In recent weeks, critics of the RhodeMap RI economic development plan have put forward a great deal of misinformation and misinterpretation aimed at undermining public confidence in this forward-looking and sorely needed economic development plan for Rhode Island.
In response to several requests, Grow Smart is providing this summary of key elements and strategies from the full 186-page draft plan (that begins with an 8-page executive summary) to help concerned citizens wrap their heads around the plan and what it aims to achieve for a better Rhode Island.
Don’t be fooled by narrow ideologues. The plan is well thought out, well researched and has broad support from mainstream and trusted community leaders such as the Rhode Island Foundation and the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce.
Overview Prepared by Grow Smart Rhode Island
The draft Economic Development Plan now under consideration fulfills the General Assembly’s 2013 legislative mandate to Commerce RI (formerly the RI Economic Development Council) and the RI Division of Planning to produce a strategic economic development plan for the State of Rhode Island. Developed over the last 18 months with input from more than 1,000 people, the plan analyzes economic conditions and population trends, presents a vision for Rhode Island’s future, establishes six broad goals and presents policies and strategies to achieve those goals. Many of the recommended policies and strategies were derived directly from a series of forums for business leaders hosted by Commerce RI and the Rhode Island Foundation. The forums collected input from 200 business leaders, and more than two thirds of the recommendations that came out of those meetings are embedded in the plan.
The plan envisions a Rhode Island…
- Whose efficient, consistent and transparent business climate makes our state more competitive in the regional, national and global economy.
- Where entrepreneurs and innovators want to come and work and are supported and encouraged to do so.
- Where new investment reinvigorates downtown centers
- Where the labor force is strong and diverse, has access to excellent educational and life-long learning opportunities and can adapt to changes in the job market.
- Where the unemployment rate is below the regional average and residents can maintain jobs that support their everyday needs, improve access to opportunity and enrich their quality of life.
The plan establishes six broad goals focused on businesses and business climate, the workforce, and centers and infrastructure that support economic growth
Support industries and investments that play to Rhode Island’s strengths
The plan identifies assets and opportunities that are unique and/or particularly promising for Rhode Island and calls for capitalizing on those assets and opportunities in innovative ways to support new businesses and industries that will fuel economic growth. Assets and opportunities identified in the plan include the maritime and defense sectors, the manufacturing renaissance, and research and technology related to design, ocean science, bioscience, neuroscience and medtech sectors as well as Rhode Island’s burgeoning food system businesses, the tourism industry and Rhode Island’s identity as a cultural destination.
Create a business climate that provides companies and the state as a whole with competitive advantages
The state must create conditions that foster business success by establishing clear, consistent regulations and efficient regulatory processes, reforming the unemployment insurance system, adjusting the sales tax to be competitive within the region, enhancing access to capital, containing the increasing cost of health care and promoting Rhode Island businesses internationally.
Provide educational and training opportunities to activate a 21st century workforce
Our greatest opportunity to increase collective prosperity lies in raising the skill level of our workers and creating a competitive workforce that is prepared to meet current and future business needs. The plan calls for creating a single, seamless and cohesive workforce training system, supporting education reform, increasing access to adult education and developing programs consistent with state work force priorities, and increasing access to experiential learning through apprenticeships and internships.
Foster an inclusive economy that targets opportunity to typically underserved populations
The face of Rhode Island is changing rapidly. Communities of color are the driving force behind state population growth, and their full participation in all levels of the work force is essential to the state’s economic success. The plan calls for adopting new strategies to eliminate barriers to economic opportunity. Doing so will accelerate the overall growth of Rhode Island’s economy and be beneficial to all Rhode Islanders.
Create great places conducive to economic growth by coordinating economic, housing and transportation investments
By coordinating investment in transportation, housing and job creation in areas with existing and planned infrastructure — sometimes referred to as “growth centers” – we can create places where residents, workers, business owners and visitors can have access to a variety of services and amenities. These types of investments will yield economic gains, support the creation of more resilient communities and provide a quality of life that will attract both businesses and workers to the state. The plan calls for supporting investments, incentives and technical assistance focused on high priority redevelopment areas and growth centers, increasing the capacity of communities to revitalize existing mixed-use, walkable village and town centers and to create new growth centers and promoting alternative transportation options that connect people to housing, jobs and services.
Create a stronger and more resilient Rhode Island through investment in critical infrastructure
Infrastructure investment – including transportation systems, water, stormwater and wastewater systems, energy and broadband capacity — will be essential to Rhode Island’s future economic growth. Protecting infrastructure investments by planning for climate change and sea-level rise will also be essential, and Rhode Island should be ready to capitalize on economic opportunities resulting from climate change research and innovation.
The Plan emphasizes that successful implementation will depend on
- Strong leadership from the governor and the general assembly
- Collecting data to track progress
- Efficient, coordinated state government
- Mindfulness of the interests and concerns of all Rhode Islanders