Warwick: Economy

Major Industries and Commercial Activity

Warwick is one of Rhode Island's major manufacturing zones, home to textile factories, metal fabrication centers, and electronic plants. However, Rhode Island's retail trade industry has increasingly centered in Warwick and the city has become more of a bedroom community for Providence workers. As the city moves into the twenty-first century, finance and high-tech industries are gaining a foothold and appear, along with tourism, to be the wave of the future in Warwick.

In 1996, the nonprofit Central Rhode Island Development Corporation (CRIDCO) was formed to counter downsizing in the local defense industry. The Corporation is dedicated not just to the support of existing manufacturers and industries, but also to the identification and attraction of growth-oriented industries. To this end, CRIDCO offers a Manufacturers Roundtable, during which business owners can discuss strategies, brainstorm problems, and develop joint projects. The Food Manufacturers Network brings together local food producers to cut costs by sharing resources and consult with experts in the field. CRIDCO is in the process of creating a Hi-Tec/Bio-Tec Network that will provide support for entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Items and goods produced: Diecast machinery and tools; human resource, finance, and inventory control software technology; jewelry; seafood

Incentive Programs—New and Existing Companies

Both the city of Warwick and the state of Rhode Island are invested in attracting and keeping viable businesses, with a particular emphasis on companies that are doing international business or who are in the high-tech industry.

Local programs

The municipal government offers the Warwick Export Development Program as a support for businesses that are engaging or would like to engage in international trade. Services included are an international trade data network, seminars, consulting reports, and a global link program. The U.S. Small Business Administration has housed local Small Business Development Centers within chambers of commerce across Rhode Island. The Central Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce in Warwick assists businesses in accessing capital, provides professional development workshops, helps with marketing strategies, and coordinates trade shows.

State programs

Rhode Island provides a corporate income tax rate reduction for those firms increasing employment. Manufacturers and trade service firms paying above average wages or investing significantly in work training are able to take a 10 percent credit on purchased or leased equipment. Businesses may also take a significant credit for expenses for approved job training programs. Creativity is rewarded by income tax exemption for writers and artists who sell their works. Research and development activities may also be eligible for tax credits under a variety of programs administered by the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation. Restoration of historic buildings as businesses or residences may qualify for tax breaks, as may businesses located in certified mill buildings. Other state programs offer benefits to businesses that provide adult education, that create apprenticeship opportunities, or that are engaged in manufacturing, particularly within the areas of defense, medical instruments, or pharmaceuticals.

Job training programs

The Rhode Island Department of Labor & Training provides employers and small businesses with counseling and direct access to federal and state training, labor market information, recruitment and skills enhancement programs, and grants. The state additionally coordinates services to dislocated workers, foreign workers, youth who wish to be employed, and military veterans. The state maintains a large database of available jobs for those seeking employment. The Workforce Partnership of Greater Rhode Island supports the Department of Labor & Training by assisting businesses and industries in grant writing, goal-setting, job fair coordination, creation of school-to-work linkages, and employee training to address critical skill shortages.

The Tech Collective marshals the resources of high-tech companies and educational institutions across the state of Rhode Island, in an effort to provide workforce development in support of technology businesses. In the Warwick area, the nonprofit agency has partnered with the Central Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce and the Warwick Career and Technical Center to coordinate programs such as the Groundhog Job Shadow Day, technology partnerships that train workers in innovative industries such as biomanufacturing, a Grrl Tech program that encourages young women to enter and remain in the field, and Principal for a Day, in which a business or civic leader has the opportunity to get to know a local school.

Among other services, the Central Rhode Island Development Corporation also offers training assistance for the local workforce.

Development Projects

In 2004 the state of Rhode Island received $856,000 in federal money to create a wireless communication system to increase security of ports in the Narragansett Bay area. The U.S. Department of Homeland Defense supplied the funds, and Lockheed-Martin acted as consultant in the design of the project, which ultimately will employ video cameras, text messaging, and voice communication capabilities linked with motion, biochemical, and underwater sensors. Once complete, the system could serve as a model for other ports across the nation.

T.F. Green State Airport handles the bulk of passenger air travel in Rhode Island and the number of people passing through its gates is expected to double within the next 20 years. As a result, airport authorities have formulated a 20-year master plan that identifies facilities necessary for the airfield to remain in compliance with the Federal Aviation Administration. The master plan lists an expanded terminal with twice the current capacity, a new 500-foot main runway, a new parallel runway, additional terminal road access, and enhanced parking structures. The plan is not without its detractors—a Concerned Airport Neighbors group has been involved in public meetings regarding noise issues, and an environmental impact study is being conducted to determine how the proposed expansions will affect wetlands and traditional tribal grounds in the path of construction.

The Rocky Point Amusement Park gave Warwick thrills since original developer Captain William Winslow began to add attractions in 1847. Over time, the park saw a virtual parade of carnival acts and rides, including rollercoasters, houses of horror, flumes, and a saltwater pool. The park was decimated by a hurricane in 1938 and was rebuilt, only to face closure in the 1990s. Now, the site is being reborn via an ambitious redevelopment project to build a resort that will incorporate some of the amusement park's entertainment aspects. The project will cost an estimated $175 million and will include a holistic healing center, a tribute to Rocky Point Amusement Park, a retail mall, an artist village, "A Taste of Rhode Island" cuisine center, an amphitheater, a hiking trail system, and other features. Planning and discussion have been ongoing since 2003, and construction was expected to be complete in summer of 2007.

Commercial Shipping

T.F. Green Airport in the Warwick/Providence area offers some shipping resources, with airlines such as Continental, American and United onsite. Boston's Logan International Airport is approximately 70 minutes from Warwick and provides access to a number of national and international cargo carriers. On an annual basis, Logan moves more than 364,000 metric tons of cargo and mail. The airport is part of Foreign Trade Zone #27, allowing for temporary storage of imported goods that are exempt from full U.S. Customs scrutiny. For water transport, Warwick is only minutes away from the Port of Providence, which has been increased to a 40-foot depth in order to accommodate medium and deep-draft vessels. The Port can handle any type of cargo, has approximately 300,000 square feet of warehouse capacity, and offers 25 wharves and docks.

Located at the center of the state's superhighway system, Warwick is a hub for ground transportation of goods. Inter-states 95 and 295 serve as the primary access to and from the Warwick area. A number of over-the-road freight transporters operate in the Warwick-Providence area. The United Parcel Service maintains a huge presence in Warwick and is one of the area's largest employers. The Providence & Worcester Railroad hauls cargo regionally, with a focus on waste and scrap and the capacity to carry stone, chemicals, and fabricated materials.

Labor Force and Employment Outlook

Warwick's population tends to be educated, a little older on average, and more experienced vocationally as a result. The 2000 U.S. census reported that 85 percent of Warwick residents had earned a high school diploma or its equivalent, while more than a quarter of the citizens went on to earn a bachelor's degree or higher. Statewide, it is anticipated that overall employment will increase by 11.5 percent by the year 2012, with significant gains in construction, professional and technical services, healthcare and social assistance, leisure and recreation businesses, and accommodation and food service industries. It is anticipated that manufacturing jobs will fall by approximately 13.5 percent by 2012, the only employment sector in which there are projected losses.

The following is a summary of data regarding the Providence-Fall River-Warwick, RI-MA metropolitan statistical area labor force, 2004 annual averages.

Size of nonagricultural labor force: 581,300

Number of workers employed in . . .

natural resources and mining: 300

construction: 25,600

manufacturing: 75,700

trade, transportation and utilities: 102,700

information: 11,700

financial activities: 37,200

professional and business services: 60,900

educational and health services: 106,900

leisure and hospitality: 58,900

other services: 26,500

government: 74,900

Average hourly earnings of production workers employed in manufacturing: $13.45 (April 2005)

Unemployment rate: 4.8% (April 2005)

Warwick: Economy

Largest employers Number of employees (2004)
Kent Memorial Hospital 2,300
Citizens Bank Warwick Call Center 1,000
United Parcel Service 1,000
Metropolitan Life Insurance 950
City of Warwick 900
Leviton Manufacturing Co., Inc. 840
WalMart 800
Community College of Rhode Island 687
J.C. Penney Co., Inc. 550
Kenney Manufacturing Company 550
Metlife Auto and Home Insurance 500
Autocenter Imports (Inskip) 350

Cost of Living

In a small state like Rhode Island, housing is at a premium and housing costs reflect that scarcity. The local legislature is continually under pressure to reduce the amount of property taxes that are paid in Rhode Island. When combined with salaries that aren't significantly higher than other states across the nation, it would appear that Warwick has a relatively high cost of living.

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Average House Price: $472,818 (Providence, RI)

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Cost of Living Index: 127.7 (U.S. average = 100.0) (Providence metro)

State income tax rate: 3.75% to 9.9%

State sales tax rate: 7%

Local income tax rate: None

Local sales tax rate: None

Property tax rate: $14.81 per $1,000 assessed market value

Economic Information: Central Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce, 3288 Post Road, Warwick, RI 02886; telephone (401)732-1100. Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation, One West Exchange Street, Providence, RI; telephone (401)222-2601