- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 29, 2015

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Rhode Island has been selected by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston as the next state to take part in an economic development competition for smaller, post-industrial cities trying to help lower-income residents, bank President Eric Rosengren announced Tuesday.

Rosengren was joined in Providence by Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo and Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor to announce that the state participate in the Working Cities Challenge competition.

“So why Rhode Island? First, there’s clearly the need. This is a state among the New England states that was hardest hit by the Recession,” Rosengren said. “You have a number of working cities. You have cities that are ripe for actually changing the story.”

Under the program, Rhode Island cities will work with local organizations to apply for funding to address issues affecting lower-income residents, such as workforce development, neighborhood development and immigrant entrepreneurship.

The state will provide $150,000 annually for three years to fund the program. Philanthropic organizations also plan to contribute, and Rosengren said he expects that a total of about $1.5 million will be available.

The Boston Fed coordinates the competition and offers staff support. The challenge was launched in Massachusetts in 2013, and six Massachusetts cities received a total of $1.8 million last year.

Rosengren said if the competition succeeds in Rhode Island, he’d like to expand it throughout New England. Connecticut is interested in participating, he added.

Raimondo, a Democrat, said the timing of the competition is perfect because cities are struggling and the effort fits in well with her economic development agenda.

“Your initiative is really going to help us engage these urban centers and make sure that our economic growth includes everybody,” she said. “You made a good choice picking Rhode Island,” Raimondo told Rosengren. “I know you’ve done some good things in Massachusetts but you ain’t seen nothing yet. We’re going to really get this done.”

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