EAST PROVIDENCE â€” In an effort to foster a â€śbusiness friendly climate,â€ť city officials are reaching out to local business owners to discuss ways they can make their companies more profitable, operate efficiently and grow their businesses strong in a challenging economy.
In what is believed to be the first session of its kind, the city is hosting a business outreach forum on Tuesday, April 24, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at City Hall. No advance registration is required.
The purpose of the forum, says City Manager Peter Graczykowski, is to address the concerns of local business owners and to provide them with resources they may not know about.
â€śThis forum will be a working discussion session where business owners will have access to a panel of City staff members who can listen to their concerns and answer questions regarding business licenses, building and zoning regulations, economic development, and the city's new business permitting computer program,â€ť Graczykowski said.
Joining Graczykowski will be Mayor Bruce Rogers and various staff members from the City's Planning Department, Economic Development Office, City Clerk's Office, Building and Zoning Office, and Tax Assessor's Office.
â€śWe will be on hand to answer questions from owners of established businesses or potential business owners who have questions about starting a business here in East Providence,â€ť Graczykowski said. â€śThe City of East Providence wants to create a business friendly climate where all businesses can succeed and prosper leading to the creation of more jobs and a revitalized local economy.â€ť
Maintaining a business friendly climate is what spurred the City Council last month to to amend a controversial business registration ordinance and repeal a $25 registration fee that had been charged to all city businesses beginning this fiscal year.
The business registration ordinance was approved by the City Council on Feb. 28. Approximately 1,600 envelopes were mailed to East Providence businesses with a $25 invoice from the City of East Providence for a business registration fee. The fee and a notarized registration form had to be returned to the city by April 1, with a fine of $25 per day for each day that it was not returned by the deadline.
Calling it a â€śnuisance tax,â€ť city business owners began bombarding the East Providence Area Chamber of Commerce with complaints, which led to the ordinance being placed back on the agenda at the city council's meeting for a debate on whether or not to amend the ordinance or revoke it.
The reasoning behind the ordinance was that it would help the city identify businesses and maintain a list of every business within the city limits, and help the city collect back business personal property taxes from the roughly 5 percent of delinquent business taxpayers, an amount that equates to about $500,000 a year in taxes that can't be collected.
Voting to do away with the fees were Rogers and council members Michael DiGioia, William Conley Jr. and Thomas A. Rose Jr. Councilor Katie Kleyla cast the dissenting vote due to concerns about canceling the fee collections mid-year and questions relative to how the city will reimburse those businesses who have already paid the fee.
Although it was planned weeks ago, the April 24 forum follows a similar business community outreach forum hosted in East Providence earlier this week by Governor Lincoln Chafee Tuesday, the latest stop on the governor's tour to financially troubled cities and towns to hear from local small businesses and discuss ways to help them grow and create jobs.
Moderated by Keith Stokes, executive director of the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation (RIEDC), about 70 people attended the forum at City Hall where Chafee and a team made up of representatives from the RIEDC, U.S. Small Business Administration, Department of Labor and Training, Small Business Development Center and Ocean State Business Development Authority, reviewed state programs and initiatives developed for providing greater access to financing and credit for small businesses.
At the forum, Rogers and touted the ongoing economic development activity in the East Providence Waterfront District. This month, for example, the East Providence Waterfront District Commission is slated to sign a lease with Eaton Corporation, which has relocated its manufacturing operations to 10 New Road. The partially vacant building was renovated by the city using $5 million in federal U.S. Economic Development Administration grants.
The renovations brought the building up to Eatonâ€™s technical manufacturing requirements and took about 12 months. Now, the commission is preparing to lease 145,000 of 340,000 square feet of the building to Eaton, an international technology company that supplies components to aeronautical and defense companies.
The company expects to add 50 more to its work force in the next three to four years.
Another current waterfront initiative expected to provide immediate benefits to the city is the extension of Waterfront Drive, a $6 million project that will extend Waterford Drive north from Warren Avenue to Dexter Road and open the area up for the relocation of even more businesses. The project, paid for with Economic Assistance Development Grant and city bond, is half-way done and one month ahead of schedule.
For more information on the April 24 forum, contact the city manager's office at (401) 435-7521.