Providence, Cranston, Newport win $400K grants through Boston Fed program

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Federal Reserve Bank of Boston President and CEO Eric Rosengren visited Rhode Island on Thursday to award $400,000 grants to three local cities through the bank’s Working Cities Challenge.

The program aims to promote collaboration between local leaders to address socioeconomic challenges. The three Rhode Island winners are Providence, Cranston and Newport. Eight other cities submitted applications but did not win grants, which are funded by public and private contributions, not the Fed.

Cranston Mayor Allan Fung hailed the grant for his city’s “One Cranston” partnership, an effort to shrink the divide between the city’s working-class eastern side and its wealthier western side.

“As you can see, there’s so many both private and public partners that have come to the table as stakeholders that put together our One Cranston grant, and we’re all very excited,” Fung told Rosengren at an event Thursday.

Appearing on this week’s Executive Suite, Rosengren said the four-year-old program grew out of research conducted by the Boston Fed that showed efforts to tackle cities’ challenges worked best when leaders from different groups worked together toward a common goal.

“Most of these communities say they’re collaborating already but frequently they’re collaborating just on the edge, and this is really integrating the community in a more significant way,” he said. The program launched in Massachusetts and has shown results there, he said.

During the interview, Rosengren also expressed optimism about whether the nation’s nine-year-old economic recovery can keep going.

“Recoveries don’t die of old age,” he said. “They die of policy mistakes. And as long as we don’t make policy mistakes – those could be policy mistakes that the Fed makes, that the Federal government makes, it could be policy mistakes made abroad – those are the kinds of things that start a recession. I don’t see that as necessarily happening.”

The Boston Fed is one of 12 regional Federal Reserve banks that oversee the nation’s monetary system. As the Boston Fed’s leader, Rosengren also serves on the Federal Open Market Committee that sets interest rates, which affect the cost of loans for houses, cars and student loans.

Rosengren said he expects the Fed to continue slowly raising rates from their current historically low levels over the coming months, as long as economic data continues to show strength. He acknowledged that data for the first three months of 2017 was weaker than many expected, however.

“My expectation, though, is that that was a lull and that we’re actually going to see stronger growth over the second half of the year,” he said.

Rosengren’s full interview on Executive Suite will air this Sunday at 6 a.m. on Fox Providence and at 8 p.m. on myRITV.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook