PROVIDENCE – On Monday, August 5, RIPEC released its comments on the enacted economic development reforms of the 2013 legislative session. This session was marked by momentum in both chambers of the General Assembly to reorganize the state’s economic development structure. Faced with challenging economic conditions, the failure of a high-profile economic development incentive program, and a negatively perceived business climate, Rhode Island’s legislative leaders initiated pivotal short- and long-term economic development reforms. The resulting enacted legislation fundamentally shifted the state’s approach to commerce.
The House and Senate economic development packages were not solely focused on individual programmatic changes—both chambers comprehensively reformed the way Rhode Island’s state government will develop and implement economic development policy. Most prominently, creating the Executive Office of Commerce and the Secretary of Commerce position elevates the importance of commerce in state policy deliberations, and allows for enhanced state agency coordination of economic development activities. Also enacted were proposals to enhance economic analysis and planning through the creation of a Council of Economic Advisors and Economic Planning Council. Taken together, these measures create a new foundational, integrated system of economic development leadership in Rhode Island, which will improve the state’s ability to address individual commerce-related programs or policies.
This legislative session also resulted in critical business climate, workforce development, and infrastructure reforms aimed to make Rhode Island’s economy more competitive regionally and nationally. While members of the General Assembly should be commended for making economic development reform the priority of this legislative session, stakeholders across the state must not divert attention from economic development in future sessions. A single policy or set of policies will not lift Rhode Island’s economy. Rather, improving the state’s relative economic standing will require a dedicated, well-planned, and coordinated effort into the future.