Rhode Island economy

Why RI: Businesses Are Taking Off ---Thanks to the Recent Expansion of T.F. Green Airport

The recent announcement by Gov. Gina Raimondo that Air Canada will begin round trip service from Providence to Toronto -- the latest in a flurry of new economic developments in Rhode Island  -- was an exciting one to witness. We were at T.F. Green to greet Air Canada dignitaries and officially welcome them to the nation's premier medium-sized airport. It's the kind of work we have been doing for nearly a century. Whether we are advocating for entrepreneurs or making business to business connections among our members, we have an expansive portfolio or activities.

Gov. Gina Raimondo and Rhode Island dignitaries welcome Air Canada to the Providence market, with nonstop flights beginning soon.

Gov. Gina Raimondo and Rhode Island dignitaries welcome Air Canada to the Providence market, with nonstop flights beginning soon.

Back in the late 1920s, the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce worked with the state legislature to establish an airport in Rhode Island because we recognized early on that air transportation was essential to our community’s long-term economic vitality—earning Providence the moniker of the “Southern Gateway to New England.” And we’ve never stopped advocating for the continued expansion of what is now T.F. Green Airport to provide greater amenities with each passing year. Fast-forward to present day, and we now have a bustling transportation hub that will only continue to grow and benefit Rhode Island’s thriving business community. Passenger travel in and out of Providence grew by 7.8 percent in 2017 over the prior year.

Already the T.F. Green Airport offers nonstop trips to 34 cities. There are now year-round, nonstop flights to Europe, and they are among the cheapest trans-Atlantic flights offered nationwide. Multiple carriers are competing to offer flights from T.F. Green, and airfare prices have dropped as a result. In the past year alone, four new airlines have been introduced to the Warwick hub, including Norwegian Air. And just a few short weeks ago, a new 8,700-foot runway expansion was completed. This has increased service opportunities to accommodate all types of aircraft and has made destinations that were once inaccessible a travel reality.

Having these services has made Rhode Island all the more prominent as an epicenter of commercial growth, and local businesses are reaping the benefits. As I’ve often said, Rhode Island’s accessibility is one of its best-kept secrets. By expanding T.F. Green, we’re trying to let the greater business community in on something we’ve known for years.

Rhode Island is at the crossroads of East Coast industry—just consider the density of people and businesses within a two-hour drive. It is perfectly positioned among one of the wealthiest pockets in the country. Even better, congestion is minimal, and the price point cannot be beat. An impressive talent pool has recognized all the possibilities of our intermodal transportation options, and they understand how important this accessibility is. In developing T.F. Green, we are creating opportunities to take our ever-expanding business community beyond the East Coast—not just across the country but across continents as well.

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Because of this expansion, small businesses in particular now have the ability to extend their operations into markets that were once cost-prohibitive. By expanding opportunities for Rhode Island businesses, we are investing in their growth—and making Rhode Island all the more appealing for young entrepreneurs as they look to our state as a place to grow their own ventures.

These developments have not gone unnoticed by those beyond Rhode Island’s borders. T.F. Green Airport has been ranked among the best midsize airports in the country for its convenience, and it was recently included among Condé Nast Traveler’s annual Readers’ Choice list of the top 10 airports in the United States. We’ve won back several carriers that had departed from the marketplace years ago. We’re creating a center of transport that serves a wide range of individuals who see the benefits of the expanded hub, whether they’re businesses, tourists or vacationers. Not only has the newly expanded T.F. Green Airport made the world a smaller place, but it’s also made Rhode Island a more desirable one.

Here at the Chamber, connectivity is key. By continually improving T.F. Green Airport, we’re taking our business community to a whole new level of possibilities. 

Today's "Cranes In The Sky"

The spotlighting of cranes in the Providence skyline continues with this installment: a $20 million eight-story extended stay Homewood Suites by Hilton hotel project.  The developer is First Bristol Corp., led by veteran hotelier James Karam.

The building site sits at the confluence of Exchange Terrace, Steeple Street and Memorial Blvd. in the city's Capital Center District.  The lot, itself, is uniquely compact and triangular which necessitated design finesse and architectural creativity to ensure vibrant, street-level interaction.  The project got underway in earnest this summer.

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With 120 suites being offered, the hotel's target market is upscale professionals who require housing for longer than a few days.  The Providence region is  fertile ground for such an audience given the density of local colleges, universities and hospitals. 

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Homewood Suites by Hilton at the intersection of Steeple Street and Memorial Blvd. in Providence.

Homewood Suites by Hilton at the intersection of Steeple Street and Memorial Blvd. in Providence.

First Bristol Corporation, a leading Real Estate Development and Management firm based in Massachusetts, was selected by Hilton Hotels Worldwide as the National Developer of the Year for its Homewood Suites by Hilton Brand.

Karam started First Bristol Corporation 35 years ago, and has built the family business into one of New England’s premier real estate development and management companies. 

 

 

 

New URI Engineering Complex Coming Along Nicely

It's been about a year since Rhode Island voters bullishly approved Phase II funding to create a gleaming new complex for the University of Rhode Island's College of Engineering --- a $125 million endeavor designed to put our state's flagship research institution at the vanguard, internationally, for engineering and entrepreneurial prowess.  

Eager to see how the project is shaping up, I headed over to campus to take a closer look.  I was thrilled to see teams of construction workers moving earth, burying conduit and pouring concrete. Indeed, they are laying the metaphorical groundwork for the jobs of the future. (Check out some fun facts about the project!)

From the Chamber's vantage point as business builders, it's promising that Rhode Island is responding to market demands for engineering talent. Across the state, several of our world-class institutions of higher education, including Brown University, are investing more than $300 million in sophisticated new infrastructure that will produce high value engineering research and learning facilities. That pace bodes well for Rhode Island's ability to be a prime target for new corporate investment.

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Pictured here is the project site where the demolition of five antiquated buildings began in the spring and was completed this summer. Sparking the need, the older buildings had not undergone any major improvements in more than 50 years. Consequently, they did not provide the open and flexible teaching, learning and research spaces necessary to adequately prepare engineering students and fully serve faculty members.

Don't underestimate the ubiquitousness of engineering. It's at the heart of most everything in contemporary society: energy, medicine, water, bridges, data, physical structures and more. That's why the sector is growing jobs at such a rapid clip. 

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URI President David Dooley puts it in perspective: “Increasingly, our engineering students and faculty are not only working in interdisciplinary teams within the College of Engineering, but with students and faculty from across the University in oceanography, health, pharmacy, chemistry, computer science, and business, to name but a few, as well as companies and corporations around the state, region and the world. This new facility will stimulate collaborative, multidisciplinary learning and research. It will lead to discoveries that we cannot even imagine today. Our engineering alumni, students, and faculty have always been essential drivers of innovation and economic development in Rhode Island, and with these new facilities, we know that URI’s role in moving the state forward will be strongly enhanced."

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The Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce was proud to be an early champion of the project. We invested time, money and resources in promoting the economic benefits to the state and making the case that access to engineering talent will attract attention from corporations looking to sit alongside URI's demonstrated expertise in undersea robotics, smart building technology and other engineering disciplines. Many Chamber member companies also took up the mantle to make the project a reality: Toray Plastics (America) $2 million: FM Global, $1 million; Taco Inc., $400,000; and an anonymous gift of $2.5 million from a URI alumnus and corporate leader. 

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Ballinger of Philadelphia, is the prime architect, mechanical engineer, electrical engineer, and structural engineer on the project, and the associate architectural firm is Chamber member DBVW of Providence. The construction management firm is Dimeo Construction Co. of Providence.

Congratulations to Chamber Directors Brad Dimeo and David Dooley for their leadership on this essential project to Rhode Island's future. We're looking forward to the ribbon cutting in 2019!