Rhode Island Focuses on Essential Services and Efficiencies
28 Nov, 2012
By Rachel Duran
“I think businesses that are looking at relocation options can look at Rhode Island as a state that has rich history, fabulous natural beauty, and a government focused on providing essential services in an efficient manner,” says Governor Lincoln D. Chafee.
Some of the initiatives include appointing a chief digital officer for the state. “We want to be on the forefront of technology in government, rather than be a laggard, which is so often the case,” Gov. Chafee says. “Sometimes you do not want to make the investment because of the immediacy of the budget at hand, but I am always thinking about years down the road. Let’s make that investment now, let’s be on the forefront, such as businesses are doing.”
The governor has also asked state agencies to expedite their review processes in order to cut through red tape. “As a former mayor of Warwick, I have a great deal of experience in providing those services,” Gov. Chafee says. “That is what businesses want. ‘Give me my roads, bridges, good schools for my employees, and keep my taxes low.’ That is what we are dedicated to in this state.”
At the local level, one of the highlights in Warwick, which is home to the T.F. Green International Airport, and located a few miles from Providence, is the streamlining of business processes, making it easier to conduct business. “We are creating a one-stop shop where businesses can access their business needs online 24 hours a day,” says Karen Jedson, director, Warwick Department of Tourism, Culture and Development.
Back at the state level, in September, the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council issued a report that spoke to government’s role in economic development. “The main thing is to have it more closely aligned with the chief executive, the governor,” Gov. Chafee says. He says the Rhode Island Economic Development Corp. (RIEDC) was formed in the 1990s as a separate organization from the government, with the thinking that administrations come and go, but economic developers wanted to follow a steady economic development philosophy.
“But we learned there has to be a compromise between how this entity works with the chief executive, the governor, and its independents,” the governor notes.
The RIEDC received national attention earlier this year when 38 Studios, a video game developer, filed for Chapter 7 liquidation bankruptcy in June. The company relocated its headquarters from Massachusetts to the state. The RIEDC guaranteed a $75 million tax-payer backed loan to the company in 2010; the state may have to pay back the bonds used to fund the loan.
Industries and Innovations
Rhode Island’s business climate has and will continue to benefit from the Warwick Station InterLink intermodal system. “The hub is the connection of the airport to the commuter rail service into the Boston area,” Jedson says. An Amtrak line runs by the airport and the state secured federal and other funds to connect T.F. Green International Airport to the commuter rail line.
“Warwick Station has really evolved since its opening over a year ago,” Jedson adds. “There are more services taking place, more stops. And on the weekends we have specials, for instance a New England Patriot’s shuttle, which takes you from Warwick right into the football stadium.”
The airport will also benefit from the air service Jet Blue was scheduled to begin on November 29. “We are looking forward to these developments bringing more attention to the transit-oriented development area, which is the space in between the airport and the train station,” Jedson says. “We are in the initial stages of putting everything together, talking with developers and planners.”
Adds Gov. Chafee: “The vision is to grow the economy around this intermodal hub.”
The growth would include attracting business conferences to the transit-oriented development, in particular because of the ease of movement. “You can hold your meeting and get back home easily,” Gov. Chafee says. “No cabs or other transportation is involved.”
“We are calling it ‘train and simple,’ with everything in one area,” Jedson notes. “You can attend a conference and get on a train and see Boston. Having access to key transportation modes [such as Boston] not only for commuters, but also for people that do business in Massachusetts, opens up opportunities.”
The transit-oriented development will be a mixed-use space, with multifamily uses, hotels, entertainment venues, restaurants and some retail. “We want to create a walkable community, a work and live environment,” Jedson says.
Talent and Education
Rhode Island’s workforce and their families find a high quality of life when living in the state, which includes strong elementary and secondary schools. “In regard to higher education, we are rich in this small state with 12 higher education institutions,” Gov. Chafee says.
Rhode Island has a history of being a creative economy, including the distinction as the birthplace of the industrial revolution. The Rhode Island School of Design is a nationally recognized art school. “A hip and happening state, that has been our history,” Gov. Chafee says.
Rhode Island’s higher educational system includes Brown University, the University of Rhode Island, Johnson & Wales and Bryant University. In addition, the U.S. Navy has a significant presence in the Newport area, home to the Naval Undersea Warfare Center and the U.S. Naval War College.
In addition to the intermodal developments in Warwick, in nearby Providence, 20 acres have become available that run through the downtown due to the relocation of Interstate 195, which was relocated to the boundaries of the city.
Meanwhile, Brown University in Providence wants to expand from its traditional campus into the downtown area. University officials haven’t officially stated where in the downtown, but the open acres offer promising opportunities. The university plans to expand its nationally acclaimed engineering school to the downtown.
Another opportunity revolves around medicine. Brown University researchers are major contributors to advances in brain science research. “This is a great opportunity to grow this academic study area into the downtown,” Gov. Chafee says. The downtown development is even being labeled as ‘meds and eds’ due to the fact that there are hospitals in the immediate vicinity of the available acreage.
“Rhode Island is a fabulous place to live,” Gov. Chafee notes. “We have a rich history, with the opportunity to learn about Native Americans and the early Europeans that came here, and the beautiful buildings that have ensued in those centuries.”
When it comes to cuisine, foodies and critics have put Rhode Island’s cuisine on the map. The world-class dining ties into the state’s proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and fresh seafood.
In regard to recreational fishing, saltwater fishing is a leading sport in Rhode Island, with the prized catches of giant blue fin tuna, marlin and swordfish. Freshwater fishing is ideal for catching largemouth bass, northern pike, and crappie. What’s more, trout and landlocked salmon are stocked in waters throughout the state.
Back on land, Rhode Island is also a leader in the East Coast’s vineyard scene. The climate and proximity to the ocean are ideal to support the growth of a variety of wine-making grapes. There are four wineries open to public tours.
Image by renjith krishnan at Free Digital Photos.net