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Business leaders support city officials in their attempts to avoid having to file for bankruptcy, according to the results of a live survey last week during the annual economic-outlook breakfast hosted by the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce and Sovereign Bank.
Sixty-two percent of those among the more than 400 people in attendance March 6 who responded felt it would not be in the best interest of the city to file for bankruptcy.
Mayor Angel Taveras, a member of a panel discussion held during the breakfast, was pleased by the agreement of the crowd with his position, that bankruptcy is not an option. “I was happy to see the number of people who believe as I do that we should not follow Central Falls here in Providence.”
Taveras was surprised to find that the vast majority of business leaders in attendance, 72 percent, would not let a bankruptcy filing by the city impact decision-making within their own businesses. Taveras, however, still feels that filing for bankruptcy would ultimately be a disincentive for businesses to invest in Providence.
“I don’t want Providence to be known nationally as the first capital city to file for bankruptcy, I don’t think that’s the type of attention we want to draw to our state,” he said. “I don’t think it’s positive and so I think it’s important to try and do whatever we can to avoid it.”
Taveras says negotiations continue with the city’s major nonprofit entities, including Brown University, over the amount of financial support they should be giving to the city. He expects a resolution within a few months. He placed a similar time frame on a decision, either agreed upon, or unilateral, with regard to local pension and retiree health care reforms, but he estimated that the ensuing legal action that would almost certainly follow could take the rest of the year to be resolved.
Despite the concerns about the capital city’s financial situation, overall there appeared to be some guarded optimism by business leaders and the event hosts over the possibility of improvements in the economy in the year to come.
Sixty-four percent of attendees feel the national economy will get either somewhat better, or much better, during 2012, while 29 percent feel it will stay about the same. Locally, however, the improvement numbers were much more modest; only 25 percent feel things are in better shape, while 54 percent feel it will stay about the same.