- Associated Press - Friday, December 11, 2015

WOONSOCKET, R.I. (AP) - Old mill towns seeking to revive their long-lost commercial luster are getting new attention from Gov. Gina Raimondo in her push to jumpstart Rhode Island’s economy using tax breaks and other incentives.

Raimondo strolled through downtown Woonsocket on Friday and paused at a historic theater to roll out a trio of economic initiatives.

“It’s clearly a city that once was a vibrant economy built mostly around the textile industry on the Blackstone River,” Raimondo said. “Once upon a time, companies wanted to be here because of the water supply, the power. They’re all gone.”

One of her initiatives will offer $300,000 in grants or loans to spruce up distressed commercial districts. Applicants must match at least 30 percent of the cost of the project.

Woonsocket Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt said the city will apply for a grant. She said the city already has signed off on a proposal to make the streets and sidewalks surrounding Stadium Theatre more inviting to pedestrians.

The city, home to the global headquarters of pharmacy giant CVS Health, also hopes to benefit from another Raimondo initiative that will award tax credits to companies that can attract a supplier, service provider or other business to relocate to the state and generate at least 10 new jobs.

A third incentive will allow municipal governments to give developers tax breaks for economically important construction projects. The state would then reimburse the city for some of its lost tax revenue. Baldelli-Hunt said city leaders are looking at several sites in Woonsocket to build a new hotel catering to business travelers.

“We need to underpin the economy with new jobs - innovation-based jobs,” Raimondo said. “They’re going to need help. They’re going to need tax incentives. They’re going to need creative programs. It’s a heavy lift.”

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