Aponte: New economic study will identify Providence’s strengths

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Making the case that Providence needs to become “more intentional about the type of city we want to see,” Council President Luis Aponte on Thursday announced the beginning of a months-long economic analysis designed to identify the city’s strengths and plan for the future.

The goal of the cluster analysis is to study quantitative and qualitative research in order to take stock of Providence’s resources and “envision how they can be brought together,” according to Aponte.

“Hopefully from this we will learn a lot that will inform our economic development policy,” Aponte told WPRI.com. “We want to understand the terrain in which we are and where the fertile ground is for Providence to compete above its weight.”

The kickoff event for the economic analysis was held Thursday morning at the Rhode Island Foundation.

Aponte also named a 28-member steering committee that includes a wide range of public and private sector leaders, including I-195 Redevelopment District Commission executive director Jan Brodie, Russell Carey, Brown University’s vice president for planning and policy, and Bonnie Nickerson, the city’s planning director.

Pittsburgh-based Fourth Economy Consulting will be paid about $78,000 by the city to lead the analysis. A final report is expected to be released in September.

In a brief presentation, Fourth Economy Consulting CEO Rich Overmoyer told the committee the firm’s initial research shows one of Providence’s strengths is that residents are among the youngest in the region, with a median age of 28.8. On the flip side, the city’s unemployment rate is higher than the state and regional averages.

Overmoyer said the city has lost 1,108 construction jobs and another 1,317 jobs in the finance and insurance industry over the last five years. At the same time, the education and health services sector has experienced the largest job growth during the same period. Nearly 40,000 Providence residents are part of the “1099 workforce,” meaning they are self-employed.

The need for the cluster analysis was one of several recommendations made by the city’s economic development task force last year. Other recommendations included creating a streamlined tax stabilization program and assisting with the the redevelopment of 111 Westminster Street, known locally as the Superman Building.Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan

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