By Jill Rodrigues
NEWPORT – Small business owners and municipal officials attended a business community outreach forum in Newport Friday morning to learn about the state resources available to small businesses and to bring their concerns for growing small businesses to state officials.
This was the second round of Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee’s business outreach forums held this year. About 35 people turned out to the Friday forum held at the Community College of Rhode Island’s Newport campus after 51 showed up for Thursday’s forum in Woonsocket to hear from representatives of the R.I. Economic Development Corporation, the R.I. Department of Labor and Training, U.S. Small Business Administration and the Ocean State Business Development Authority. The city of Newport and the Newport County Chamber of Commerce also had representatives at the Friday forum.
Though state officials focused on the resources available for financing startups and workforce training, the small business owners in attendance were more concerned with cutting red tape and the proposed tax increase on meals and beverages.
Addison Closson’s comments on the impact to the business community of hiking the meals and beverage tax met with the most approval from small business owners there. “Here we are in Newport. Hospitality is our thing here,” said Mr. Closson, who is in the permitting phase of starting up a public ferry service in Newport. “To add extra taxes on tickets and food and beverages, does it make a whole lot of sense?”
Earlier in the forum, Chafee said he would support lowering the meals and beverage tax if the May state revenue figures have improved over the current estimate. He encouraged those who oppose the tax increase to lobby their legislators.
State Sen. Louis DiPalma (D-Little Compton), who attended the forum, addressed the tax increase. He said he has co-sponsored legislation in the Senate, and that there is a similar bill in the House, to repeal the meals and beverages tax increase.
The officials in attendance, however, tried to keep to the theme of educating small business owners about financing and labor training available through the state.
At the DLT Business Workforce Center in Cranston, “our goal is to help you try to develop your workforce,” said Connie Parks, chief of labor & training programs.
The DLT Business Workforce Center offers a skills assessment training program, Metrix Learning, a free program available through the DLT website, (networkri.org), that evaluates a potential employee’s skills and also provides training in more than 5,000 courses, with a concentration in health, business, information technology and soft skills.