By Denise Perreault
PBN Staff Writer
From winning a Hasbro Inc. commitment to stay in the city to helping companies cope with the disruption caused by Interstate 95 work, Pawtucket Mayor Donald R. Grebien has been putting his business background to use, opening new lines of communication with the city’s major employers.
Elected last year, Grebien for the last several months has made a point of visiting the major corporations in Pawtucket, taking his department directors and key staff members with him as well as representatives of the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce and The Pawtucket Foundation.
“Being a new mayor, I thought it would be beneficial … to show we appreciate [the city businesses] and they are not just someone paying taxes to the city,” he told Providence Business News.
He came to the mayor’s office in January from private industry after working in supply-chain management for American Insulated Wire, a former Pawtucket wire manufacturer, and serving 11 years on the City Council.
“We chose companies that have been here a long time with lots of employees and significant revenue, the major players,” explained Douglas Hadden, a former reporter now serving as Grebien’s director of constituent services and communications. The visits, suggested by newly elected City Councilman Christopher O’Neill, began in winter and extended through spring.
William M. Kapos, president and CEO of Excellent Coffee Co. on East Avenue, was impressed.
“This company has been here for almost 60 years and I’ve been here for 40 years, and this is the first time a mayor has reached out and physically come into my business,” he told PBN.
A key issue Kapos discussed with the mayor – an issue that affects his business each and every workday – is ongoing replacement of the Pawtucket River bridge, a stone’s throw from his office.
Part of Interstate 95 near the S-curve, the weakened bridge has carried an 18-ton weight limit since 2008, which means load-bearing trucks often must find alternate routes or get off the highway without crossing it. State police closely enforce the weight ban and are issuing tickets for as much as $3,000 per violation. The $81 million project, slated for completion in 2013, has resulted in detours, closed exits and general inconvenience for motorists.