The idealistic economic trees planted by Mayor Scott Avedisian during his trade mission to Ireland in mid-September may already be bearing fruit in Warwick, as it was revealed through a release that two Irish companies spent three days here last week hashing out details for business to be conducted in the city.
Representatives from Big Red Barn Ltd, a company that specializes in building semi-permanent modular structures (some in the style of American rural barns) and Ezewarm, a company which specializes in under-floor radiant heating (both from County Mayo in Ireland), spent time with Avedisian discussing business possibilities in talks that directly stemmed from his pitch back in September.
The possibilities with Big Red Barn are particularly interesting, as Avedisian said in an interview on Wednesday that he had already inquired about the possibility of utilizing the company’s modular housing model to construct large-scale affordable housing projects throughout the city.
These modular houses would cost $40,000 for a 1-bedroom and $50,000 for a 2-bedroom. They take only 21 hours to assemble, are highly energy efficient and, due to their size, they could potentially be built on undersized lots which might otherwise not be developable.
Avedisian said that Rhode Island Housing was very receptive and “loved” the concept. Even better, Big Red Barn offered to build a demonstration modular home, free of charge, as a proof of concept.
All that Avedisian has to do now is provide the platform for the test.
“It's preliminary in that we have to find the land,” he said. “But you can see their commitment. They came over here to have a meeting and talk about all this.”
Additionally, Big Red Barn’s offering of modular structures include unique concepts like semi-permanent, seasonal chapels and event centers. Avedisian suggested the concept of constructing one of these modular chapels down at Rocky Point. “It would be booked all the time,” he said.
The discussions with the two companies add to a level of excitement surrounding foreign business opportunities, which are compounded by the possible expansion of the foreign trade zone surrounding T.F. Green Airport.
Currently, there is a foreign trade zone – an area which due to federal tariffs allows for favorable tax incentives to foreign companies to do business and export goods – but only in the Leesona warehouse building, which has been subdivided to allow for more businesses to occupy and take advantage of the zone. However, Avedisian said the city is working with the federal government to expand that zone to a much larger area.
That decision would have to be made by the Economic Development Administration, after a slew of other federal agencies have their input. If it turns out in the city’s favor, the entire City Centre Warwick area – or at least a larger part of it – could be designated as an area that is friendly to foreign trade and companies.
To Avedisian, this means more possibilities for exports directly to Ireland, and allowing Irish companies to set up shop right here in Warwick. He talked about Norwegian Air – which recently began servicing nonstop trips to Ireland out of Green – and how they try to limit the number of bags passengers take on board. To him, this spells out an opportunity for lots of Warwick-produced exports going to Ireland in the cargo holds of those planes.
“It would be exciting because you could incentivize everything at Dean Warehousing,” he said of the possibilities of the larger foreign trade zone. “The rest of that huge warehouse could be filled with products that have federal tariff incentives and then, all of the sudden it’s a game changer for the work that can get done and what we can export given the tariff incentives.”
Adding to the Irish connection, Shannon Airport in County Clare Ireland has started advertising for T.F. Green in their baggage area free of charge, Avedisian said. This is on top of an Irish artist who held an event showcasing her collection of art at Warwick Public Library on Wednesday as well.
“All the good will that you engender pays dividends and we're starting to see that now,” Avedisian said.