Innovative approach would help cash-strapped municipalities advance economic growth
January 23, 2012 – Providence, RI – Emphasizing the statewide economic importance of vibrant and healthy downtowns and Main Street districts with diverse and profitable small businesses, Grow Smart Rhode Island will present the details of an economic development incentive proposal to city and town officials at the Annual Convention of the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns on Thursday, January 26th.
“Rhode Island cannot afford a further erosion of municipal fiscal health”
Grow Smart is an alliance of business and civic leaders, urban revitalization and environmental advocates, developers, builders, farmers, investors and active citizens. It advocates for policies and programs that support the revitalization of Rhode Island’s Main Streets and town centers, enhancing them as attractive places to live, shop and play and for small business to invest, grow and innovate.
The proposal would create a sustainable and accountable way for cities and towns to invest in their Main Street districts, creating conditions that attract private investment, job creation and that return underperforming properties to tax rolls, thereby strengthening municipal budgets. “Rhode Island cannot afford a further erosion of municipal fiscal health”, said Scott Wolf, Grow Smart Rhode Island Executive Director. “As our cities and Main Streets go, so goes our state”, he said. “Innovation isn’t just for businesses – now more than ever our cities and towns need innovative tools to position themselves for economic resilience in a changing economy”.
The proposal aims to amend the state-mandated property tax levy cap law and allow municipalities to first capture a portion of tax growth within targeted “Main Street districts” solely for the purpose of reinvesting in economic development, streetscape improvements and other public infrastructure repairs and upgrades within those districts. “This would provide an important tool for cities and towns to leverage their assets and invest limited resources where they can provide the greatest return”, said Wolf.
Wolf pointed to Rhode Island’s State Guide Plan, a long-term blueprint for the state, saying it has been providing guidance and a process for cities and towns to map and designate these “growth center” districts in a consistent way. “Many of our cities and towns have already developed well thought out plans for community and economic revitalization, but they often lack the fiscal capacity to implement them.
Wolf will then moderate a panel of civic and business leaders to discuss the proposal, including State Representative Jeremiah O’Grady (Lincoln/Pawtucket), Tom Kravitz, Director of Planning and Economic Development for the Town of Burrillville, and Samuel Bradner, Partner, The Peregrine Group, LLC.
The panel discussion will take place in the Narragansett Room at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Warwick on Thursday, January 26, 2012, 2:30 p.m.-3:45 p.m.