More than four months after being charged by Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee with examining the R.I. Economic Development Corporation in the aftermath of the 38 Studios LLC implosion, the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council has come back with a 140-page report that makes clear change is needed. The report looks at the EDC today, at best practices across the country, and recommends what the state should do to improve the business-development environment in Rhode Island.
As is always the case, RIPEC’s work is thorough and driven by the desire to produce the high-quality information that our elected officials as well as the electorate need in order to craft and support intelligent and effective public policy.
In this case, the report recognizes that the state has an important role to play in economic development, and that what is needed is more consistent, transparent and effective direction from the public sector in order to energize the private sector and yank the state out of its downward spiral.
RIPEC recommends that the state gather the business development and attraction functions of the EDC together in one cabinet-level office, and add the departments of labor and training, business regulation and environmental management to the new Department of Commerce, too. This approach has the very important effect of reducing the touch points a business must hit in order to start, expand or move here, which has been cited as a major problem for years.
The plan is an important first step in turning Rhode Island’s failing economic-development approach around. But to be effective public policy, change needs to happen much sooner than later. •