I’m proud to be a native of Providence and a lifelong resident of Rhode Island. I attended both undergraduate and graduate school at Providence College, and today I live just outside the city in Scituate. My wife and I have raised our three daughters here, and I’ve spent my career—spanning almost four decades—here working for banks. Since 2009, I’ve led the Commercial Real Estate Banking business for Santander Bank, one of the country’s largest commercial and retail banks – and one of the largest banks in the world.
Why more companies are choosing Rhode Island
From a business perspective, Rhode Island is uniquely appealing. In the last couple of years especially, we’ve welcomed an influx of new companies that are choosing our state because it has many of the key qualities they seek:
• A well-trained and well-educated workforce: We have an abundance of the top educational institutions and comprehensive workforce training programs that are in place throughout the state.
• A predictable business environment: The current administration has updated Rhode Island’s regulatory and tax policies, removing red tape to create an ideal environment for new and established companies.
• Available and affordable housing: The opportunities for housing in Rhode Island are abundant, and the affordability index—when compared to major cities like Boston and New York—is important, especially for young people just leaving college and families that are starting off.
• Transportation and infrastructure: It’s easy to get from one place to another here. When you consider the traffic congestion of some of Rhode Island’s competing and surrounding areas, we’re much more favorable when it comes to transportation and commute times.
• Technology and utilities: For certain industries, utilities and energy supply are of paramount importance, especially for those companies that operate in the industrial parks in Cranston, Woonsocket or Quonset.
At Santander, our team members who live and work in Rhode Island tell me that many of their customers are also their neighbors and friends. I’m thrilled to say that’s the case for me, too - I’ve met many of my dearest friends through my interactions at Santander. I’m inspired every day by the great work that Santander employees do to make Rhode Island a better place, not only through countless hours of volunteerism but also by putting the customer first. We do this by striving to be a simple, personal and fair place to work and a bank that is respectful of every customer and every employee. If a company can embody these things, it will pass the test of time.
Advice for entrepreneurs and young professionals
Pursue your passion. That’s what I tell young people and budding entrepreneurs. If there’s something that excites you when you get up every morning, do that. You’re going to be doing it for a long time. It’s important to be happy at what you do.
I also encourage people to identify the areas where they are not proficient and to seek expert advice in those areas. In my career, the only constant has been change, and technology has been the most important single change that has persisted over those four decades. So my other piece of advice is to embrace technology.
Finally, whether in life or at work, there are always going to be challenges along the way. It’s important to be a problem solver and to persist through setbacks. All great entrepreneurs have worked through setbacks, and it seems perseverance is their common theme.
On March 21, 2018, Santander Bank and the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce will host the Santander Economic Outlook Breakfast, to be hosted by Gov. Gina M. Raimondo and focused on the Providence-area economy. To secure a spot at the breakfast, kindly register by Friday, March 16. Admission is free.
Mike Lee is managing director of commercial real estate for Santander Bank. We invite you to explore our entire Why RI blog post series with Kim Keck, president and CEO of BCBSRI; Dan Sullivan, president and CEO of Collette Travel; and Sandy Parrillo, president and CEO of Providence Mutual.