September 10, 2009

Location Should Help Rhode Island Economy

Marc Comtois

It doesn't take an expert to figure out that Rhode Island is in a great location and should benefit economically from it. The Providence Business News reports that a "relocation consultant" is readying a report that says that and more:

Location. Location. Location. That was the message delivered by a relocation expert to the R.I. Economic Policy Council this morning....[John] Rhodes [senior principal at the consulting firm of Moran, Stahl and Boyer] stayed away from making recommendations, but said the state must seize its considerable university base and entice graduates to stay in Rhode Island by providing internships, industry connections and a good quality of life. The state, he said, also needs to design a permitting process that allows businesses to set up shop quickly to take advantage of market conditions.

“When I bring clients to your state I want to see something developed,” Rhodes said. “I want to see land ready. I want to see a building.”

Corporations also want to see low taxes and a streamlined regulatory structure.

“This is where ‘needs improvement’ is on your report card,” Rhodes said.

The state has consistently ranked at or near the bottom in business friendly surveys, but Gov. Donald L. Carcieri told the council the state was holding the line on taxes when neighboring states were increasing them.

The governor also said he understood that the cost of electricity – three to four times here than in much of the South – was a barrier to bringing large companies and manufacturing jobs.

Still, Rhodes said that the GDP output from manufacturing remains strong around $4 billion annually despite the industry shedding about 20,000 jobs since 2001.

“The folks that are staying in the state today are very productive people and people that want to be here,” he said.

And while the state is constrained geographically by its position in the corner of the country, Rhodes said for a tiny state it provided an extensive transportation network, including a deepwater port, a rail link, a commuter rail station and an airport “people in New England brag about.”

Potential. Let's tap it.

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Backin the 80's a frioend stayed with me while he was getting divorced. At the time he was a project manager for Olympia & York, then the largest real estate company in the world. During our conversations he mentioned that O&Y ha made an extensive investigation of RI and was very interested in it. Their thinking was that with the then recent deregulation under Reagan and its geograhical location, RI was a better place to be than Massachusetts. They thought deregulation would eliminate state borders for banks and insurance companies. That did happen, and Fleet left.

I don't know what happened to their interest. Since then, O&Y has had troubles of its own.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at September 10, 2009 11:22 AM
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