5 Signs That Big Things Are Happening

America’s Smallest State Is On The Move

 By: Laurie White, president, Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce

So many good things are happening in Rhode Island that I can barely keep track of them—that’s what this blog post is for! Consider this your running list of our state’s latest accomplishments, a brag book for you to share with anyone who wants to know what’s going on with Rhode Island these days. 


1)      Jobs in Rhode Island top half a million: The latest jobs report from the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training gives us reason to celebrate. For the first time in our state’s history, the number of jobs exceeds a half million—a great indication that Rhode Islanders are back to work. In May 2018, 1,200 jobs were added in Rhode Island, bringing the grand total to 500,300. Our unemployment rate also dropped to 4.4 percent.


2)      New state rankings are in from Chief Executive and Business Insider: Two top magazines recently revealed new state rankings that demonstrate some much-improved placements for our state. As Chief Executive magazine reported, “Rhode Island engineered the most dramatic leap of any state in the 2018 Chief Executive ‘Best States/Worst States for Business’ survey with an approach that is almost always guaranteed to be effective with CEOs: making it much easier to do business.” Rhode Island climbed Chief Executive’s list by 10 spots, to No. 32 from No. 42. Perhaps even more impressive is Business Insider’s list of U.S. state economies, ranked from worst to best. Rhode Island earned the No. 9 spot on that list, having achieved the third-highest rate of wage growth in the country, with average hourly earnings increasing 8.3 percent between December 2016 and December 2017. Further, Business Insider pointed out that Rhode Island’s Q3 2017 GDP growth rate of 3.5 percent was well above the average rate of 2.9 percent among the 50 states and DC.


3)      Continued construction growth in Cranetown: It’s been a while since I’ve commented here about the construction growth in Providence, which we’ve nicknamed Cranetown (though I have devoted past posts, here and here, to spotlighting the cranes in the sky). Our skies are now more crowded with cranes than ever, thanks to the state’s real estate investment programs, which are investing in 32 development projects that are creating approximately 6,000 construction jobs and injecting more than $1 billion dollars of investment into Rhode Island. Meanwhile, continued progress is being made on the new Providence River Pedestrian Bridge, which connects the Knowledge District (Brown, RISD) with the New Innovation District (Wexford, Johnson & Johnson, Cambridge Innovation Center, etc).


4)      Rhode Island, the media darling? The first half of 2018 brought with it a flurry of positive media coverage of our state, including Inc.’s article “2 Fast Growing Cities You Should Consider for Your Startup,” which pinpoints Providence and Albuquerque as underrated startup destinations. In May, Global Banking & Finance Review published an account of our recent economic triumphs, citing our partnerships with four companies that will bring a total of more than 2,000 permanent jobs, $800 million in private development and more than 1,000 construction jobs. And when Bisnow.com ran its postmortem on those cities who’ve been slashed from Amazon’s list of potential locations for its HQ2, it said this about Rhode Island’s bid: “Had Amazon accepted Providence, Rhode Island’s bid, employees would be surrounded by artistic venues and museums, 400 miles of coastline and award-winning culinary experiences.” Forbes is touting Rhode Island's mighty manufacturing prowess. Finally, the Boston Globe covered Amgen’s announcement that it will build a $160 million manufacturing plant in Rhode Island, adding 150 skilled manufacturing positions and creating about 200 construction jobs.


5)      Rhode Island welcomes 27 companies in 25 months: Amgen, Johnson & Johnson, GE Digital, Virgin Pulse, Priceline’s Agoda, Finlays and Ahold are just some of the companies that have announced plans to grow or relocate their operations in Rhode Island. These companies have variously chosen our state because of its sensible incentives, an improving business climate, R&D opportunities and the skilled talent pipeline they need to grow. As a state, Rhode Island has much to offer that companies seek, including access to talent from top universities, a lower cost of living and bright young minds.


A hotbed of talent, ideas and forward movement, Rhode Island is the place to be, and I’m happy to be among its champions.