Whitehouse, Langevin, and Cicilline Lead Economic Development Administration Head on Tour of Rhode Island
Today, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse hosted the head of the federal Economic Development Administration (EDA), U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Jay Williams, on a day-long tour of Rhode Island. They met with Rhode Island businesses and discussed ways that the EDA could support economic growth and job creation in the state. Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline joined them for the stops in their respective districts.
Williams leads the only federal agency focused exclusively on economic development. The EDA provides a range of tools to economically distressed communities, including: grant funding for public works projects; administration of a Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) for small businesses and entrepreneurs; Trade Assistance Centers, to help strengthen American firms affected by foreign imports; University Centers, to help link businesses to resources in academia; and technical assistance programs, to help distressed firms access cutting-edge business practices.
“EDA funding is giving Rhode Island employers the tools they need to grow and hire,” said Senator Whitehouse, “and it’s helping to build infrastructure that makes our state a more attractive place to do business. As our state’s economy continues to rebound we’ll need more investments like this, and I believe today’s visit helped Assistant Secretary Williams and his team at EDA see that sending federal dollars to our Ocean State will continue to pay off.”
“I am delighted to help welcome Secretary Williams to Rhode Island, where he can see how federal dollars are being put to good use, as we continue to grow Rhode Island’s economy,” said Congressman Langevin. “The work of the EDA is so important, especially as our state and our nation recover from an economic downturn, and I am excited by the prospects of future growth, job creation and workforce development that will result from the continued support of the EDA.”
“As the Rhode Island economy continues to recover, it’s important that we take advantage of every available opportunity to leverage federal funding that will get Rhode Islanders back to work and grow our economy,” said Cicilline. “I thank Assistant Secretary of Commerce Jay Williams for joining us in Rhode Island today and highlighting the importance of investing in local infrastructure projects, as well as new opportunities for our manufacturers and small business owners to expand their operations and compete in a global marketplace.”
“I was honored to see first-hand how Rhode Island is working collaboratively to build on its impressive history as a manufacturing and maritime engine,” said Assistant Secretary Williams. “Through the coordinated efforts of the congressional delegation, and with solid buy-in from civic and business leaders, Rhode Island is capitalizing on its assets and innovating today to build the next generation of job-creating businesses. EDA has been, and will continue to be, a proud partner.”
Joining Williams and the congressional delegation at various stops were Governor Gina Raimondo, Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed, Rhode Island Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management Director Janet Coit, Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training Director Scott Jensen, Newport Mayor Jeanne Napolitano, and Quonset Development Corporation Planning Manager Katherine Trapani.
“My jobs plan is designed to help businesses make it in Rhode Island,” said Raimondo. “I look forward to partnering with marine and composite manufacturing companies to grow our economy and get Rhode Islanders back to work.”
Williams and Whitehouse made the following stops during the tour:
Manufacturing Forum – “The Future of Rhode Island’s Economy”: At a forum at Hall Spars and Rigging in Bristol, Williams and Whitehouse joined Governor Raimondo and Congressman Cicilline to meet with leaders from Rhode Island composites manufacturing companies. They discussed how the state’s composites industry is leveraging a long tradition of excellence in marine manufacturing to expand into fast-growing and dynamic new industries, such as aerospace and defense. The Rhode Island Marine Trades Association (RIMTA) organized the event in conjunction with the Rhode Island Composites Alliance.
“Today’s roundtable was not only a chance for Rhode Island’s composites industry to showcase its capabilities and achievements: it was also a valuable opportunity for our industry and our elected officials and governmental leaders to have a dialogue on how we can work together to grow this innovative manufacturing sector,” said Wendy Mackie, CEO of the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association.
Tour of Newport TechWorks: In Newport, Williams and Whitehouse visited the site of a proposed business incubator, Newport TechWorks, with Congressman Cicilline. In 2014, the EDA committed over $1.6 million in grant funding to the City of Newport to redevelop and reuse the 33,000 square foot former Sheffield public school building. The funding is set to transform the space into a collaborative work environment for entrepreneurs and small technology companies in the Aquidneck Island and southeastern Massachusetts market.
President of the Senate Paiva Weed said, “The Newport Techworks Innovation Center will help entrepreneurs turn their ideas into economic opportunities and jobs. It wouldn’t be possible without strong partnerships at the federal, state and local levels. I am grateful that Assistant Secretary Williams visited our community today to see firsthand the difference investing in Rhode Island is making in Newport and throughout our state."
Tour of the Port of Galilee: In Narragansett, Williams and Whitehouse toured the Port of Galilee with Congressman Jim Langevin, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management Director Janet Coit, and Port Manager Dan Costa to see recent improvements to port facilities and speak with fishermen and small business owners. The Port of Galilee is home to 240 commercial fishing vessels and plays a major role in Rhode Island’s $200 million fishing industry. In 2013, EDA committed $2.9 million to a $5.8 million effort to repair infrastructure at the port, including replacing 925 feet of bulkhead and 3,200 feet of pier space.
Tour of Quonset Business Park: Williams and Whitehouse met with Congressman Jim Langevin and leaders of the Quonset Development Corporation, toured EDA-funded projects around the Quonset Business Park and the Port of Davisville, and spoke with Quonset businesses. The EDA has funded many major infrastructure improvements at Quonset in recent years, including a $6 million commitment for the Zarbo Avenue Bulkhead and nearly $4 million for the Romano Vineyard Way Bridge, which connects the two halves of the park. The bulkhead project will allow a local marine trades company to expand, while the bridge resolved a dangerous situation in the Park with “at grade” rail crossings.
“Quonset Business Park has nearly 200 companies on-site, more than 10,000 people working here and its Port of Davisville is one of the top ten auto importers in North America,” said Steven King, Managing Director for the Quonset Development Corporation. “The EDA funded projects play a critical role in our efforts to grow more jobs, increase economic development, and support the companies within the Park. We are grateful for the opportunity to show Senator Whitehouse, Rep. Langevin, and Assistant Secretary Williams how these projects are helping to move Rhode Island forward, and we look forward to working with the EDA on more projects in the future.”
The EDA is an important resource for American communities working to grow their economies and create jobs, especially in states where the recovery from the Great Recession has lagged. In Rhode Island, EDA has invested over $37 million since 2009, including $2.9 million in funding to rehabilitate infrastructure in the Port of Galilee and nearly $10 million at the Quonset Business Park and the Port of Davisville.