Rhode Island is undergoing significant economic and demographic shifts that are creating great anxiety and challenges. There exists in the midst of the challenges, a unique opportunity to invest and capture the vitality of the demographic trends to support the strategic economic development planning of the States urban cities.
In Rhode Island, Latino, African-American, Native American and Southeast Asians, are disproportionately represented in areas of of unemployment, underemployment, and business development. At the same time, these group bring vitality, entrepreneurship, rich cultural diversity, and strong work ethics that are underutilized the states invisible economic development resource.
The 2010 U.S. Census data for Rhode Island revealed the following demographic growth - Hispanics 62.4 percent, African-Americans 23 percent, and Asian 28.1 percent and the City of Providence, as a majority/minority city of 63% -37%. The data is clear and the trends are compelling. Economic investment in urban communities must be shifted from a social-service model to a business model.
In the midst of this, new economic strategies are being planned to recharge the Rhode Island economy in the knowledge, energy, manufacturing, health, and green economies. Strategic planning needs to be given to the inclusion of Rhode Islands future growth population in these planned sectors.
A number of important initiatives are underway.
? Governor Lincoln Chafee has issued an executive order to create procurement & job opportunities for minority and women owned businesses.
? Mayor Angel Taveras has established an MBE/WBE Commission to increase Minority and Women owned business in procurement opportunities with the City of Providence.
? The Providence Chamber of Commerce, has established a Knowledge Economy Diversity Initiative now included in the Chambers Action Plan.
? The 2010 RI General Assembly, in recognition of the need, approved a school aid formula that is designed to shift state education aid to students of greatest need.
? The RI Foundations Make it Happen initiative and out of the box planning brings new thinking and practical approaches.
? The Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) and the OIC Urban Policy Center have entered into a MOU to research and plan urban economic development.
? The Providence School Department, in partnership with OIC, have embarked upon an adult training initiative at the Providence Career and Technical Academy.
Change is occurring very rapidly and if we want things to change, we need to do something different for targeted urban investment will lift all boats. There is so much promise in community economic development. Let us pursue it together.