As Rhode Island seeks to overcome the continuing effects of a deep and prolonged recession, Brown University — one of the state’s largest private employers, its leading research university, a leading center of biomedical research and the home of the state’s only medical school — is especially well-positioned to contribute to Rhode Island’s economic recovery.

Rhode Island in recession

Few states have been hit as hard as Rhode Island by the financial crisis that erupted in 2008 and the severe recession that followed. Between 2007 and 2010, private-sector payroll employment in the Ocean State declined by 7.36 percent — a loss of more than 30,000 jobs — and the state’s unemployment rate rose from 6.2 percent to 11.7 percent. Rhode Island’s manufacturing sector was hit especially hard; between 2007 and 2010 the state lost 20.6 percent of its manufacturing jobs. Government employment in Rhode Island also declined, with a loss of about 3,500 public-sector jobs between 2007 and 2011.

Providence has suffered along with the rest of the state. Between 2007 and 2010 the city lost more than 5,900 private-sector payroll jobs — a decline of 6.41 percent — and the unemployment rate among city residents rose from 6.4 percent to 13.5 percent.  As in Rhode Island as a whole, the long-term decline of the city’s manufacturing sector accelerated — between 2007 and 2010, manufacturing employment in Providence declined by 27.2 percent.

Source: Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training)

In 2011, the state’s economy began to recover — but only slowly, as private-sector payroll employment rose by 0.6 percent, and unemployment fell to 11.3 percent.  Providence has also been slow to recover. In 2011, private-sector payroll employment in the city rose by 0.5 percent — not enough to keep the city’s resident unemployment rate from ticking upward once again, to 13.7 percent.

Throughout the recession, the state’s colleges, universities and hospitals have been a steady source of employment and economic activity. Between 2007 and 2011, private-sector employment in education grew by 4.7 percent and employment in health care by 2.2 percent. Together, these two sectors added more than 3,000 private-sector jobs between 2007 and 2011. Much of this growth was concentrated in Providence, where employment in education grew by more than 7.9 percent and employment in health care by 4.2 percent — an increase of more than 1,800 jobs in these two sectors. As Rhode Island continues to work its way out of the recession, higher education and health care are likely to be major contributors to the renewed growth of the state’s economy.

Assessing Brown’s economic impact

As Rhode Island’s leading university, home to the Warren Alpert School of Medicine and a leading center of biomedical research, Brown University is particularly well-positioned to contribute to the state’s ongoing recovery, and to its future economic growth. This report highlights the multiple ways in which Brown is contributing to the renewed vitality of the state’s and the city’s economy — and how the University can help Rhode Island and Providence return to a path of sustained economic growth.

Part One of the report highlights Brown’s role as one of Rhode Island’s largest employers, and its role in generating jobs through its purchases of goods and services from Rhode Island companies and its investments in construction and renovation of university facilities.

Part Two highlights Brown’s contribution to the development of Rhode Island’s human capital — through both undergraduate and graduate/professional education, and through its participation in efforts to improve the quality of elementary and secondary education in the state.

Part Three discusses Brown’s role as Rhode Island’s leading research institution and the multiple ways in which University research contributes to the growth of the state’s economy. Part Four examines Brown’s role in the development of new businesses in Providence and elsewhere in Rhode Island.

Part Five describes the involvement of Brown students, faculty and staff in efforts to address community needs in Providence and elsewhere in Rhode Island; and Part Six highlights several reasons why Brown’s contribution to the redevelopment of the state’s economy could be even greater during the next five to ten years than it is today.