In a presentation to the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Economic Development, the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council outlined proposals for a restructuring of the way the state pursues economic growth.
RIPEC, an independent, nonprofit public policy research organization, recently released a report on its study of the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation that focused on the essential functions, structure and resources of the EDC. The report was prompted, in large part, by the collapse of 38 Studios, which received $75 million in EDC-backed loans. As a co-chairman of the joint committee, I welcomed the RIPEC report and presentation, and compliment the organization for its initiative and effort and its clear dedication to the betterment of our state through sound fiscal policy and efficiencies in government operations.
The joint committee, as part of its continuing hearings on the state’s short- and long-term economic development focus and efforts, intends to give serious consideration to the thorough and thoughtful RIPEC proposals. The RIPEC report focused not just on the EDC but also on all state activities and structures related to business and to economic growth and job creation. The report offered some bold proposals, from the creation of a State Commerce Secretary who would help shape the state’s business climate and oversee a new Executive Office of Commerce, to creation of a Council of Economic Advisors to analyze data and make policy recommendations.
Rhode Island needs to be bold in rebuilding our economy.
From crisis, it is said, comes opportunity. The anger and disappointment that followed the 38 Studios has opened the door to an honest discussion about how the state sets its economic development strategy, how the EDC or any successor organization fits into that strategy, and how we position the state for the greatest recovery in the shortest amount of time.
As Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed said, there is no higher priority than our state’s economy. It has been the number one focus of the Senate for years and will continue to be, as we work to restore a strong and vibrant economy in Rhode Island. The Joint Committee on Economic Development is fully invested in that effort. The RIPEC report that we are reviewing will be a valuable part of that process, along with a presentation to the committee by the Economic Development Foundation of Rhode Island and other testimony we have taken and will continue to solicit as part of the committee’s hearing work.
As are the individuals at RIPEC who generated the recent report, the members of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and its House co-chairwoman Rep. Donna M. Walsh, are hard-working, dedicated legislators, determined to finding ways to grow a strong and sustained economy that is good for business, for workers and for all the citizens of our state.
James C. Sheehan
State Senator – District 36