CENTRAL FALLS – The former Osram Sylvania lightbulb factory on Broad Street, which closed in 2014, putting 88 local employees out of work, will be explored for potential redevelopment options after the cities of Central Falls and Pawtucket received a $230,000 federal grant to create a joint economic development action plan.
The federal grant was announced this week by three-quarters of the state’s Congressional delegation – U.S. Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon White-house and U.S. Congressman David Cicilline – as the trio announced that the U.S. Economic Development Administration, or EDA, had awarded the two neighboring cities the $230,000 grant to create the plan.
The funding from the EDA’s Economic Adjustment Assistance Program will be used to develop a detailed economic development plan to “guide future growth in the two cities and examine existing workforce strengths and needs,” the three elected officials said in a joint statement. The plan will include a feasibility study for the creation of a new workforce training and innovation center in addition to allowing the two cities to explore options for redeveloping the former Osram Sylvania lightbulb factory on Broad Street in Central Falls.
That 12-acre lot has sat vacant since 2014, when Osram Sylvania announced it was closing the plant, along with two facilities in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. The closings meant a loss of about 350 jobs and put 88 local employees out of work.
Osram Sylvania is one of the largest lighting manufacturers in the world, and the Central Falls plant made light bulbs and lighting products. The company announced in 2014 that the restructuring was needed because of declining sales of traditional lighting products and a need to develop a new lighting product portfolio that met market needs and ensured company growth.
For Central Falls, the closing meant the loss of one of the city’s top three employers and a significant source of tax revenue. According to city officials, the company paid about $138,000 in property taxes to the city and about $25,000 a year in tangible taxes on its manufacturing equipment.
The facility at 1193 Broad St. features 200,000 square feet of usable manufacturing and distribution space, interstate access and visibility from Interstate 95, high ceilings, municipal utilities including water and sewer, 14 loading doors, and ample on-site parking.
“The EDA’s investment in Central Falls and Pawtucket for joint economic development is greatly appreciated along with the hard work and dedication of the federal delegation to help our cities receive these funds,” Central Falls Mayor James A. Diossa said in an emailed statement. “Thank you to Senators Reed and Whitehouse and Congressman Cicilline for providing us with opportunities to boost the economic development in our cities post pandemic.”
Pawtucket Mayor Donald R. Grebien, in his own statement, added: “The City of Pawtucket thanks Senator Reed, Senator Whitehouse, and Congressman Cicilline for once again stepping up for Pawtucket and the Blackstone Valley. The grant to support the Joint Economic Development Plan will allow both cities to chart a course forward for the economic future of both cities. With the ongoing pandemic, this project has also taken on a new significance, particularly the workforce development and training center study component, which could be very helpful in identifying the job training and retraining needs of our workforce currently and post-pandemic.”
In separate statements, each of the Congressional representatives lauded Diossa and Grebien for their efforts championing their respective cities.
“Under the leadership of Mayors Diossa and Grebien, Central Falls and Pawtucket have worked together for years to advance the economies of both of their cities,” Reed said. “This federal funding, which I was pleased to work with Senator Whitehouse and Congressman Cicilline to secure, will help them enhance that partnership as they plot out future economic development to help their communities and local businesses recover and thrive.”
“Congratulations to Mayors Grebien and Diossa – two great champions for their respective cities – on winning this federal grant to encourage job growth in the heart of the Blackstone Valley,” Whitehouse said. “The funding comes in time to help map a path out of the economic fallout caused by the pandemic, which has hit Pawtucket and Central Falls particularly hard.”
“I’m proud of Mayors Grebien and Diossa for being awarded this competitive grant,” Cicilline said. “This grant couldn’t have come at a better time and will help develop a plan to support future economic and business development initiatives and help create jobs.”
Jonathan Bissonnette on Twitter @J_Bissonnette