2014-10-30 / Community Blog

Downtown Money Drain

To the Editor:

As someone raised in Newport, I would like to offer some perspective regarding a recent article that appeared in the Rhode Island Small Business Journal entitled “Jobs for Newport Partners Step in to Preserve Jobs, Economic Activity from Newport Yachting Center Events.”

To the working generation left in Rhode Island and still-undecided casino ballot voters:

The idea that a newly-constructed concert venue at the foot of the Pell Bridge would not vacuum economic activity directly from downtown Newport would be absurd, were it not for the sadly consistent branding efforts of the developers’ campaign.

This is the wrong solution to replace concerts and festivals held in downtown Newport. The article quotes Joe Paolino claiming the new concert venue will “draw locals and visitors to Newport’s restaurants, hotels and shops.” If new restaurants, hotels and shops are to be constructed at the proposed site, how will this not drain money from current local business owners? What happens to economic activity in the downtown area when a one-stop-shop for eating, drinking, shopping and entertainment is placed directly alongside the first exit into town?

People travel from all over the world to visit Newport because of its unique brand. Homes are purchased and restored, boats are docked, cruise ships frequent, and international events are held because of that brand. Local businesses have a hard enough time bringing in foot traffic and convincing people to spend money in a sluggish economy. They should have the support of local politicians and shouldn’t be faced with the daunting prospect of having to convince people to leave a roadside “entertainment center” to wait for a shuttle to spend money in downtown Newport.

Casinos make money keeping people onsite. That’s a fact. Hotels, clubs, restaurants, retail shopping and yes, even “European-style full service spas and fitness centers” are all part of a business model designed to keep as much money in-house as possible.

Newport already has a unique, internationally-recognized service industry made up of local business owners and employees who work their tails off to keep their doors open each season. The established harborfront is what lures visitors from around the world and brings in reliable money for the city and state. Keeping that community of businesses and residents vibrant needs to be a priority for local and state politicians.

Let’s not allow a casino and entertainment center to siphon money from the business community that makes Newport the world-renowned destination it is. Vote NO on Question 1.

Adam Ray

Newport

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