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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Leg committee chaired by Donna Walsh plans to work on EDC reform

Joint Economic Development Committee eager to study RIPEC’s proposals

STATE HOUSE – The leaders of the Permanent Joint Committee on Economic Development said today they will seriously consider the proposals made by an independent evaluation of the state’s economic development efforts, with an eye toward vetting legislation in the upcoming session.

The Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council issued a report yesterday recommending systematic changes in the way Rhode Island pursues economic growth, and gave a presentation yesterday on its findings to the joint committee, which is co-chaired by Rep. Donna M. Walsh and Sen. James C. Sheehan.

Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee asked the nonprofit, independent RIPEC to review the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation (EDC) following the collapse of Curt Shilling’s 38 Studios. In 2010, RIEDC backed $75 million in loans for the video game company as part of a deal in which the company would move from Massachusetts to Rhode Island. After struggling with payments on the loan, the company declared bankruptcy earlier this year.



“The saying is, from crisis comes opportunity. The anger and disappointment that followed the 38 Studios has opened the door to an honest discussion about how the state sets its economic development strategy, how the EDC or any successor organization fits into that strategy, and how we position the state for the greatest recovery in the shortest amount of time,” said Senator Sheehan (D-Dist. 36, North Kingstown, Narragansett).

Said Representative Walsh (D-Dist. 36, Charlestown, New Shoreham, South Kingstown, Westerly), “We’re very grateful to RIPEC for making such an in-depth, independent study of our state’s approach to economic development. We all want to see businesses succeed in our state. Our committee is eager to examine these proposals and to effect the changes necessary to improve the climate for businesses in Rhode Island.”  

 RIPEC’s 135-page report focused not just on EDC, the quasi-public corporation responsible for the state’s economic development efforts, but also all state activities and structures related to business.

The report recommends the appointment of a state commerce secretary who would help shape the state’s business policies and oversee a new Executive Office of Commerce. 

It also recommends renaming EDC as the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, which would carry out the secretary’s business policies and concentrate on serving the state’s businesses. 

Additionally, RIPEC recommends the creation of the Council of Economic Advisors to analyze data and make policy recommendations; and the creation of the Commerce Coordinating Council, comprised of state department heads, to coordinate so that businesses’ needs are considered in development of policies affecting them, such as transportation, insurance, housing and education.

RIPEC’s leaders indicated that they will be working on developing legislation that can be introduced to help implement its proposals.