Rhode Island Community Moves Towards Sustainable Recovery

PowerHouse Growers recently had the pleasure of getting to know Cameron Muir, Brand Development Manager at the Retail Project RI in Providence, Rhode Island. Cameron’s passion for the Ocean State is infectious which is why he and the team at Retail Project RI have been working hard not only to build their business but to turn around the economy of their beautiful home state.

In this article we delve into the historic and current profile of Rhode Island, the unique economic challenges it has undergone, and what its loyal residents are doing to overcome these obstacles and build a brighter future for upcoming generations.

Providence -Rhode-Island

Providence, RI. Image via Doug Kerr, Creative Commons.

Rhode Island Background

Located along the beautiful U.S. Eastern seaboard, Rhode Island is the smallest state in America yet its population density is one of the highest. Historically, Rhode Island is home to original colonial buildings and known for the beautiful architecture of its historic ocean-front mansions including the Vanderbilt Mansion from 1895. The Newport Historic District is a designated National Historic Landmark. Many of the famous Newport Mansions house museums and beautiful landscapes driving a year-round tourism industry. The Newport County Colonial Landmark Trail was established as a tour for visitors to learn about the early American history of the region.

Rhode Island’s capital city, Providence is home to the nation’s seventh oldest institution of higher education, Brown University. In 2009, Providence coined itself the Creative Capital in an effort to promote its strong arts and educational community.


A Newport, RI historic mansion. Image by Werner Kunz, via Creative Commons and World.Werner-Kunz.com

Rhode Island Economic Challenges

During the winter between 2006 and 2007, the economy of Rhode Island began to deteriorate even before the onset of the American financial crisis, hitting the state with the highest unemployment rate they had yet seen. Over the next several years the unemployment rate continued to grow into the double digits until it reached among the highest levels compared to the other states.

Additional challenges began compounding as a poor housing market drove away investment, and the manufacturing, agriculture, mining, and forestry industries upon which Rhode Island residents relied for economic stability began to slow.


Misquamicut Beach, RI. Image by Julian Diamond via Creative Commons.

Rhode Island Economic Recovery

Fast forward to 2014 and Rhode Island is in modest recovery despite an unemployment rate of around 9% in 2013. This past year the Rhode Island housing market showed tremendous growth as buyers looked to make purchases before the impending rise of interest rates.

Though not yet booming, Rhode Island has made notable strides as a community by acknowledging the challenges and implementing solutions to support small businesses and foster job growth. The Rhode Island Small Business Recovery Program – now called Prophet Share – is a training program that is intended to turn unemployment into self-employment through education, coaching, and business development.


The Rhode Island State House in Providence. Image by Richard A. Kizirian.


The State of Rhode Island – in a progressive response to the weak economy – implemented Rhode Map RI as a sustainable plan to create economic opportunity for its residents while preserving the historic character and health of the state. Through a public-private collaboration, the program aims to build strong and resilient communities leading to a growth in the housing and job markets. With a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Rhode Island was able to create the Sustainable Communities Plan to address concerns about the connections between urban development, environmental protection, community health, and economic expansion.

Local leaders in sustainability, like Southside Community Land Trust ensure a community-first attitude and are a major asset to a recovering economy. Their City Farm is a commercial urban farm that fosters local biodiversity and supports community-based education programs on food-growing and healthy eating.

Playing an integral role in the strengthening of the local economy, the Retail Project RI and Founder, Soren Ryherd have also undertaken important and sustainable work. Their creative answer to traditional retail establishments will be sure to help put Rhode Island back on the road to recovery.

Check back soon to read the follow up article expanding on the work of the Retail Project RI, their background, and their plans for the future.

About The Author

PowerHouse Growers
PowerHouse Growers teaches you how to sustainably integrate urban agriculture into your cities, businesses, and homes. We provide clear solutions and benefits for better health, increased productivity, and lower environmental impact. By connecting you with experts, we bring awareness to solutions that may not be top of mind.