A Knowledge Economy in the Creative Capital
Providence is the capital of Rhode Island and the most populated city in the state. Its residents are amply served by rail (Amtrak and MBTA), highway (I-95, I-195, I-295), airport (T.F. Green and Logan International) and bus transportation access. With seven colleges and universities, six hospitals and a medical school, Providence is also home to 40 percent more knowledge workers than the national average and has been named one of America’s most livable cities.
Replete with human capital and physical resources, public, private, labor and institutional leaders created a strategy to harness the emerging life sciences industry. They collaborated to transform the Jewelry District—a former world capital of jewelry manufacturing—into the “Knowledge District,” a world-class center of excellence. “That area…is repurposing itself, with emerging life sciences’ technology, design, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit,” said Providence Mayor, David N. Cicilline. “Medical facilities, residential lofts, office space and small cafes make this a unique and coveted place to locate.”
Under the leadership of the Mayor and the Greater Providence Chamber, and with the support of leading university stakeholders and others, a cohesive plan of action is taking shape. The mission is to make Providence a preeminent place in basic, clinical and translational life science research; drive technology transfer; and expand entrepreneurship, new companies and jobs.
The Knowledge District capitalizes on the city’s compact size and the close proximity of each partner’s campus. It builds upon existing research infrastructure and brings together essential elements (land, labor and capital) to grow a highly competitive 21st Century knowledge economy.
The Creative Class
Providence embraces art and culture with parks, museums, galleries, performing arts venues, live music and many organizations. Mayor Cicilline and the Department of Art, Culture and Tourism (DACT) launched Creative Providence: a Cultural Plan for the Creative Sector to explore the strengths and weaknesses of the capital city’s creative ecosystem. The community-wide cultural plan is designed to better position Providence to realize its full potential as a creative center and deliver on its promise of innovation and change.
Creative Providence will guide public policy, private initiative and investment over the next ten years. “Our cultural plan calls upon leadership from our creative sector—artists, arts organizations, poets and scholars, designers and creators, the entertainment and tourism industries—to ask hard questions and solve difficult problems alongside government and business leaders,” said Mayor Cicilline.
Goals of the plan include mobilizing the creative sector by positioning the DACT as a leader in creative economic development; building community and fostering neighborhood vitality through access and diversified cultural participation; educating and inspiring the next generation of creative thinkers; fostering sustainable cultural organizations; creating conditions for creative workers to thrive in Providence; and raising public awareness of the creative sector.
Providence Economic Development Partnership Programs:
• Technical Assistance – Assistance on a range of matters including site selection, workforce development & training, sourcing local customers and suppliers, access to government services, entrepreneurship skills, access to traditional and non-traditional finance and other areas of technical assistance
• Revolving Loan Fund – Encourages job creation and new investment in business ventures located in Providence by providing below-market rate, short-term loans for business projects that have difficulty obtaining conventional commercial financing. Target loan size is $125,000 but larger amounts may be approved
• PEDP Micro Loan Program – Provides access to capital for disadvantaged small businesses and helps build a diverse economy in the City of Providence. Loans of between $1,000 and $10,000 are available for eligible borrowers. The target applicants are start-up and existing small businesses (5 full-time employees or less), and minority or women-owned businesses
• PEDP Storefront Improvement Grant – A reimbursable matching grant for visible exterior improvements to retail locations throughout Providence. PEDP will provide grants of up to $1800 to match the retailer’s itemized expenditures on signs and awnings
• Art & Culture Revolving Loan Fund – A joint program of the PEDP and the City of Providence Department of Art, Culture and Tourism—ACRLF gives short-term low interest loans of up to $25,000 to arts organizations with established records of achievement and cash flow