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PowerPlayer: Pawtucket’s Herb Weiss

Monday, August 13, 2012


This week’s PowerPlayer is Herb Weiss, the economic and cultural affairs officer for the city of Pawtucket. Mr. Weiss was kind enough to chat with GoLocalProv about what makes Pawtucket a selling point and his day-to-day life.

1) You were born in Dallas. How did you end up in Rhode Island?

Somewhat indirectly. I came to Rhode Island from Gaithersburg, Maryland to become editor at a local publishing company.

2) You lead the economic development efforts in Pawtucket. What are the key selling points for the city?

My title is actually economic and cultural affairs officer so my job is much more about helping people to make connections and find their way through the process than “leading” economic development per se. I work closely with Administrative Director Tony Pires, who is the city’s Economic Development point person. But basically we all follow the lead of Mayor Grebien, who is very hands-on when it comes making sure businesses are provided what they need to move or grow here. Affordability, great location (especially when the I-95 project is completed), our many historic mills, a vibrant creative sector, the Blackstone River and the abiding culture of industrial innovation it spawned, and a city that works hard to continually ratchet up its customer service are among our greatest selling points.

3) Take us through a day in your life.

Along with my economic development duties I am tasked to assist in the organizing of the Pawtucket Arts Festival, considered one of the largest cultural events of its kind in New England. With the Festival kickoff “gala” just a few weeks away (Sept. 6, come on down!), my typical day right now is working closely with city resident John Baxter, who chairs the hard-working volunteer committee that plans and organizes the Festival’s three weeks of activities. It’s pretty amazing that with the hundreds of details that go into organizing such an event that it always comes together in the end.

4) You’re deeply involved with the arts community. What makes Rhode Island such a hot spot for artists?

Besides our noted academic institutions, artists also gravitated to Rhode Island because of the state’s support of the arts through its tax incentive program in legislatively created Arts Districts. Hundreds of artists have come into Pawtucket attracted by affordable rents for artist studios and our accessible location off I-95, with close proximity to both Boston and Providence. The commuter rail in South Attleboro, just five minutes from Pawtucket, gives very easy access to Boston. But when you come down to it, the great intangible selling point has been the positive word of mouth support we’ve enjoyed among the artist community.

5) Tell us something nobody knows about you.

I started off my professional career working in a trade association that represented the for-profit nursing home industry. That experience helped me carve a niche as a Washington correspondent covering the industry for McKnight’s Long Term Care News and the American College of Health Care Administrators.

In 1997 McKnight’s LTC named me as one of the 100 most influential people in Long-Term Care. I have written or co-authored more than 450 articles on aging, health care and medical issues. My commentaries on issues facing aging baby boomers and seniors now appear weekly in the Pawtucket Times and Woonsocket Call.

Quick Hitters

Role Model: Paul Audette, who has worked for many years, often behind the scenes, to make the City of Pawtucket a better place to live, work and do business.

Favorite Restaurant: LJ’s BBQ and Spumoni’s Restaurant, both in Pawtucket of course.

Best Beach: Horseneck Beach

Best Book You’ve Read in the Last Year: The Bottom of the 33rd, by Dan Barry, about organized baseball’s longest game in 1981 at McCoy Stadium. Won by the PawSox, by the way.

Advice for the Next Herb Weiss. In life don’t sweat the small stuff. Problems have a habit of working themselves out.

Dan McGowan can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @danmcgowan.


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