Rhode Island is known for many wonderful things – a great place to live, fantastic beaches, Newport and great restaurants to name a few.
We also suffer from a negative perception of our business climate and our ability to change that. Unfortunately, that perception seems to be shared by many Rhode Islanders as well. Our ability to change perception and reality is a function of leadership. We also need to be willing to adopt a positive attitude and to embrace the perspective that our strengths far outweigh our weaknesses. My view is that we should always be focused more on our strengths while acknowledging and managing our weakness.
Let’s acknowledge some of our gifts or strengths here in RI:
- Close proximity to Boston – the globally recognized center of excellence in higher education and life sciences, as well as one of the top three real estate markets in the country
- Natural resources – Narragansett Bay
- Infrastructure – TF Green Airport, the Ports of Providence and Davisville, commuter rail connection service to Boston
- Our world-class research institutions – Brown and URI and our other outstanding colleges and universities
- Our visual and performing arts institutions
This is only a partial list. Other strengths include our cultural and ethnic diversity. We also can be welcoming and open to those who have different points of view and lifestyles. I can go on and on about all the great things we have to offer.
Rhode Island has lagged the rest of New England in economic growth and job creation for far too long. The real wages of most Rhode Islanders have decreased and our economic disparity has increased. The opportunity to begin to change this is at our doorstep. The single most important factor in driving positive change is leadership.
We now have an effective Governor with exceptional leadership ability who is focused on creating high-paying jobs and economic growth. Governor Raimondo, working with the leadership of the General Assembly, achieved remarkable progress this year in the legislative session. They crafted legislation that provides incentives to spur real estate investment through the Rebuild Rhode Island Tax Credit program and tax incremental financing; reformed welfare; negotiated a settlement agreement and approved pension reform; provided personal and corporate tax relief; raised the minimum wage; increased investment in schools.
The Senate also passed Governor Raimondo’s bill to improve infrastructure by repairing and replacing deficient bridges. She vows that we are just getting started investing in the future of Rhode Island.
We certainly have challenges that need to be addressed. The Governor and the leadership of the General Assembly need to continue to work together to continue the progress begun this year. We are still susceptible to special interests and their ability to introduce and influence legislation that does not serve the best interest of most Rhode Islanders. We have to deal with the ongoing conflict of interest by some members of the General Assembly. We need more business owners and more highly capable, public-spirited people in the General Assembly.
If we continue to elect strong effective leaders, we can fulfill the promise of a bright future for the Ocean State.