Local News, News, Providence

Elorza returns from SXSW, where he pitched Providence

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza has returned home from a trip to Austin, Texas, where he joined other mayors in talking to entrepreneurs and pitching their cities as favorable locations for tech companies and start-ups.

South by Southwest, commonly written as SXSW, is a combination of music concerts, trade shows and conferences where artists, entrepreneurs and the public converge each year in Austin. This year, President Obama attended, along with mayors from a number of U.S. cities – including Elorza.

“I want Providence to be at the table,” Elorza said in an interview with Eyewitness News on Monday. “You know, mayors are at the center of innovation throughout the country and it’s amazing the conversations that we had with tech entrepreneurs about what they’re looking for in the city and the kinds of projects they are developing.”

While in Austin, Elorza gave an interview to The Guardian, where he said he hopes to infuse the former I-195 re-development project with start-ups.

“I came back with a lot of great ideas, a lot of great context,” Elorza said upon his return. “We’re going to make sure we have this same thriving tech economy here in Providence as they have in Austin.”

Mayor Elorza’s trip was paid for by the Providence Tourism Fund, a non-profit controlled by the city. He’s previously said one of the goals of out-of-state travel is to boost Providence’s economy by convincing companies to do business in the city.

Elorza said he got several companies at SXSW interested in Providence, but didn’t divulge which.

“There’s at least one education organization that we’re looking to attract,” Elorza said. “But there’s also a number – and this is very interesting – there are also a number of mobility and housing companies that are interested in coming to other cities and certainly to Providence.”

Last month, a WPRI.com review of the Elorza administration’s travel records showed either the Mayor or his staffers took 31 official business trips out-of-state in 2015.