In a year of double-digit unemployment and 38 Studios LLC’s bankruptcy, economic-development concerns inevitably move to the front of the line.
So before planners begin the bulk of the state’s $2.4 million, Sustainable Communities Initiative, they’ll first take another stab at figuring out where Rhode Island is going wrong on economic development.“It is a response to the increasing sense of urgency with economic development,” said Kevin Flynn, associate director for planning in the state department of administration, about the move to expedite the economic-development part of the Sustainable Communities effort to update the State Guide Plan.
“Because there is such increased attention and urgency on the state’s business climate and why we lag behind, we thought it was important to ask what, in particular, do we do poorly compared with our neighbors,” Flynn added. “Once we analyze that, although the point is to gather data, we might learn something that helps us move forward.”
The Sustainable Communities Initiative is a three year, data and consultant-driven effort to build a new Rhode Island master plan for land use, transportation, infrastructure, housing and economic development. The U.S. Department of Housing and Economic Development is paying approximately 80 percent of the cost of the project with a $1.9 million grant awarded early last year.
Most of the work on putting the new plan together will not begin until late February or early March, but on a request from Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee, the economic-development part of the study will be fast-tracked to finish by Feb. 8.
Although Flynn said the analysis is not linked to the fiscal 2014 budget, which may include some economic-development restructuring, recommendations from the study could potentially spur separate efforts in the spring legislative cycle.
This will not be the first autopsy of the state’s economic-development efforts since 38 Studios collapsed and the R.I. Economic Development Corporation’s executive director resigned.
Between ordering a forensic audit of 38 Studios and a civil lawsuit against architects of the failed video game company’s $75 million state loan guarantee, Chafee asked the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council to examine the state’s economic-development structure.