U.S. Business Trend Toward Walkable Downtowns Aligns with RI Economic Development Strategies

PROVIDENCE, RI – Hundreds of American companies see unique competitive advantages to being located in a walkable downtown neighborhood. These locations are helping companies attract and retain talented workers, build their brand and corporate identity, support creative collaboration, be closer to partners, consolidate operations, and support triple-bottom line business outcomes.

Core Values: Why American Companies are Moving Downtown is a new report out today from Smart Growth America in partnership with Cushman & Wakefield and the George Washington University School of Business’ Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis. The report is based on surveys of nearly 500 companies that have moved to or expanded in walkable downtowns over the past five years, as well as interviews with 45 senior-level staff at those companies. The report sheds light on why these companies chose a walkable downtown and what they looked for when making their decision.

The report’s survey includes two organizations from Rhode Island—international toy giant Hasbro, Inc. and Roger Williams University. These are just some of the many companies that have moved to walkable downtowns in the state in recent years.

Scott Wolf, executive director of the nonprofit policy research and advocacy group Grow Smart RI, stated, “This national and local trend toward walkable urban locations aligns well with Governor Raimondo’s proposed urban and smart growth oriented economic development strategy, including a Main Street Rhode Island Streetscape Improvement Fund, transit-oriented development incentives, and a State Tax Increment Financing (TIF) incentive that would strengthen our state’s urban, town and village centers.”

In addition to explaining the reasons why they moved downtown, company leaders also outlined what they looked for when choosing a new location. Many interviewees said they wanted their offices to be close to restaurants, shops, and entertainment options, and accessible by a variety of transportation options. Great office space was another important factor. A warm welcome on the part of the city, and a clean and safe environment were also influential factors when deciding where to move.

“These companies chose a walkable downtown location to help them better compete for talent and resources,” said Geoff Anderson, President and CEO of Smart Growth America. “That tells us two things. First, that creating these kinds of places is a crucial economic development strategy for cities. And second, that companies which haven’t considered a walkable location may be at risk of falling behind.”

The full report, along with a full list of companies surveyed and an interactive map showing where they moved, is available on Smart Growth America’s website at www.smartgrowthamerica.org/core-values.

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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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