Mayor Taveras of Providence outline economic plan for city

Mayor of Providence, Angel Taveras, released an action plan for economic development on March 27th, 2013.

In an open letter to his constituents, Taveras discusses the economic challenges Providence was faced with when he assumed office in 2011. “Unemployment was too high, private sector investment was too scarce and our housing market continued to suffer from the effects of America’s national recession,” Taveras says. However, his message takes an optimistic tone as he outlines a strategy for rebuilding Providence—a strategy based on economic growth.

While local government has limited ability to dramatically change macro-level economic conditions, Taveras stresses the importance of long-term investments in basic municipal operations to bolster economic growth. Potential investments include: stronger schools, safer neighborhoods, reliable public infrastructure, and the timely provision of city services to promote a pro-business environment.

As of February of 2013, Providence had an unemployment rate of approximately 11.5%, well above the national average of 7.9%. In fact, since 2007 Providence’s unemployment rate has been well above the national average. In particular, Hispanics have been hit hard by unemployment rates. In the city, 23.3% of Hispanics are unemployed (2011 figures). In addition, African-Americans maintain a high unemployment rate of 17.1%, which also exceeds the national average for African-
American unemployment rates.

Due to higher costs of doing business, workforce quality, infrastructure and transportation Providence does not rank well among business rankings. In fact, according to Forbes Magazine’s “Best Place for Business and Careers,” Providence ranked 178th of 200.

To address these issues, Taveras outlines 5 immediate actions. Taveras’ 5 steps include the following initiatives:

  1. Freeze the commercial tax rate. Effective immediately, the Taveras administration will seek to pass a 7-year commercial real estate tax freeze to lower the cost of operating a business.
  2. Fix the permitting process. Beginning in 2013, Providence will have a new subgroup focused on small-permit application review to that small businesses and projects and proceed quickly.
  3. Remove barriers to redevelopment. Providence will assess an inventory of all major properties eligible for redevelopment.  Projects that qualify will be fast-tracked for redevelopment.
  4. Develop surface lots citywide. The Taveras administration will seek the passage of a new citywide ordinance designed to incentivize new development on Providence’s surface parking lots.
  5. Reinvent Kennedy Plaza. In partnership with a number of organizations, the City of Providence will undertake the reformation of Kennedy Plaza.

Providence has a long way to go to become a business-friendly city; however, with a multitude of new initiative aimed at lowering the cost of business and improving the overall quality of the workforce it is on the right track.