PROVIDENCE – Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee on Thursday met with top government, business, labor and nonprofit leaders about changing Rhode Island’s public-sector economic-development efforts, but offered no timeline or certainty to when any changes might take place.
“I am very open to it,” Chafee said about a plan to create a new commerce secretary in his office that would control the R.I. Economic Development Corporation and other state agencies connected to the business climate.
Creation of the commerce secretariat was a leading recommendation of the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council in a report issued last month on the state’s economic-development structure, which Chafee commissioned after the collapse of 38 Studios LLC.
Asked what his timeline for making changes was, Chafee said “it’s methodical” and he hasn’t talked to any potential candidates for the secretary position yet.
Chafee seemed reluctant to embrace the most controversial aspect of the RIPEC plan, to move the Department of Environmental Management under the control of the new commerce secretary.
“I want to be very, very careful of any oversight of the business community over regulators,” Chafee said.
Those attending the meeting included RIPEC Executive Director John Simmons, AFL-CIO President George Nee, Rhode Island Foundation Executive Director Neil Steinberg and Department of Business Regulation Director Paul McGreevy, who Chafee made a special adviser to oversee changes to the EDC after the 38 Studios bankruptcy.
Chafee praised changes McGreevy has made underwriting procedures, administrative efficiency and transparency at EDC since 38 Studios and said the quasi public agency could continue with McGreevy at the helm indefinitely.