Ben Thomas, Jamestown Chamber of Commerce; Doris Blanchard, Commerce RI; Claudine Charron, Jamestown Chamber of Commerce (Photo: Blakeley Andersen)

Over 80 community and civic leaders celebrated the kick off of Small Business Week on May 7 by visiting nearly 100 businesses throughout Newport and Bristol counties, building connections and fostering support of economic growth.

Civic leaders in attendance included Senator Dawn Euer, Representative Terri Cortvriend, Representative Deb Ruggiero, Representative Susan Donovan, Representative June Speakman, Newport Mayor Jamie Bova, Newport City Councilwomen Lynn Ceglie and Susan Taylor, Middletown Councilwomen Terri Flynn and Barbara VonVillas, Bristol Town Councilman Arron Ley, Tiverton Town Council Vice President Justin Katz, Tiverton Town Council President Robert Coulter, Warren Town Council President Keri Cronin, and Warren Town Councilman Steven Calenda.

Newport Mayor Jamie Bova and Architect and Ross Cann, A4 Architecture prepare for the business walk at Innovate Newport (Photo: Monica Hershberger)

“So insightful  to talk with many Middletown businesses and ask questions about doing business on Aquidneck Island, their hiring and regulation challenges”, says Rep Deb Ruggiero (Jamestown and Middletown), “this should continue on a regular basis. One recurring theme is the sense of community and quality of life!”

Volunteer walkers gathered feedback from locally owned businesses, ranging from retail shops to manufacturing to marine trades, gaining insight into the inner workings of the business community. The conversations between the community leaders and business owners and operators relayed avenues to improve business opportunity and growth to community leaders.

Middletown Director of Planning Ronald Wolanksi, John Nunes, Owner of Newport Vineyards, and Rep Deb Ruggiero talk business at Newport Vineyards in Middletown (Photo: Monica Hershberger)

“The business walk was a fantastic, eye opening opportunity. It’s so important for us to connect to businesses and see the common threads that they share,” said Tuni Schartner, Director of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Innovate Newport. “The innovative approach of the Chamber of Commerce to create Connect Greater Newport is helping us to really make an impact on the statewide economy.”

Business walks have proven nationally and internationally to be highly effective in strengthening local economies by retaining businesses in a community and creating an environment where they can grow.

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“The best way to start promoting growth in our business community is to understand their stories and perspectives, noting the strengths and challenges of our region and using that to make Greater Newport a better place to do business,” said Ashley Medeiros, Director of Connect Greater Newport.

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