Northern Rhode Island’s economic base is a unique collection of the old
and the new.
There are manufacturers and mills – and there are office parks. The
towns of Cumberland and Lincoln, for example, feature a historic housing
stock – and neatly manicured cul de sacs, the trademark of upscale new
Lincoln provides a perfect example of the old and new. A town that
boasts of one of the best public school districts in Rhode Island,
Lincoln is steeped in tradition. European settlers purchased the land
now known as Lincoln from native Americans in 1636.
According to a “Community Profile,” provided by the Northern Rhode
Island Chamber of Commerce; “The first industry began in the late 1660s
when lime was mined for use in mortar. This lime was used in buildings
throughout Rhode Island and Connecticut and mining of lime continues
today. The Great Road to Mendon (now Route 123), brought travelers and
traders between Providence and Mendon, Mass. in the 1700s. Today the
road retains its rural character. There are working farms, two mill
buildings and dozens of homes that date in age from 1690 through the
Although Lincoln continues to support manufacturing, it has increased
its tax base through a diversification of industries and the creation of
business office parks. The town, which is 18.6 miles square, also is
home to a state airport, community college, and a state park.
Perhaps the most telling sign of such successful diversification is the
Route 116 Industrial Corridor, where Amica Center Park houses the
national headquarters of Amica Insurance Company in a multi-million
dollar complex. The newest building completed in 1997 added 176,843
square feet of executive office space, not far from the Lincoln Mall,
which features a K-Mart anchor store, along with a variety of shops and
a multiscreen movie theater.
BUSY SMITHFIELD AVENUE (Route 126) in Lincoln.
Some 1,250 Amica employees occupy four buildings at Center Park and over
650,000 square feet of Class A office space.
Nearby, the North Central/295 Industrial and Office Park has an array of
tenants, including; Autocrat, Harvard Pilgrim HealthCare, Visiting Nurse
Service of Greater Woonsocket, Original Pizza of Boston and Blackstone
Center Office Condominiums. Other long-standing corporate residents of
Lincoln include General Cable and the A.T. Cross Company.
Lincoln’s economic base has continued to grow in recent years. A
recently built 72,519 square foot office complex called River Place is
home to Keyport Life Insurance Company and PharmCare, a division of CVS,
which has its corporate headquarters in Woonsocket. Cytotherapeutics
also calls Lincoln home, after originally opening its doors in
Town officials are also especially proud of the North Central Industrial
Air Park, which continues its transformation through a Brownfields pilot
program that has seen six properties removed from the EPA’s Superfund
list. Existing business expansions and newly locating companies bring
the park’s total occupancy from 55 percent in 1994 to 97 percent today.
Cumberland Mayor Francis A. Gaschen sees his town as one of the few
remaining communities in the Northeast that has maintained a rural
character, while at the same time providing easy access to major cities
and incentives for businesses to make it their home.
“We’re not overcrowded,” said Gaschen. “It’s a place for individuals who
want to be able to get into the city, but don’t want to be in it.”
With easy access to Routes 295 and 146, Gaschen points out that
Cumberland is less than an hour from Boston and 15 minutes from
Providence. It is also a community, he said, with a strong public school
“We’ve really got everything,” the mayor said.
The southern section of Cumberland, along the Blackstone River, remains
home to several mills. Cumberland’s early industrial growth centered on
the abundant water power of the Blackstone and Abbott Run rivers.
Minerals such as iron and copper were mined and the state rock,
Cumberlandite, is named for the community.
And Cumberland is writing a new chapter in its history of mills and
manufacturing. Hope Webbing was so impressed with the tax incentives
offered by the town, that it closed a plant in South Carolina and is in
the midst of moving 450 jobs to Cumberland. Gaschen was thrilled with
the company’s decision, but not surprised.
“Cumberland has one of the best balances, in terms of location,” he
Today, manufacturing and retail trade are the largest sources of income
in this 27.1 square-mile town.
Like Lincoln and its Route 116, Cumberland sees industrial office parks
as a key to expanding the town’s tax base. Gaschen sees no better
example of that than Highland Park II, located at the end of Route 99 at
Mendon Road. The new park will soon welcome its first tenant, Retail
Store Systems, and, according to the mayor, a German manufacturer will
soon be arriving.
“We’ve got the nicest new industrial park in southern New England,”
Gaschen said. “It’s got fantastic access to the highway.”