Rhode Island has the smallest amount of land in the country. Only 1,045 square miles make up this New England state. The state is densely populated, however, with 1,029 people occupying each of those square miles. The residents of Rhode Island have the 16th highest per capita income in the country. In 2006 it was estimated to be about $35,000.

Traditionally, Rhode Island was a manufacturing state specializing in the textile industry. By the second half of the 1900’s, many of the textile factories had been abandoned, and the major industries of Rhode Island shifted. Those abandoned textile factories have become housing development opportunities. Many of them have been turned into low income housing, senior-citizen housing and upscale condominiums. Affordable housing development is being heavily subsidized by the state. Other factories have been turned into office space. Around the cities of Providence and Pawtucket, the factories are being developed into artists spaces. The largest commercial industry within the state is the healthcare industry, and medical office complexes are prevalent, particularly in Providence.


Though industry, generally, is in decline. It might not be such a bad idea to hold onto some industrial property. The Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation has worked to bring new types of manufacturing to the state, so there is some need for light to heavy industrial property for electronic, health care and food manufacturing. Indeed, the growth in Rhode Island’s manufacturing sector has spurred a 50% increase in the use of industrial property. As well, Rhode Island has implemented several tax incentive programs intended to spur business development revitalize abandoned industrial areas. Besides tax incentives, the state also offers grants and loans to developers of old mill properties.

Education is also a big industry in Rhode Island. There are 14 colleges and universities within its borders. Since most of Rhode Island is urbanized, there is a strong student housing market. Vacancy rates are low and rents run fairly high. As well, retail runs strong in the university areas; the state has the highest number of coffee shops per capita in the country.

A fairly unique development niche in Rhode Island is historic redevelopment. Indeed, the state has set aside over $5.3 million to purchase open space and property that has been preserved or redeveloped for its historical value. A small portion of Rhode Island borders the Atlantic Ocean. Beach front property isn’t really developed, but there’s a strong market in existing development along the water.