North Providence

Population: 34,000

Date of Town: 1636

Date of Incorporation: 1765

Total Area: 5.8 square miles

When Mayor Charles Lombardi first took office in 2007, he faced the challenge of a town with a $5.6 million dollar deficit and vacant store fronts in the towns highest traffic areas. Combining a business background with what is in the best interest of the Town, Mayor Lombardi began his journey to improving both the business climate and quality of life in North Providence.

No stranger to small business, with a 67 year old family run company with 38 employees, Mayor Lombardi knows what it takes to build and sustain small business even in tough economic times.

“Why do I still go to my business at 5:30 in the morning? Because that’s what needs to be done. Especially right now with the economy being what it is and with competition out there. The only way we survive is to pay attention to what’s out there.”

Coming from the private sector, it’s easier to not to make decisions purely based on politics. With state budget cuts of over $5 million dollars and a declining economy, North Providence was faced with a $10.6 million deficit in 2009.

Faced with some difficult decisions, there were a few ways to straighten out the financial situation. One was to approach the general assembly and ask for approval to send out a supplemental tax bill. After being denied the supplemental tax bill, the Town decided to raise taxes by 17%. This was a difficult decision, but one Mayor Lombardi knew he had to make.

Mayor Lombardi also proposed a deficit reduction bond which was approved. North Providence is now in the third year of the repayment of the bond, and in two years the deficit reduction bond will be satisfied, in turn becoming a $1.7 million rainy-day-fund every year. In just seven years, the town will go from a $10.6 million deficit to a $1.7 million surplus.

In addition to the deficit reduction, North Providence has made it easier for local entrepreneurs to open a business. Being the only town with a one-stop inspection division, business owners can now speak to the Building Inspector, Plumbing Inspector, Electrical Inspector, Fire Marshall, Zoning Board and Planning Director all in one location. This is a huge time savings to business owners, who previously had to visit four different buildings for permits and inspections.

The building, which was formerly a Chinese Restaurant, was refurbished using a majority of materials from the closed Ford dealership that donated goods such as 40-foot trailers, ceiling tiles, lights and a fire-alarm systems. The Town also used the heating and A/C units from the building to replace older units in Town Hall, saving the town thousands of dollars in additional expenses.

Another thing that Mayor Lombardi has done was to identify every vacant store front in town. “We have been on a hunt for new business suitors, and we are constantly talking to people on the phone asking if they would like to move their business to North Providence. Because of our initiative, we have had large businesses, such as Lowe’s and Dunkin Donuts, and dozens of small businesses move in and make a positive impact on the town.”

For anyone looking to start a business, Mayor Lombardi added “If you put politics aside, pay attention to your goal, and do things to make it happen, you will become a successful business owner.”

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Avatar About the Author: The Rhode Island Small Business Journal is a printed monthly magazine and an online resource for the aspiring and start-up entrepreneur and small business owner.

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