Three years after Donald C. Eversley was ceremoniously introduced as the president of the Providence Economic Development Partnership, the partnership — at the behest of Mayor David N. Cicilline — has moved to not renew Eversley’s contract.
The move caught Eversley, a 1980 graduate of Brown University who returned to Providence from New York City, by surprise. Asked why his contract was not renewed, Eversley says, “I have no clue. I’d be happy to [stay]. I think there’s a lot more to do. I think we’ve done some critical programs, we’ve created some dynamic programs, but a lot of the infill [of economic development] still needs to be done.”
Cicilline, who serves as chairman of the PEDP, describes the non-renewal as part of a reorganization to improve Providence’s economic development efforts, with the likely addition of a Cabinet-level post of economic development director. He finds no fault with the performance of Eversley, whose contract expired in April and who has agreed to remain in his job, with a $110,000 salary, until the fall.
The abrupt non-renewal seems curious, particularly since Eversley was welcomed back to Providence with a reception at Brown’s John Carter Brown Library, hosted by President Ruth J. Simmons and attended by Cicilline and Governor Donald L. Carcieri (Brown grads themselves), in March 2004.
Eversley, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, previously served as director of Workforce and Business Development for the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation. He says he also worked during the New York City mayoral administrations of Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg.
City Councilors John J. Lombardi and Luis Aponte, part of the bloc critical of Cicilline, expressed disappointment about Eversley’s tenure. “I’m not sure it was as successful as it could have been,” Aponte says. “My sense of what the mission of what the PEDP was founded to do, it didn’t change,” when there should have been a stronger effort to attract and retain small businesses. Lombardi, who raps Eversley’s communication skills, says, “I did not find him user-friendly for the council.”
Eversley, though, who claims credit for moving forward the Providence Economic Development Partnership — which was formerly known as the Providence Economic Development Commission, and mostly focused on aiding new restaurants, during the Buddy Cianci era — cites a litany of accomplishments.
“I think I’ve put the city on the map in terms of economic development,” he says. “The PEDC was almost a secret organization hidden within the Planning Department,” with “no public profile, no marketing, no presence.” Now, Eversley says, the PEDP has a Web site, a magazine-style economic development guide, a seven-minute promotional DVD, created with the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, and a big display at T.F. Green Airport, “basically to create the sense that we are in the game, we know we have to compete.”
Eversley says the PEDP has made about 50 economic development loans, totaling roughly $8 million, which have leveraged $50 million in project financing. The partnership, he says, has also funded about 500,000-square-feet of commercial development, including the renovated Dreyfus Hotel and the new homes of Cuban Revolution, Murphy’s, and the Olneyville Housing Corporation. Through loans, the PEDP has helped to attract and retain roughly 1000 jobs. “I think I created something dynamic,” he says, and the feedback from City Hall and the business community was “really positive.”