EDA Awards $600K to Develop Innovative Business Cluster in Providence

May 2, 2017 Issues: Economy and Jobs, Rhode Island

U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, and Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline today announced a $600,000 federal grant from the Economic Development Agency (EDA) to help transform a vacant Providence property into a modern space for an innovative business cluster. According to estimates by the City of Providence, which was awarded the competitive grant, the business cluster project is expected to help create 360 jobs and generate $25 million in private investment.

Providence officials are working to identify potential tenants in high-growth sectors of the economy aligned with the City’s core strengths, such as food and biotech, and to leverage Providence’s strategic location. Once the EDA-funded improvements are underway, the PRA will issue a request for proposals to pursue partners.

Owned by the Providence Redevelopment Agency (PRA) and located at 70 Houghton Street in Providence, the site is the former location of the American Tourister plant. The new grant from the EDA will fund road, sewer, and lighting improvements to make the property, which burned down in 2000, attractive for private investment.

The EDA award will leverage past federal investments at the site, including $600,000 in U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Brownfields grants used to remediate the property. The City has also designated $300,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant funding as part of its match for the project.

The announcement follows a February 2017 letter from the delegation to EDA Regional Director Linda Cruz-Carnall in support of an application by the City of Providence.

“I am pleased to help deliver federal funding to support the City’s economic development strategies. This latest round of federal funding should help Providence make needed infrastructure improvements, revitalize the neighborhood, and launch new businesses right here in Rhode Island. I commend Mayor Elorza and his team for winning this latest grant, which builds on previous investments we have made, bringing $1.5 million in federal funding for this project to help restore this site to productive use, generate job growth, and strengthen the local economy,” said Senator Reed.

“Rhode Island is known across the country as a culinary powerhouse and a promising center for innovative research,” said Senator Whitehouse, whose office invited regional representatives from the EDA to meet with Providence officials about the project last summer. “This federal funding will pave the way for transforming a vacant, polluted property into a hub of economic growth and job creation that could leverage those strengths.”

“This is great news. This funding is going to create good-paying jobs for Rhode Islanders and further enhance our state’s outstanding reputation as a place to visit,” said Congressman Cicilline, who advocated for this grant with the Economic Development Administration. “Tourism is a major part of our economy, and I am confident that this investment will provide a real boost to working people in our state.”

“Through my regular meetings with my Food First Advisory Committee, I am continually impressed by Rhode Island’s amazing culinary talent,” said Congressman Langevin. “Capitalizing on this strength and Providence’s growing leadership in biotech is vital for the City and the State, and I am pleased that this EDA funding will continue the revitalization of downtown.”

Providence is well positioned to capitalize on growing demand for locally sourced foods, as Rhode Island boasts a nationally recognized food scene and creative culture, and a rich fishery that supports sustainable shellfish aquaculture. Rhode Island’s capital is home to Johnson & Wales University, a premiere culinary school, and other world-class universities.

“Providence continues to expand its efforts to grow ‘New Economy’ sectors such as food and biotech,” said Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza. “I’m proud that this grant will help us rehabilitate vacant property, attract and promote private investment, and create jobs.  This project is a perfect example of strategic efforts to continue Providence's emergence as a hub for the economy of the future.”

EDA grants are awarded through a competitive process based upon the application’s merit, the applicant’s eligibility, and the availability of funds. More information on EDA’s grant process and investment process can be found at www.eda.gov.