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R.I. looks to foster startups

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — There’s a new push in Rhode Island to encourage startup businesses by offering something needed by any company, large or small: office space.

Providence Mayor Angel Taveras on Wednesday cut the ribbon on the latest example: the Hatch Entrepreneurial Center in downtown Providence.

In addition to workspace, the center also offers tenants conference rooms, phone and Internet service, fax machines and — through a partnership with the Rhode Island Small Business Development Center — a program which connects new business owners with mentors in accounting, law, finance and management.

Tenants will be charged a “gym-style” membership fee that starts at $100 a month.

For sole proprietors or entrepreneurs accustomed to working on a laptop at a coffee shop, quality low-cost office space is a big plus, according to Peter Wright, who runs a wedding music and entertainment business based in Barrington.

He attended Wednesday’s ribbon cutting at the Hatch Center because he was intrigued, he said.

“I usually meet my clients in a Starbucks,” He said. “I don’t need an everyday office. But it would be great to have a place where I could meet clients when I need to.”

Something similar is underway at the Quonset Business Park, which recently opened a 14,000-square-foot building intended to provide space for small businesses and startups.

The so-called Gateway Offices come with the option of short-term leases and a reception staff, wireless Internet and conference rooms.

These attempts to encourage smaller businesses join existing efforts by groups like Betaspring, a Providence-based startup incubator that offers a variety of resources to entrepreneurs.

John Murphy, one of the founders of the Hatch Center, said he’d like to see it attract young and minority business people looking to start their first business along with small business owners looking to expand.

The goal, he said, is to make it easier to create and expand small businesses in Rhode Island and prevent innovative business ideas from leaving the state.

“This is about jobs, jobs, jobs. If a fellow has one backhoe, we want him to have two,” Murphy said.



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