Much has been made about the increase in traffic that will occur when classes really kick in at the New England Institute of Technology on Division and South County Trail. But for the businesses in this part of East Greenwich, more people isn't a bad thing.
At the nearby 1149 Restaurant, Tom Wright "unequivocally" feels there will be a positive impact from the college. The student body, he said, will need a variety of goods and services from the local community and there will probably be various activities that will generate business.
"The business impact will be felt by many," he said.
Savory Grape owner Jessica Granaterio at 1000 Division, just across the street from the 1149 Restaurant, agrees with Wright.
"We welcome them to the community and look forward to the increased traffic they will bring," she said. "Our product is age sensitive, but we feel that from a retail and tax standpoint NEIT will be beneficial to all of us."
Granaterio said it won't just be students shopping in the area, it will be NEIT faculty and staff, too.
"People shop close to where they work, so we anticipate seeing traffic from those who enjoy wine," she said, "as well as the additional opportunities generated by events at the school."
As far away as Middle Road businesses are expecting a boost, said the owners of Greenwich Pizzeria and Marketplace, when they opened their new pizzeria and convenience store at the corner of Middle and South County Trail in November.
Even some downtown merchants are looking forward to New England Tech's arrival. Bob Hartman, owner of Back to Basics as well as being the outgoing president of the East Greenwich Chamber of Commerce, says he is happy to see the college here. He would like to see the town and Chamber work together on bringing students and staff into the town.
Hartman, incoming Chamber President Karl Brother of Core Fitness Center and Chamber Director Steve Lombardi have met with college officials to welcome them to the community. Hartman says the Chamber will be looking for ways to utilize school resources and sees opportunities in marketing advice, business seminars, program speakers and even use of facilities for meeting space.
An economic impact study done for NEIT by the Providence Consulting Group estimates retail spending in the East Greenwich, West Warwick and Warwick communities of $137 million to $186 million from 2011 to 2015. The projections include approximate retail sales of $12 million in each of those years in East Greenwich with a total impact of around $18 million annually.
The study predicts the increased level of retail sales will result in an increase in the assessed commercial property tax base, resulting in an increase in commercial real estate taxes. It is estimated that by 2015 this will generate an additional $182,000 in annual commercial property tax payments for the town.
Town Council President Michael Isaacs says the council concluded there will be a positive impact in the area, but said it is difficult to be precise about the numbers because the projected sales include spending in Warwick and West Warwick as well as East Greenwich and the numbers were put together in 2008, before the economic downturn really kicked in.
The study also estimates substantial retail spending by NEIT staff and students, with much of the student spending at takeaway food establishments. The total incremental food and beverage tax revenue to the town from 2011 and 2015 is put at $550,000.
One economic benefit will come from something that won't happen. Land now owned by the college includes a site once proposed for 349 affordable housing units. It was feared the number of children in a development that big would increase costs to the school system by millions of dollars and even generate need for an additional school.
However, the school system may now actually save money through working agreements with the college. In a recent speaking engagement before the Rotary Club, School Superintendent Dr. Vincent Mercurio was asked about the elimination of woodworking classes at the middle school. He said he is looking to offer those experiences by partnering with NEIT.
Currently the college has articulation agreements with a number of public schools allowing students to attend the college at no cost and apply successfully completed courses toward an NEIT degree. New England Tech has said it will offer East Greenwich students a tuition reduction, tutoring by staff and students and shared use of a future athletic facility.
The economic impact study projects substantial savings of up to $160,000 in value from use of the athletic facility.
Dr. Mercurio says all the NEIT offers are under discussion.