The following is the speech made by Erin Donovan-Boyle, Executive Director, at the official rededication ceremony to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Newport Bridge that took place at Gurney’s Newport Resort and Marina Friday, June 28, 2019.
Thanks to the civic and business leaders of the past for their vision in investing in this iconic structure for the state of RI, but also for their perseverance in ensuring that progress not be stifled and that this gateway to economic opportunity be opened for the residents of Newport County.
The Newport County Chamber of Commerce and its numerous business leaders were original proponents of the building of the bridge because they saw the tremendous potential this could have for commercial and recreational expansion. Through regular advocacy efforts, gathering of signatures for petitions, coordinating transportation to and from hearings and holding public meetings, the voice of the business community was an integral part of the process to establish this essential link in the state’s highway system.
Thanks to their foresight, the perseverance of Aquidneck Islanders, and the courageous state and federal leadership of the time, the success of the investment of the Newport Bridge cannot be overstated. It truly helped to bring commerce to Aquidneck Island.
The Newport bridge opened the highway system to incorporate Newport County into the broader state’s economy and it linked South County mainland and ultimately New England and mid-Atlantic states.
While the Newport-Bristol region offers high quality of life and access to waterfront living, the bridge opened access to the Providence, Boston and New York markets. Additionally, our region is made up of a mix of different types of industry, including defense, marine trades, high-tech, and hospitality and tourism….and Greater Newport has a workforce that is more educated than 97% of counties in the U.S.
We are Internationally known as a summer resort and yachting center, with an abundance of wholesale and retail trade and services catering to summer residents and tourists. This has been a high performing industry with continual growth and expansion into year-round services.
The Defense Cluster, which includes jobs directly attributed to NAVSTA Newport, and those that support it, is responsible for 29,196 jobs, which represents 6.2 percent of total employment based in Rhode Island.
The Rhode Island marine industry is comprised of 1,712 firms that generate $2.649 billion in annual gross sales and employ 13,337 people.
Aquidneck Island as a whole is becoming a high-technology hub with more than 80 software and engineering firms employing a large portion of the labor force.
Of course, some light industry plus fishing and lobstering also contribute to Newport's economy.
Our region is a successful economic story, with industry clusters identified as the state’s targeted opportunities for growth. The bridge has helped to link these attributes to the broader state’s economy in a much more seamless way.
The Chamber looks forward to supporting related efforts for bridge development and investment that we believe will continue down the path of progress by enhancing economic activity and job opportunities for the region. Some of these projects include:
- Implementing new technologies and construction techniques related to composites and pedestrian/bike paths to further connect Newport County to the South Counties and entire state
- Supporting similar large infrastructure investments into the relocation of the Pell Bridge ramps which offers redevelopment opportunities in the City of Newport
- Increasing transportation modes throughout Aquidneck Island to ease congestion
- Maintaining and enhancing existing infrastructure throughout the region to ensure past investments are cared for responsibly
These initiatives will have a great impact on the broader business community of the region and align perfectly with the Chamber’s mission to connect, innovate, enhance and advocate for the businesses of Greater Newport.
Congratulations to the RI Turnpike and Bridge Authority for 50 years of success. We look forward to supporting the future of the Pell Bridge and partnering with them on these new endeavors.
May the Newport Bridge continue to be a symbol of prosperity and progress.