Times are challenging right now, there’s no denying it. But that’s not stopping Providence from forging a new vision for the future — and if you have an idea for a startup, you’re invited along for the ride.
In his 2009, the doors of the Rhode Island Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (RI-CIE) opened at One Davol Square. Designed foremost as a resource for entrepreneurs and researchers pursuing ventures in high-tech, life sciences, design, and other knowledge-economy businesses, the center also offers expertise to the state’s college and university faculties.
Got a brilliant business idea? RI-CIE offers the tools needed to ramp up to a successful launch, including a 5,000-square-foot facility donated by Brown University, outfitted with plenty of room for workshops, seminars, conferences, and networking events. RI-CIE’s executive director and staff, also funded by the university, connect businesses with resources. Experts with experience in clearing business hurdles — venture capitalists, business planners, intellectual property attorneys, accountants — are available to arm startups with advice and know-how.
RI-CIE is a long-term effort, and syncs up with the state’s Knowledge Economy initiative, launched by the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce in 2008. The first two years of the initiative are funded with $200,000 from the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation, the Rhode Island Science and Technology Advisory Council, and the Slater Technology Fund. Additional private sector financing is being pursued.
There’s never been a better time for out-of-state entrepreneurs and established knowledge businesses to consider a move to Providence. With a number of transformative initiatives underway in and around the state, a burgeoning knowledge economy is just around the corner. The relocation of I-195 not only links Jewelry District (soon to be rechristened The Knowledge District) with downtown Providence, but also allows for expanded biomedical facilities in the area. Brown University has expanded its life sciences research agenda and created new opportunities for research and services.
Other plusses: a lower overall cost of doing business than in neighboring New England states; seven world-class colleges and universities; a highly skilled, highly motivated workforce; a thriving and vibrant arts community; and perfectly placed access to the Boston-New York corridor.
“Providence is a great place to come with your knowledge-based business ideas,” says Thomas E. Deller, director of planning and development for the city of Providence. “You’ll find abundant, affordable space here, a great lifestyle, and incredible ways to get involved in the arts and the culture of the community.”
Opportunity begins with creative thinking, Deller says.
“We’re making it easier to grow knowledge economy businesses … we have a history of creativity and innovation here — this is where the industrial revolution was born. ”
Providence Plantations was established in 1636 as a breeding ground for new ideas, including religious freedom and separation of church and state — radical thoughts for a colony in the 1600s. For more than a century, the Independent Man statue atop the state house has represented the self-determination of its people. Providence not only supports the independent spirit of entrepreneurs, but also ensures they can pursue their dreams with the help of civic, academic, and business leadership.
“Rhode Islanders have always worked hard to make things happen. We’ve moved a railroad track, a river, an interstate highway … and now we’re moving business,” says Deller. “There’s incredible change and growth on the city and state’s part, because we have so many creative people here.”