It's tempting in summer to imagine Newport economically strong. But, balmy blue skies, world-class events, pretty girls, and top talent, while nice, are not an economic plan. They do hint at the indispensable characteristics of sound economics.
Successful musicians, celebrity comedians, actors, business people with yachts come here to work. They promote themselves and their businesses. Some pick up checks--nice ones. Their talent creates the action. But does this activity create true economic value?
As co-chair of Newport's comprehensive land-use plan, the mandated strategic review by each of Rhode Island's 39 cities, I have spent considerable time studying our assets, our natural strengths, and the policies that impact them.
Some will recall the 1960s and 70s when an active-duty seafaring Naval station drew businesses like GE and Raytheon. Through sheer scale, the Navy acted as Newport's strategic economic plan. Today, no official group invites talent to live and work on Aquidneck Island.
Currently, Newport's largest employment sectors are education and medicine, which we refer to as ED/MED. The fastest growing segment are 10 to 12 person entrepreneurial enterprises, most tech- and marketing-based, many of them paying near or above six figure salary and bonus'. A few serve global clients.
Economic value is built year-round, cobblestone by cobblestone.
IYRS exports world-class wood yachts. More importantly, however, under Terry Nathan's leadership, IRYS yields some of the most skilled technicians to the world. It leases Class A office space, once a mill, to advanced marine and commercial design firms. Thus, education directs individual focus, which accrues economic value.
Salve graduate Steve Ramponi sold his (Mass.) engineering services business, moved his family here, and invests in Newport's commercial real estate.
NavSta Newport STARBASE Director Patrick Rossoni hosts a STEM program, inviting local private and public middle school kids to think, using technology based solutions.
Newport Hospital, through Gus Cordeiro, is establishing itself as a center for medical imaging--a non-invasive procedure that enhances diagnostic accuracy and reduces patient costs. CCRI's nursing program provides trained staff that fosters new growth in advanced healthcare programs.
Professionally handled entertainment is strengthening that industry. Thanks to Newport Film through Andrea van Buren's vision and Kathy Staab's at The Jane Pickens Theater actors & directors visit no matter what the weather.
Brent Ryan and Coastal Extreme Brewing tip the iceberg of City success with collaborative business strategy. The City is pursuing sale of its assets. A longer view suggests long term leasing of these public assets and structuring public-private partnerships create greater economic value.
These aren't blue sky stories about institutions begging grants to begin. No waiting for permission. These represent wise capitalists. Our own 1%.
Anyone can love the summer. Real talent captures all four seasons.