A round-up of what’s happening, new and to do in and around Rhode Island right now.

Rhode Island economy slowing

Last April, the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council was suggesting that the Rhode Island economy was growing – not robustly – but growing at a rate slightly faster than the region. That, according to the Current Economic Indicator (CEI), a measurement developed by RIPEC and Bryant University’s Center for Global and Regional Economic Studies. Meanwhile, University of Rhode Island Economics Professor Leonard Lardaro’s Current Conditions Index showed a slowing of the state’s economy. Now, RIPEC is set to release its latest CEI, and John Simmons, RIPEC Executive Director, tells us that it will readjust its thinking, showing instead a slowing economy. Lardaro has consistently shown a struggling economy for the first half of this year, with the latest, June, showing an economy that is contracting. “In the second quarter,” Lardaro says, “things here got decidedly worse.” Simmons said he was surprised to see construction jobs dip at a time of year when that industry’s employment should be robust and on the heels of the beginning of the state’s aggressive road and bridge program.

Routes 6 and 10 Redesign Workshop

A Providence workshop to get feedback to the state’s proposed $595 million redesign of the Route 6 and 10 connector, drew dozens of people to Asa Messer Elementary School, with participants focusing more on neighborhood and environmental issue than actual roadway redesign, according to a report in the Providence Journal. The Journal said the discussion centered more on “neighborhood connectivity,” “greenspace,” and “radical transformation.” Meanwhile state officials are struggling with the news that the state will not receive a $175 million federal grant for the highway project.

Citizens Bank breaks ground on new corporate campus

Citizens Financial Group broke ground Wednesday for its $200 million plus new corporate campus in Johnston, a facility it anticipates will be completed in mid-2018. The company had announced in March that it would build a new campus. The company has also indicated it will retain its Providence corporate headquarters. Reports suggest that some 3,200 employees will relocate to the corporate campus, which consolidates several of the financial group’s satellite facilities. There has been no indication of the impact on overall employment.

Board of Elections fires executive director

In a closed door meeting yesterday, the state Board of Elections voted 4 to 2 to fire its embattled executive director, Robert Kando, who had twice before been suspended by the board. Kondo, whose salary was $145,994 a year, is being replaced temporarily by Bob Rapoza, director of elections.

More staff reductions at the Providence Journal

GateHouse Media, the New England Group that owns the Providence Journal reportedly has nine takers to its latest buyout offer – seven in news and two in advertising. Gatehouse has until Sept. 7 to notify employees if the buyouts will be accepted, and employees have until the next day to accept or decline the offer, several news sources reported. Employees will be paid 12 weeks’ severance, while employees’ with 20 years or more of service will receive 17 weeks. The Newspaper Guild reported that in July, two employees – one in news and one in advertising – were laid off. At one time the Providence Journal, when it was under local ownership, had a news staff approaching 400. Today, there are less than 30 in Providence, with the newspaper edited in Texas. At one time, the Journal had several local news bureaus. Today, there are none. The paper’s circulation continues to decline, although it still retains its status as the dominant news organization in Rhode Island. Meanwhile, the Boston Business Journal is reporting that GateHouse Media’s New England group has cut 40 employees through buyouts and layoffs, and is talking about significant changes to its online and print publications.

Frank Prosnitz

Frank Prosnitz brings to WhatsUpNewp several years in journalism, including 10 as editor of the Providence (RI) Business News and 14 years as a reporter and bureau manager at the Providence (RI) Journal. Prosnitz began his journalism career as a sportswriter at the Asbury Park (NJ) Press, moving to The News Tribune (Woodbridge, NJ), before joining the Providence Journal. Prosnitz hosts the Morning Show on WLBQ radio (Westerly), 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday, and It’s Your Business, also on WBLQ, Monday and Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Prosnitz has twice won Best in Business Awards from the national Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW), twice was named Media Advocate of the Year by the Small Business Administration, won an investigative reporter’s award from the New England Press Association, and newswriting award from the Rhode Island Press Association.