A big reason why I decided to run for office in Newport is that I believe our city has a lot of potential for growth that it hasn't reached yet. We have so many assets in Newport that will allow our city to excel if we take advantage of them and that are unique to Newport. We have a vibrant local community, a world-renowned arts scene, and a natural beauty that rivals anywhere else in this country. The US Navy is right next door with a research and tech facility, we have a strong tourism economy, and we’re close to major business centers and top-tier higher-education institutions. Yet so many of our graduates, including many of my friends growing up, can't find fruitful careers at home. Newport’s assets are largely untapped and the City has failed to grow because of that – we can do better.
As the Newport Daily News reported Friday, an independent study commissioned by the Newport County Chamber of Commerce has found the same thing. The consultant’s report agreed that Newport County has many advantages that it hasn’t capitalized on. The study came up with three areas to improve for a “community investment plan”. The region needs to retain and expand existing businesses, better market itself, and ensure that we are included in state marketing. Newport can improve in these areas to allow us to be competitive in today’s economy.
The modern economy is changing. Major companies are moving their headquarters back into cities in an effort to attract top talent. The GE Technology Center in Providence is a recent example of the draw that Rhode Island has. “We needed a place that had a strong tech pipeline, top-tier university partnership opportunities and great quality of life,” GE CTO Chris Drumgoole said in a statement reported on WPRI. The Chamber of Commerce study found that a skilled workforce is the most important quality that companies look for when establishing a headquarters, and Newport has the resources to attract the employees that companies want.
Many of the areas that need improvement in Newport can be helped with better communication by the city. That improved communication starts with the city website. The first impression that potential nnewcomers have of Newport is the website and right now it does not represent what we know to be true of our city. We can reshape this first impression with a website that serves as a communication hub for the city government – working as a place for residents to go for information and assistance, a repository for city plans, a data center for marketers, and more. This will better serve residents, visitors, and businesses.
Locally, to help us retain and expand existing businesses, a redesigned website will improve the dialogue between the city and our businesses. Currently, many businesses feel that their concerns aren’t being heard and that they aren’t considered during city planning. Many of them have also lost trust in our government’s ability to hold to a plan or don’t believe that there is a plan at all. The plans and timelines for large projects in Newport need to be accessible on the city website and maintained with clear milestones and deadlines. This will go a long way to improving the trust between the city and the businesses because it will allow business to trust the city’s projections and plan accordingly. It’s challenging for a business to plan their next expansion if they can’t predict the environment outside their front door.
A key component of successful marketing is clear communication. There are multiple groups within Newport County and the whole of Rhode Island that are marketing Newport – both as a tourism destination and as potential home for businesses. The city needs to make the marketing our city as easy as possible. Again, this starts with a clean, intuitive website that maintains all of the information residents, visitors, and marketers need. It should work as the touchstone for the various teams looking to market our city at a local, state, or national level. Making it easy to market Newport ensures that we are included in state-level economic marketing.
Newport has the potential to grow so much. We already have a fantastic base for growth, we just need to take advantage of it. Step one to reaching our potential is improving communication and building trust. We only get one chance to make a first impression, on the street or online – we can do better.