The R.I. Economic Development Corporation is retooling now that the agency’s state appropriation for fiscal 2012 has been cut by 15 percent – a decrease that follows several years of similar budget reductions.
EDC Executive Director Keith W. Stokes said the agency has cut three staff positions, is attempting to renegotiate the lease for the EDC offices at the American Locomotive Works and did not renew its $12,000-a-month contract with Providence-based marketing and communications firm Duffy & Shanley.
In outlining a cost-efficient restructuring to the EDC board recently, Stokes insisted the staff would continue to focus on the development of key sectors such as tourism, defense, manufacturing and information technology.
But Stokes acknowledged that the shrinking state funding has been a challenge, pointing out that the EDC has cut its staff by 30 percent since 2008.
Still, he said the agency’s challenge is no different than what private-sector companies the EDC assists face.
“We’re only reflecting the challenges that our own small-business customers have had to adjust to over the last several years,” Stokes told the EDC board in June. “I think we stand ready to be efficient and effective.”
The $7.7 billion fiscal 2012 state budget approved by the General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee in June cut the state’s direct appropriation for the EDC to $3.95 million, down from $4.65 million the previous year.
It was the same budget cut that was first proposed by Chafee, who serves as the EDC chairman, in his tax-and-spending plan unveiled in March.
“The governor wants this organization to be focused,” Stokes explained recently. “He doesn’t want it to be all things to all businesses.”
The state’s direct contribution isn’t the EDC’s only source of income. Its $14.7 million fiscal 2012 budget includes $3.58 million in federal grants and another $5.73 million that is largely made up of legislative grants and allocations for specific programs.