STATE HOUSE, Providence – President of the Senate M. Teresa Paiva Weed was joined at a news conference today by Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council Executive Director John C. Simmons, Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce President Laurie White, and others where they unveiled a report and recommendations to address Rhode Island’s rankings on business competitiveness surveys. Entitled “Moving the Needle,” the report reviewed the individual factors that often cause Rhode Island to rank poorly compared to other states, and made recommendations to begin to improve the state’s ranking and overall business climate. The report was a joint effort of the Rhode Island Senate and RIPEC.

“This report offers substantial recommendations to change how Rhode Island is ranked in national business-competitiveness surveys,” said President Paiva Weed. “The economy is the Senate’s priority, and will be the Senate’s focus this session.”

She continued, “Successfully moving the needle and improving the business climate will require a sustained, cooperative partnership. Just as this report was a partnership between the Senate and RIPEC, our economic development efforts must be a collaborative effort that includes the voices of the Senate, the House, the Governor and his administration, the non-profit sector, academia, and the business community. Working together, we will make Rhode Island more attractive to entrepreneurs, improve our image within our state and outside our borders, and help companies that are here to grow and create jobs.”

In the fall, President Paiva Weed directed the Senate Policy Office to examine the metrics that are looked at by those who produce such surveys, such as CNBC, Forbes Magazine, and the Tax Foundation, and to make recommendations on how to improve Rhode Island’s rankings. When it was learned RIPEC was working on a similar project, it was decided to combine efforts.

Mr. Simmons observed, “Not only does ‘Moving the Needle’ contribute to the discussion by providing baseline measures of economic performance, it also details specific action items for reform. Perhaps more importantly, it can be used as a tool to evaluate legislation, as one of the ways bills should be evaluated is by whether or not they have a positive effect on these types of indicators.”
The findings will be the basis for major legislative initiatives this session, since the Senate believes the General Assembly’s priority and focus at this time must be on the economy.

“This benchmark is a huge development in understanding the factors driving or impeding Rhode Island’s growth agenda,” said Laurie White, president of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce. “The report is validation of the true link that exists between the legislative process and our ability to grow the jobs base. It is a monumental step forward in how we evaluate, prioritize and measure economic policy initiatives. We applaud the Senate President for her work on this project and look forward to continued collaboration.”

The report established benchmarks and statistical baselines based on current conditions in several areas: the economy, workforce and education, transportation and infrastructure, cost of doing business, and quality of life. The indicators use independent data that has been deemed fundamental to an economically competitive state by national ranking bodies and site selection services. The report calls for an annual review of Rhode Island’s standing on the particular benchmarks to determine progress.

“Moving the needle begins with an honest assessment of what we do well and what we do poorly, and concerted, cooperative efforts to build on our strengths and improve on our weaknesses,” said Senate President Paiva Weed. “We are taking a frank and candid look at the factors that impact the state’s economy and laying the foundation for significant action, legislative and otherwise, to improve Rhode Island’s business climate.”

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