WARWICK, RI - Building on yesterday's Supply RI announcement to connect Rhode Island's local suppliers with the state's largest employers, Governor Gina M. Raimondo shared details today about the proposed Municipal Technical Assistance program that aims to make the state's cities and towns friendlier to small businesses. Since 2016, the Raimondo Administration has worked with municipal governments to streamline business registration and licensing processes in twenty-three communities.
"Since 2015, we've cut thousands of pages of regulations, we've cut red tape and we've cut taxes. We've made Rhode Island more business friendly. But, we need to keep going," said Raimondo. "Business owners want to spend their days behind the counter at their store, not waiting in line at City Hall."
The Technical Assistance for Municipal Zoning and Permitting Fund will be a game changer for small business owners by helping cities and towns improve zoning regulations and development processes to spark economic development."
The Governor's push for streamlining has resulted in reduced fees; reduced quantities of required forms; and the implementation of credit card payment systems.
Prior to the Governor's reforms, opening a business in Warwick required filling out as many as 40 different forms. Today, Rhode Islanders can start a business in Warwick by submitting as few as one form. In Pawtucket, opening a restaurant required 12 forms and as many as 11 visits to City Hall. After streamlining, the same process requires only four forms - all of which can be submitted electronically. Rhode Islanders shouldn't have to spend hours filling out redundant paperwork or making endless trips to City Hall, and Governor Raimondo is committed to ensuring that they don't have to.
In her FY19 Budget, Governor Raimondo proposed $200,000 to create the Technical Assistance for Municipal Zoning and Permitting Fund to assist municipalities in streamlining efforts. Using the fund, the Commerce Corporation would primarily grant funds to assist communities in improving zoning regulations and land use development processes to improve economic development. These efforts will promote business friendliness and make it easier to do business on the local level.
"This type of legislation is invaluable to the success of small businesses in Warwick, and all communities across the state," said Mayor Avedisian. "When business owners are able to spend more time focusing on the growth and success of their business rather than filling out paperwork, it is a win for the community as whole. Economic development comes from good ideas that are supported at every level, and improved efficiency during the permitting process is paramount to its long-term success."
Governor Raimondo also announced today the opening of the application period for the Main Street Improvement Fund. The Main Street Improvement Fund awards grants or loans on a competitive basis for improvements to important commercial districts throughout the state. This includes funding for projects that improve the streetscape such as enhanced sidewalks, new street furniture, new way-finding signage, and upgrading facades or street lighting.
To date, there have been two rounds of Main Street Improvement Fund awards, funding a total of 16 projects with $2 million. This includes projects such as wayfinding signage around downtown Providence, and landscaping and curbing upgrades in Woonsocket. In her FY19 Budget, Governor Raimondo has proposed another $500,000 for this successful program.
"Small businesses are at the heart of our state's economy, and as such, are at the core of our efforts," said Rhode Island Secretary of Commerce Stefan Pryor. "These programs seek to reduce the difficulty of doing business in Rhode Island and to revitalize 'Main Streets' across our state, helping our small businesses succeed and grow."
In her budget, Governor Raimondo is also proposing changes to the Rebuild Rhode Island program to give smaller manufacturers and businesses along our state's Main Streets have better access to the program. Specifically, the Governor's proposal amends the Rebuild Rhode Island program so that small businesses located in the corridors designated by the Commerce Corporation's Main Street Improvement program would be eligible to apply. For these businesses, the Rebuild project size thresholds would be lowered. The changes will enable more small manufacturers and small businesses to make capital investments and improvements they otherwise would not have been able to make because of a demonstrated project financing gap.
Today's announcement is the second significant small business announcement Governor Raimondo has made this week. Tomorrow, at a new small business in Providence's Olneyville neighborhood, she plans to release more information about additional steps her administration proposes to make Rhode Island more business friendly. She will also highlight the goal announced in last week's State of the State address to double the number of small business loans awarded in 2018.