Governor Gina M. Raimondo and the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation Board of Directors tonight approved several economic development incentives to spur business growth, construction projects and job creation. Among the projects moving ahead are awards under the Main Street RI Streetscape Improvement Fund, the Innovation Network Matching Grant program and the Rebuild Rhode Island tax credit program. These tools were passed as part of Raimondo's 2016 budget in partnership with the General Assembly.
"We are continuing to deploy our economic development tools as we move Rhode Island's economy forward on all fronts," said Raimondo. "We are investing in our main streets, spurring innovation, supporting our defense industry, and creating constructions jobs. Together these initiatives will help make our economy stronger for the long term and put Rhode Islanders back to work."
Several cities and towns received the first round of funding from the new Main Street RI Streetscape Improvement Fund, which enhances central business districts around the state. Seven projects are receiving a total of $999,400 in funding.
Bristol is receiving $80,000 for signage to direct visitors along Routes 114 and 136 to the downtown commercial district and available public parking.
Central Falls is receiving $300,000 for faηade improvements along Dexter Street, a public art installation to conceal overhead wires, and the provision of free public Wi-Fi within the commercial district.
East Greenwich is receiving $32,400 for Main Street sidewalk repair to make them ADA-accessible and increase the sustainability of infrastructure in the town's historic commercial district.
ONE Neighborhood Builders is receiving $196,000 for a Providence project of structural upgrades to bus stops to improve shelter infrastructure and to increase the safety and accessibility for pedestrian traffic in Olneyville Square.
Pawtucket is receiving $245,000 to replace derelict storefronts on the ground level of the city's main municipal parking garage with landscaping, install a wayfinding station outside of the garage, and implement a two-way traffic pattern on Main Street.
The Providence Foundation is receiving $76,000 for signage around downtown Providence to direct foot and vehicle traffic to downtown commercial destinations, transit centers, and landmarks.
Finally, Woonsocket is receiving $70,000 for landscaping installations and the creation of drop-off areas and handicap accessibility to slow traffic, as well as curbing upgrades, in the city's Arts District.
"The Main Street RI Streetscape Improvement Fund is a key part of our economic development strategy," said Rhode Island Secretary of Commerce Stefan Pryor. "Enhancing the quality of business districts across Rhode Island will help drive economic growth and make it easier to do business in Rhode Island."
The Board awarded Innovation Network Matching Grants totaling $372,998 to four organizations. The Innovation Network Matching Grant program provides grants to intermediary organizations for projects that offer technical assistance, space, and/or access to capital to Rhode Island small businesses in key industries.
Social Enterprise Greenhouse (SEG), a social enterprise incubator and accelerator program, is receiving $115,000 support its SEG University programming and space expansion to accommodate an increase in venture support portfolio to include health & wellness and food ventures.
Hope & Main, Rhode Island's first food incubator and accelerator cultivating food-related ventures by offering affordable kitchen space and industry-specific technical assistance, is receiving $107,998 to support the buildout of a production kitchen that will accommodate 21-24 new food ventures.
Practico Innovation, an incubator and accelerator program targeting technology entrepreneurs in communities of color, will receive $50,000 to support the identification and cultivation of 4-5 new technology ventures, increased outreach and mentoring services and hosting an annual pitch competition.
The final recipient, MassChallenge, will receive $100,000 to help Rhode Island create a powerful innovation brand and a strong reputation as an ideal state for entrepreneurship. MassChallenge is the world's largest business accelerator and competition program awarding over $1 million annually in prizes to small businesses and will be locating a new operation in Providence. The funding will support a boot camp accelerator program for RI entrepreneurs, a RI-Boston bridge-builder event, an innovation entrepreneurial ecosystem analysis for Rhode Island, and an innovation roundtable summit.
"Rhode Island has terrific resources to offer entrepreneurs," said MassChallenge Founder & CEO John Harthorne. "I'm looking forward to collaborating with local innovation leaders to amplify support for startups and better connect resources across New England."
"We welcome the MassChallenge team to Rhode Island," said Pryor. "MassChallenge will help us ramp up an ever stronger system of support for innovation oriented companies. And the Matching Grant program will simultaneously enable us to bolster the efforts of invaluable Rhode Island-based innovation organizations."
The Commerce Corporation also approved initial allocations of federal grant money received from the Department of Defense's Defense Industry Diversification Initiative to several vendors to begin work on an Innovation Center for Design and Manufacturing (ICDM). The center a part of the $2.9 million grant -- will bring together Rhode Island's design, engineering and manufacturing capabilities to help defense manufacturers diversify their products and services so they can access new markets and grow the economy.
"It's a privilege being chosen to assist the Commerce Corporation in this program to support the growth and diversification of Rhode Island manufacturing companies," said Christian Cowen, Center Director for Polaris Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), which provides business improvement programs to grow Rhode Island's manufacturing industry and was approved as one of the vendors for the ICDM. "We look forward to leveraging all our MEP resources for execution of this best in class strategic initiative."
The Board also awarded three Rebuild RI tax credits to construction projects in Providence and Pawtucket.
A $12.2 million, 101-unit residential project in Pawtucket by Winn Development and Omni Development will receive up to $3,657,000 in tax credits.
A Providence Capital III, LLC project for a $15.2 million mixed-use project in the Union Trust Company Building at 170 Westminster Street will receive up to $3,036,032 in credits.
A final award, a Nordblom Development Company and Cornish Associates project to build a $48.4 million mixed-use building with market-rate residential units and ground floor retail at 78 Fountain Street, next to the Providence Journal building, will receive up to $6,115,119 in tax credits.