In yet another sign that Rhode Island has driven itself into a ditch, three more members of the board of directors of the R.I. Economic Development Corporation have begged off serving on the board anymore, leaving the 13-member board temporarily with five members, plus the nonvoting Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee.
Since 38 Studios LLC declared bankruptcy last spring, the state’s only agency charged with generating economic development has ground to a virtual standstill, with little being done to fix it.
For instance, two plans – one of them commissioned by the governor – have been put forward to reform the EDC and rejected. Gov. Chafee said that incremental changes happening at the EDC have made a difference and the agency is on the right path.
The evidence on that score is not clear. For instance, the Small Business Loan Fund effectively has stopped functioning in the last year. Funds available to loan have grown from $700,000 a year ago to $3.5 million, despite the desperate need of Rhode Island businesses, as companies shy away from the program.
As if to emphasize the point that the EDC was not interested in having anyone serve on its board, the state sued EDC and 38 Studios staff as well as firms that advised the state on the deal, while reserving the right to add board members as defendants down the road.
The governor has sent the clear sign that he does not believe the agency is an important part of the Rhode Island economy. But he hasn’t done anything about it.
The stakes are too high and the situation too dire for this state of affairs to continue. Either accept one of the plans to reformulate the EDC or just scrap it and start over. But it needs to be done now. •
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