Updated March 26 at 6:25pm

Report: R.I. economy demands ‘unique approach to economic development’


PROVIDENCE – There’s more to the Rhode Island economy than what is reflected in recent national rankings, according to a report released Wednesday by Fourth Economy Consulting.

Fourth Economy Consulting was contracted by the R.I. Economic Development Corporation to conduct an independent economic data analysis and assessment and to provide suggestions for short-term guidance to the Rhode Island community and considerations for the Sustainable Rhode Island campaign.

The 104-page report focused on five areas: business climate analysis, financial resource assessment, targeted cluster analysis and validation, state regulatory environment, and marketing analysis.

The report noted Rhode Island’s recent poor standing on national business climate rankings but said: “While it is very important to take a critical look at state rankings, it is also important to keep in mind that Rhode Island is not Texas, and Texas is not North Dakota. The idea of rankings presents a linear type of thinking that does not necessarily reflect the conditions, assets and opportunities that lie within each location.”

From analyzing a variety of recent business climate rankings, FEC determined that investment, talent, sustainability, place and diversity were most important for a strong business climate.

Under these five qualifiers, Rhode Island has both positive and negative aspects. In investment, for example, the FEC found that while Rhode Island has made recent progress in the tax climate indicator by lowering its personal income tax rate, the overall state tax climate is “still a challenge” with property tax, corporate tax, gas tax, utility and unemployment insurance rates all ranking poorly compared to national figures.

The FEC report found that Rhode Island placed third in the in-migration of U.S. knowledge workers, something it called “an asset upon which to build,” given that “for every 1 percent increase in a region's level of educational attainment there is a 0.04 percent increase in per-capita real income.”

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