoD will benefit from the enhanced access to a broader cross-section of innovative commercial assets for increased research and development, identification of new sources, and reduction in costs of products and services.

Jabaley said that they intend for the position to identify and help connect potential technical experts from the State’s infrastructure to support NUWC’s mission via tech transfer mechanisms such as cooperative research and development agreements, educational partnership agreements, and small business innovation research programs.

The benefits of the partnership may also extend to other regional economic development initiatives in Rhode Island.

For example, Jabaley said that the NUWC position at Commerce RI could help provide additional direction and opportunities for the regional innovation hub that the City of Newport and several other organizations are working to establish.

The NUWC hopes to fill this key position and get the partnership effort with Commerce RI started within the next two months.

Rhode Island Leaders Pitch $1.1B RhodeWorks Plan as Economic Development Investment

Rhode Island has a new plan for a huge transportation infrastructure investment to fix more than 150 structurally deficient bridges and make repairs to another 500 bridges.

RhodeWorks

RhodeWorks (photo – dot.ri.gov)

The $1.1 billion RhodeWorks plan is being portrayed as a necessary investment for Rhode Island economic development.

RhodeWorks is expected to create an estimated 12,000 job-years over the duration of the 10-year plan, and will make Rhode Island a more attractive place for businesses to invest.

The $1.1 billion is in addition to current plans in transportation infrastructure over the next decade. This represents a 30 percent increase in funding over the state’s current infrastructure capital plan, bringing the total 10-year spend to $4.8 billion.

The problem is that Rhode Island currently ranks dead last (50th out of 50 states) in terms of overall bridge condition. To be specific, only 78 percent of the 1,162 bridges in Rhode Island are structurally sufficient now. RIDOT projections furthermore show that under the current capital spending plan, the state would end up with 61 percent structurally sufficient bridges by 2024.

By addressing the problem now through RhodeWorks, the state will have 90 percent structurally sufficient bridges by 2024. It also saves RI taxpayers about $1 billion, while making transit and transportation safer.

The bulk of the funding for the $1.1 billion RhodeWorks plan will come from a $700 million proposed revenue bond that will be paid off through a user fee assessed electronically on large commercial vehicles. This fee is expected to generate about $100 million annually.

The revenue generated by the fee is exclusively devoted to transportation infrastructure, and RIDOT is forbidden from collecting this user fee from motorcycles, cars, pickups, SUVs and small commercial vehicles.

The remaining $400 million required for the RhodeWorks plan will come from federal New Starts funds for public transit. The plan includes a proposal for construction of an express bus lane as part of the 6/10 interchange reconstruction.

RI House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello said in a release announcing the plan that this proposal by Governor Raimondo is an investment in economic development, while getting people to work in the construction trades.

Speaker Mattiello added that being ranked at the bottom of states with deficient bridges is a disincentive to businesses looking to locate in Rhode Island. Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed likewise noted that investment in transportation infrastructure is vital to Rhode Island’s economic wellbeing.

Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce President Laurie White added that highway accessibility was ranked as the most important factor to U.S. corporate site selectors in a survey by Area Development magazine. White added that states and communities that make investments in existing road infrastructure and increasing it will be in better shape for economic development.

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