PROVIDENCE – House leaders on Thursday unveiled a package of economic-development bills designed to improve the state’s business climate by replacing the R.I. Economic Development Corporation, creating an Executive Office of Commerce to coordinate state business services and bringing back a tax-credit program designed to develop historic properties.
“We want to have economic-development policies that work, with a forward-thinking strategy, a coordinating agency that has the tools and authority but also the oversight it needs, and programs that effectively support businesses in their efforts to grow and bring prosperity and jobs to Rhode Island,” said House Speaker Gordon D. Fox, D-Providence.
The package includes 14 new bills and four that have already been introduced this year, and follows an economic conference House leaders held with community stakeholders on ways to improve the state’s economy and numerous public hearings.
The proposals include creating or revamping:
Executive Office of Commerce, to be headed by a secretary of commerce. Transfers functions currently assigned to other state departments to improve coordination.
Commerce Corporation, would replace the RIEDC, with the Secretary of Commerce as its chairman and CEO. Would establish guidelines for financial-program oversight and evaluation.
Council of Economic Advisors: Advisers from the public and private sectors would collect and publish economic data.
Economic Planning Council, to convene once every four years.
Historic-structures tax credit program re-established to include a per-project cap of $5 million.
Rapid Rhody, a small-business loan program to provide more timely access to capital to employers with fewer than 100 employees.
Business Development Center that includes ombudsmen and concierge call service.
Municipal Roads and Bridges Revolving Loan Fund.
Innovate RI, a program to provide technical assistance to small companies competing for federal grants and loans.
Back to Work RI, a program in which a person collecting unemployment benefits would be paired with a business for training at no expense to the business.
Wetland regulations, requiring that local wetlands and septic ordinances be consistent with state regulations.
Floating holidays observed by the state that are not designated national holidays.
Biweekly pay, allows employers to pay less frequently than weekly consistent with business practices across the country.
Manufacturing internships and apprenticeships, law revisions to allow students to train during school hours.
Directs the Department of Labor and Training to review seasonal unemployment and limit state cost impact.
Rhode Island Made – Creates a plan for all makers of products in Rhode Island to have a coordinated branding strategy.
Capital Expansion Manufacturing Jobs Credits, will allow companies that make major capital investments to be paid back a portion through credits on new jobs.
External reporting and accountability, requires the Office of Management and Budget to inventory reports required across agencies and include status in the annual budget.