When The Rhode Island Foundation President and CEO Neil D. Steinberg unveiled plans for last month’s “Make It Happen RI” forum, it was clear whose attention he was seeking.
“We are challenging the private sector to step up” with ideas to help spur the still sagging state economy, he told Providence Business News back in July. The idea was simple: While it is easy to find business leaders able to identify problems resulting from poor economic conditions, it is harder to find people willing to participate in finding workable solutions.
A progress report released last week by the foundation identified a number of promising developments, including creation of a Founders League, hosted by Betaspring, to replace the shuttered Rhode Island Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
But the report also highlighted a sobering reality. While the private sector heeded the call to get involved, many of the most-discussed ideas raised at the forum can only be accomplished with government support.
They include: creation of an advanced nursing-education center; providing unemployment funds to businesses to hire the unemployed; bringing back the state historic tax credit and coordinating regional tourism marketing.
The first step was bringing the private sector to the table. The next will be keeping it there, alongside government leaders willing to tackle the often-controversial ideas that can have a widespread impact on the economy. •