PBN: What do you foresee as the first priority of the next governor?
CAPRIO: The local economy and the small businesses in the state that employ 60 percent of the people [are top priorities]. What I hear loud and clear from the small businesses in Rhode Island right now is they feel the state has become the enemy of the small business and it needs to become more of an advocate, not only in the way it acts but in the tools that are made available to the small businesses.
PBN: So how would that priority take shape for you?
CAPRIO: I’ve put out a small-business plan. Some of the main components are tax credits and incentives for small businesses, making it a little easier for them to add that one job.
PBN: Your plan also includes a $1,000 tax credit for a business that persuades another company to move here.
CAPRIO: Right, that’s a model from Delaware. … We have a lot of people who have good intentions in our state and we need to incentivize them to promote the state and do things that could make a difference. … We need to do some other big things. One of those is creating a small-business loan fund that’s user-friendly for small businesses. I have a couple of ideas on that. There’s one where we can take what’s been done to get the money [a $75 million loan guarantee] to 38 Studios. I’d like to see a pot of money that large go to thousands of companies, not one.
PBN: An additional pot of money? Or would you like to siphon off money from the existing $125 million loan-guarantee fund?
CAPRIO: We’re moving in the right direction having that pool of money already there that’s earmarked for certain types of companies. I’d like to have it more focused on existing businesses that employ people in Rhode Island and create real products. Let’s focus it on in-state companies that already have products and employees and need a little credit to grow and expand. The second part, in addition to that pot of money, if we could go to the local institutions, many of whom are tax exempt, the colleges and universities, and say we’d like you to participate with upside. This is for companies that may not have as strong a credit as necessary for the direct loan. This would be a private fund that the state would advocate for where there would be some upside for the investors and the company would be able to grow and succeed.
PBN: Would this be like in Massachusetts, where the state has created an independent nonprofit that has both public funds and private investment funds?