santander bank

Business Optimism All Around Us

Survey Results: 65 Percent of Local Business Leaders Say R.I. Economy Will Be in Better Shape in Next 12 Months

What’s the momentum behind Rhode Island’s local economy really like? To find out, we asked the more than 250 prominent business and civic leaders who attended our 18th annual Economic Outlook Breakfast, cohosted with Santander Bank on Monday.

After sharing his thoughts on the tremendous potential of Rhode Island’s economy, Mike Lee, managing director of Santander Commercial Banking, facilitated a real-time survey in which the attendees answered questions about the state of the local and national economy and the key issues facing their companies. We even got in a question about the Red Sox. Joining Mike to discuss regional business issues were Kelly Coates, president and chief operating officer for Carpionato Group; Maureen Boudreau, director of healthcare technology for Johnson & Johnson; and James Karam, president and founder of First Bristol Corporation. 

Net-net, optimism about Providence and Rhode Island was the dominant theme.

What grabbed my attention was that:

Nearly 54 percent of you believe that the U.S. economy will be in better shape over the next 12 months, while 28 percent believe it will stay about the same. 

Seventy-one percent of you believe your business is in better shape this year than last year, while 8 percent said it is in worse shape today.

Forty-two percent of you cited revenue and sales growth as the most challenging issues your businesses expect to face in the next year, while 28 percent noted talent shortage, 10 percent selected regulatory requirements and seven percent chose managing “big data” and cybersecurity. 

Nearly 55 percent of you said that you will be hiring over the next year. 

Forty percent of you indicated you will be hiring because current staffing levels cannot meet demand, while 26 percent of you selected projected sales growth, and another 25 percent noted you would be hiring because you need skills not possessed by your current staff. 

When asked about your current workforce, you cited team building and group dynamics at 54 percent and technology skills at 39 percent as the top two areas that need development.  

Oh, and last but not least: 55 percent said the Red Sox will not win the World Series. I’m sure there are some Yankees fans smiling at this!


My key takeaways from this breakfast? As confidence in the economy grows and Rhode Island secures more wins like Infosys and Johnson & Johnson, it’s important that the business and civic leaders represented at the breakfast this week continue to engage in meaningful conversations about Rhode Island. Together, we must stay focused on helping all Rhode Island companies thrive so that we maintain a competitive and attractive business climate for the long-term.

To hear more about what Rhode Island’s business leaders have to say about the state, read our blog post about the Providence: An Economic Recovery Story event we also hosted earlier this month. 

Guest Blogger: Mike Lee on #whyRI

Why RI: Santander Bank’s Mike Lee Chooses Rhode Island

Rhode Islanders choose to live and work in Rhode Island for many reasons. Certainly, we love the beaches, the restaurants, the quality of life and the influence of our universities. Easy connectivity with nearby Boston and other major hubs is also appealing.

I’m proud to be a native of Providence and a lifelong resident of Rhode Island. I attended both undergraduate and graduate school at Providence College, and today I live just outside the city in Scituate. My wife and I have raised our three daughters here, and I’ve spent my career—spanning almost four decades—here working for banks. Since 2009, I’ve led the Commercial Real Estate Banking business for Santander Bank, one of the country’s largest commercial and retail banks – and one of the largest banks in the world.

Why more companies are choosing Rhode Island

From a business perspective, Rhode Island is uniquely appealing. In the last couple of years especially, we’ve welcomed an influx of new companies that are choosing our state because it has many of the key qualities they seek:

·        A well-trained and well-educated workforce: We have an abundance of the top educational institutions and comprehensive workforce training programs that are in place throughout the state.

·        A predictable business environment: The current administration has updated Rhode Island’s regulatory and tax policies, removing red tape to create an ideal environment for new and established companies.

·        Available and affordable housing: The opportunities for housing in Rhode Island are abundant, and the affordability index—when compared to major cities like Boston and New York—is important, especially for young people just leaving college and families that are starting off.

·        Transportation and infrastructure: It’s easy to get from one place to another here. When you consider the traffic congestion of some of Rhode Island’s competing and surrounding areas, we’re much more favorable when it comes to transportation and commute times.

·        Technology and utilities: For certain industries, utilities and energy supply are of paramount importance, especially for those companies that operate in the industrial parks in Cranston, Woonsocket or Quonset.

At Santander, our team members who live and work in Rhode Island tell me that many of their customers are also their neighbors and friends. I’m thrilled to say that’s the case for me, too - I’ve met many of my dearest friends through my interactions at Santander. I’m inspired every day by the great work that Santander employees do to make Rhode Island a better place, not only through countless hours of volunteerism but also by putting the customer first. We do this by striving to be a simple, personal and fair place to work and a bank that is respectful of every customer and every employee. If a company can embody these things, it will pass the test of time.

Advice for entrepreneurs and young professionals

Pursue your passion. That’s what I tell young people and budding entrepreneurs. If there’s something that excites you when you get up every morning, do that. You’re going to be doing it for a long time. It’s important to be happy at what you do.

I also encourage people to identify the areas where they are not proficient and to seek expert advice in those areas. In my career, the only constant has been change, and technology has been the most important single change that has persisted over those four decades. So my other piece of advice is to embrace technology.

Finally, whether in life or at work, there are always going to be challenges along the way. It’s important to be a problem solver and to persist through setbacks. All great entrepreneurs have worked through setbacks, and it seems perseverance is their common theme

Mike Lee is managing director of commercial real estate for Santander Bank. We invite you to explore our entire Why RI blog post series with Kim Keck, president and CEO of BCBSRI; Dan Sullivan, president and CEO of Collette Travel; and Sandy Parrillo, president and CEO of Providence Mutual.