In recent years, Greater Newport communities have experienced a slow erosion of their economic strength. In 2015, the Greater Newport Chamber of Commerce and its Board of Directors took on this challenge and initiated the implementation of a regional economic development division operating under the brand Connect Greater Newport. Connect Greater Newport was developed to respond to the changing needs of our existing business community and to chart a course for future success. Greater Newport’s leaders understand that no single community can support the range of resources and expertise needed for economic stability and agree that the responsibility must be shared. A collaboration of civic and government leaders from the communities of Bristol, Jamestown, Middletown, Newport, Portsmouth, Tiverton and Warren formed to establish this public-private partnership focused on economic development.
Strategy 2023 maps out the first five years of Connect Greater Newport. The first two years are designed with more clarity and consumer informed direction, while the next three build on the results of that experience. The recommendations that follow are based on discussions with an advisory board, trade associations in the region, interviews with individual companies and a review of key regional indicators.
STRATEGIES & ACTIONS
The concept that a region is the scale at which economic development should operate is a more recent perspective and is a recognition that the assets needed to support vibrant businesses are significant. It recognizes that creating live, work, play communities cannot be done at a municipal scale and requires the focus and resources of connected communities. Data indicates there is room for improvement in the Greater Newport region and there are opportunities that we are not fully leveraging.
What is unique about the Greater Newport region is that both the opportunities and threats are created by being a coastal community. As much of economic development these days is driven more by quality of life considerations and less by incentives and taxes, it is a place like Greater Newport that can ‘win’ the location decision. The natural beauty and related amenities that the region provides is what can drive economic competitiveness. What stands in the way is a lack of capacity, a lack of resources, a decentralized view of labor force, and housing.
Connect Greater Newport adds the capacity and is being designed to help communities think differently to get beyond the identified weaknesses. If we can start working together as community leaders, institutions, and regional organizations, we can make this the strongest region in the country.
Promote business & provide business retention and expansion services
In collaboration with Commerce RI, industry associations, colleges and universities, and other resource providers, Connect Greater Newport will lead business retention and expansion outreach efforts.
Outreach efforts will:
Identify businesses that have the likelihood of growth and are looking for assistance.
Conduct Business Retention & Expansion assessment interviews with businesses.
Create a seamless experience for businesses navigating the many resources and opportunities available to them.
Identify business to business opportunities to enhance the connectivity of regional businesses.
Create jobs & drive growth through business attraction
Connect Greater Newport will work with Commerce RI to support business attraction efforts and develop opportunities to promote the region. We will ensure that Commerce RI has up-to-date information to be able to include the region in potential requests for information from site selectors. Connect Greater Newport will also market the region’s business opportunities.
Improve infrastructure and promote system change
Through the Business Retention & Expansion interview process and feedback from local municipal officials, Connect Greater Newport will identify the infrastructure issues that impact businesses. As issues that require advocacy are developed, the Connect Greater Newport team will develop appropriate educational materials and will work with the Greater Newport Chamber of Commerce to lobby on behalf of the regional needs. Connect Greater Newport will work in collaboration with local planning commissions and municipal officials to provide analysis to support zoning and planning for economic development. Throughout 2019, Connect Greater Newport will focus on improving broadband connectivity within the region.
Address housing limitations
Connect Greater Newport will support the development of missing middle and workforce housing through facilitation and support. The team will work with organizations such as RI Housing, RI LISC, and Housing Works RI at Roger Williams University. These groups will ultimately lead the development and implementation of strategies, but Connect Greater Newport will help support efforts by:
· Convening key stakeholders
· Gathering existing data and research
· Conducting additional data and research
· Developing appropriate strategies.
Retain and attract talent
Connect Greater Newport will support employers and municipalities in attracting talent by:
Providing the necessary marketing materials to attract talent.
Develop research & information to pitch to tele-commuters & sole proprietors.
Convene a group of regional organizations to consider the trailing spouse and welcoming group aspects.
Connect Greater Newport will support the retention of college and university graduates by:
Working with schools to analyze post-graduation retention rates to create a baseline perspective and a targeted goal.
Conduct a student perception survey to gauge how they view and interact with the communities in the region.
Work with colleges and universities to enhance structure to increase placement of students with local businesses for internships.
Increase engagement between students and community related activities & opportunities.
Promote the Greater Newport Region as a promising place to live and work
In collaboration with Discover Newport, Connect Greater Newport will develop specific messaging to build interest from regional visitors.
3.5 million people visit Newport and the region each year. While the majority come for leisure they also may be open to messages focused on ‘investing’ in the region. In addition, there are business conferences held year-round in the hotels and convention spaces that bring in business leaders and potential talent. There are also events such as the Newport Folk Festival that attract an international audience.