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Jobs and the Economy

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Read about Gina's five-part plan to put Rhode Islanders back to work below.

Part 1: Manufacturing

Jobs in the manufacturing sector have a big impact on the economy: they pay higher wages than jobs in other industries, provide good benefits, and foster education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. They also have a powerful ripple effect across the economy: every new manufacturing job creates another 1.6 local service jobs, and each dollar in manufacturing sales adds another $1.34 to the local economy.

Manufacturing jobs are coming back to the United States for the first time in years. Since 2010, our country’s economy has added more than half a million new jobs in manufacturing, gaining an average of more than 12,000 new jobs per month.

Rhode Island has a long legacy in manufacturing, but our leaders have failed to prepare our state for the future. I have a vision of a Rhode Island that leads again in advanced manufacturing. We will make that vision a reality for the people of Rhode Island by implementing a three-part plan. First, we will foster innovation, with a focus on our strengths. Second, we will prepare our workforce with 21st century skills. Third, we will do more to support our manufacturers to help them grow.

When Rhode Island becomes a destination for research in applied sciences and technologies, begins generating new ideas and innovations, and has the most talented and equipped workforce in the country, manufacturing will thrive.

1. Innovation

To foster innovation, I will establish the Rhode Island Innovation Institute – or RI II: a place where our world-class local colleges and universities can pair up with businesses and the private sector to generate amazing new ideas for innovative products and ways to manufacture them. When we double down on innovation, and create a central place for our colleges to come together with our private sector, we will not only help create new businesses based on new ideas and products, but we’ll attract manufacturers from around the world who want to be close to a hub of research and development.

RI II will be composed of one, or maybe more than one, campus, each dedicated to a particular industry. It will focus on industries in which Rhode Island is poised to excel, like food sciences, marine industries and health sciences. RI II will create jobs in three phases. First, it will put people back to work constructing the campuses themselves. Then it will employ Rhode Islanders who operate the campuses, from administrative support staff to young college graduates with new ideas. Finally, thousands of Rhode Islanders will be employed in the manufacturing jobs that are created by the new products and processes conceived at RI II, and the manufacturers who relocate here to be close to a research hub.

Click here to watch an animated video about how RI II works.

2. Workforce Development

As governor, I will bring together our public schools, our colleges and universities, and our state’s employers to reimagine the way we train our workforce. Advanced manufacturing jobs require advanced training, and our state is not doing enough to prepare our students and workforce in the skills they need for the 21st century. Moreover, there are employers in our state with open positions now who cannot find qualified candidates to fill them. To close this skills gap and put people to work immediately and in the future, we must change the way we approach workforce development.

As governor, I’ll work to increase our students’ exposure to STEM fields at a young age, especially among elementary-school aged girls, and turn “STEM to STEAM” by partnering with our arts industry to expose more students to training in illustration and design, which will become increasingly important skills in the 21st century. We’ll make the Community College of Rhode Island an engine of workforce development, by connecting it with businesses and manufacturers to tailor curriculums and training programs for exactly the types of skills that they’ll need to put Rhode Islanders to work, and create a pipeline of well-trained employees. Whether you’re 18 years old and right out of high school, or 50 years old and recently unemployed, you’ll be able to turn to CCRI for training in a new, high-quality career. We’ll ensure that all of our students have access to higher education by improving our state scholarship fund. And we’ll create a loan forgiveness program for students who work or start a business in Rhode Island, so that we stop losing talent to other states.

3. Supporting Manufacturers

Finally, we must do more to support Rhode Island’s manufacturers. We can do this by creating a “Manufacturers’ Toolkit” to help their businesses grow, and by helping our manufacturers increase exports to new markets with research, branding efforts, and promotions.

There is no reason why our children and our grandchildren should have to leave Rhode Island to find opportunity. And there is no reason why our communities can’t take advantage of manufacturing’s return to America. By investing in innovation, improving our approach to workforce development, and supporting our manufacturers, we will position our state for success and bring quality jobs back to Rhode Island. 

Part 2: Rebuilding Rhode Island

Unemployment among the building trades in Rhode Island is astonishingly high: more than 25 percent by some estimates. Yet we have a tremendous opportunity to put people back to work in this industry while at the same time making our roads safer, saving our families and municipalities money, and making our state a more attractive place to do business. Despite the fact that state spending on infrastructure is high, our roads and bridges are among the worst in the country, and our buildings and energy infrastructure is dirty, inefficient and outdated. Rhode Islanders deserve better.

Having a world-class infrastructure will require serious investment, and strategic thinking about how we use our resources. We need to be smarter about how we maintain our infrastructure, and more creative when we look for ways to finance upgrades. In short, we need to develop a plan to deal with our infrastructure, and we must execute that plan. And we need to ensure that our investments in infrastructure are saving us money in the long term.

Our state’s infrastructure is a patchwork of state- and municipal-owned assets. Therefore, we must improve our infrastructure efforts at both the state and city/town level.

Much of the burden of maintaining roads and bridges falls on our municipalities, whose property taxes are already far too high, and budgets far too tight. That’s why, as governor, I will create the Rhode Island Municipal Infrastructure Bank, to help our cities and towns get the funding they need to finance critical infrastructure upgrades, save more money over time, maintain their roads and bridges and retrofit their communities to make them more energy-efficient.

The Rhode Island Municipal Infrastructure Bank will be a one-stop shop for municipalities that want to upgrade their infrastructure. It will:

  1. Expand and manage the Municipal Road and Bridge Revolving Fund, so that our cities and towns have access to low-interest loans for immediate upgrades to their surface infrastructure;

  2. Establish a Road and Bridge Funding Formula to fund ongoing maintenance so that our local roads never again become as deteriorated and dilapidated as they are now;

  3. Create a Green Bank to help towns, businesses, and homeowners retrofit their buildings and facilities with green, energy-efficient technologies;

  4. Create a School Building Authority to stimulate construction and capital improvements in schools while saving our school districts and local education authorities money; and,

  5. House expertise on best practices, data collection and new technologies so that municipalities are implementing the best-possible infrastructure solutions.

The state itself must also be creative and strategic when it comes to its infrastructure assets. As governor, I will ensure that the state is:

  • Utilizing a road and bridge funding formula for state highways and bridges for ongoing maintenance to keep them in peak condition;

  • Seeking opportunities for private capital to pay for desperately needed infrastructure projects without putting our state in debt; and,

  • Retrofitting state-owned buildings and facilities with energy-efficient, green technologies.

Jobs Created

Every $10 million of spending on infrastructure projects supports approximately 150 jobs in the construction and building trades. The Municipal Road and Bridge Revolving Fund, which I created last year with the General Assembly, is lending nearly $20 million this year alone. When combined with increases in spending on school construction, as well as the retrofitting of public buildings and facilities with energy-efficient upgrades, this plan will generate upwards of 4,000 new jobs over the next five years.

Infrastructure projects also have a powerful multiplier affect. Every 100 jobs created in the building and construction trades support an additional 83 jobs in other industries.

Investment

Most of this plan is paid for using the reallocation of already-existing sources of funding. For example, the Green Bank will be capitalized using money currently allocated to the Rhode Island Commerce Corp’s Renewable Energy Fund.

The Road and Bridge Funding Formula would likely require $10-20 million per year in aid to cities and towns to fund. Additionally, the Municipal Road and Bridge Revolving Fund will need about $40 million over the course of the next 20 years, which will enable us to invest more than $400 million in roads and bridges in that same period.

This strategy will also allow us to attract private capital to our infrastructure projects, particularly for energy-efficiency upgrades. 

Part 3: Workforce Development

Our public education system is an excellent vehicle for preparing our workforce. We can and must structure it in a way that prepares Rhode Islanders for jobs of the future. Both our high schools and our public colleges should work more closely with employers to develop curriculum, foster internship and apprentice opportunities, and create pathways for employment.

Curriculum and College Courses Training Programs

The graphic above shows how we can do exactly that. Employers who are looking for skilled Rhode Islanders should work with both CCRI and our high schools to tailor curriculum and training programs and provide internship opportunities. CCRI (and all of our public colleges) can also work in turn with our public schools to give students college credit for certain courses so that students can save money on tuition. Our high school graduates will have exposure to job opportunities at multiple levels. And Rhode Islanders who are currently unemployed will be able to utilize CCRI as a resource for learning new skills and making new connections with employers.

Making CCRI an Engine of Workforce Development

Whether you’re 18 years old and just graduating from high school or 50 years old and recently unemployed, all Rhode Islanders should be able to turn to the Community College of Rhode Island to learn the skills needed for a new career. That’s why we must:

  • Pair CCRI with our local businesses to develop curriculum and training programs in skills that our employers need. As governor, I will ensure that CCRI is working hand in hand with our employers to tailor existing curriculum and create custom training programs so that CCRI is producing students who are trained in high- growth, in-demand skills that employers need.

  • Expand internship and apprenticeship opportunities for CCRI students. We need to give CCRI students the opportunity to work while they learn. Learning doesn’t just happen in the classroom; it also happens on the job. That’s why our CCRI students should spend part of their time on campus and part of their time in an internship or apprenticeship program, where they can simultaneously apply their skills, get real-work experience, and put themselves on a path to a full-time career.

We must also do a better job of matching all of our public colleges with local businesses.

URI has invested in a Business Engagement Center with the aim of partnering businesses and industries with the University to put students to work, tailor the school’s curriculum and share research. Our entire state should have a similar coordinated effort to connect businesses with our institutions of higher learning.

Our public high schools are educating students for jobs that may not even exist yet.

That’s why it’s critically important to expose our students to skills that will put them in a position to excel in the future. We must:

  • Create opportunities for our high school students who choose not to attend college. Across the country, efforts are underway to utilize vocational schools as a tool to equip students with the skills they need to obtain a quality career right out of high school. We must ensure that our vocational schools are working with employers to develop curriculum, training programs, internship and apprenticeship opportunities, and giving students opportunities to find lasting careers in high-growth industries. Businesses across the country see the value in these types of programs, with some going so far as to provide funding for students in vocational programs. We should look for opportunities to do the same right here in Rhode Island.
  • Improve Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics education in both our K-12 and higher education schools. Advanced manufacturing is going to require STEAM capabilities – so we must orient our public education in a way that aids discovery in these areas and provides our students with skills in each area of study. We can also specialize curricula in these areas to provide students with the launching point for careers right out of high school.

  • Start instruction in 21st Century Career Skills in high school. High school students don’t necessarily need to know what their career will be, but we are shortchanging our youth if we don’t make clear, adequate information available to them about potential career pathways and what is required to follow them. We must strengthen coordination between high schools, community colleges, and large and small employers alike to ensure that high schools and post-secondary schools are providing up-to-date information about the projected job market and the skills that are valuable to employers so that students understand exactly what kind of education and training it will take to pursue their career aspirations, whatever they may be. And this can save our students money as well. Our colleges can work with our public schools to prepare students in baseline literacy and numeracy skills and give them college credit in the process. This will reduce the cost of college tuition and make it easier for students to graduate quickly and start working in high-quality jobs.

  • Improve access to computer science courses in our high schools. There is a well-documented national shortage of individuals with engineering and computer science skills. Unemployment in computer-related occupations has fallen to just 3.4 percent, less than the traditional rate for “full employment.” And most available analyses indicate that this shortage is going to get worse. We can help our students find jobs in this field by making computer science courses more accessible at an earlier age.

  • Forge tight relationships between CCRI and our public high schools so students can earn college credits before they go to college. Students should be able to earn credits in introductory courses while in high school so they can get a jump start on their degree and save money on tuition. We will ensure that our public colleges are working closely with our public schools to train our students both in the skills they’ll need for college and the skills they’ll need to succeed in the workforce.

Making Post-Secondary Education Affordable

Every Rhode Islander will have the opportunity to earn the equivalent of at least two years of education or training past high school that leads to a vocational credential, industry certification or a pathway to college. A recent report by WPRI showed that 10 percent of “prime working-age” Rhode Islanders (25-54) have left the state over the past six years to find jobs elsewhere. At the same time, the number of citizens age 55 and older jumped 19 percent. Older Rhode Islanders are staying in the state but aren’t being replaced by a new generation of younger, working residents. Rhode Islanders 65 and older made up a larger share of the population than any other age group in 2012, whereas six years ago they were only the third largest. Meanwhile, Rhode Island college students have the fourth-highest student loan debt in the country according to a report released in 2012. That’s why we must:

  • Create a loan forgiveness program for students who start a business or work in Rhode Island. We can do more to entice the educated young people who earn valuable degrees in this state to live and work here after graduation. That’s why I’ll work to create a loan forgiveness fund so we can capture the talents of our students and use them to reinvigorate our economy.
  • Improve our statewide scholarship fund. Every single Rhode Islander must have a chance to develop relevant job skills. No Rhode Islander should be left without the ability to support him or herself in an increasingly competitive job market; and we need every Rhode Islander’s contributions to build our new high-growth, high-wage economy. As governor, I will create a statewide scholarship fund that will guarantee that every high school graduate with demonstrated financial need can pursue at least two years of education or training beyond high school that puts them on a path to a career or to a four-year college.

Improving the Department of Labor and Training

The Department of Labor and Training has incredible potential to help put Rhode Islanders back to work. As governor, I will direct the DLT to take a more active role in finding employment opportunities for Rhode Island’s unemployed.

  • Target workforce development programs to unemployment beneficiaries. Instead of state government waiting for the unemployed to seek out job training, opportunities for job skills training should be targeted at unemployment insurance beneficiaries through interagency coordination. UI and workforce development agencies should be working together to actively pair unemployed workers with relevant job opportunities and training in order to get Rhode Islanders back to work as efficiently as possible.

  • We will create a “Real Jobs Now” training program. This program will match workers receiving unemployment benefits with companies that offer on-the-job training programs designed to lead to full-time employment. This system allows the unemployed to get their foot in the door with an employer and allows employers an opportunity to evaluate potential employees with no obligation. Job seekers would continue receiving unemployment benefits during training and qualify for a small stipend to cover travel and childcare expenses related to job training.

  • We will boost employment of our veterans. We can help get unemployed veterans back to work by helping to match the skills of returning veterans with those required in civilian jobs, such as advanced manufacturing. We must also increase awareness among employers about the valuable and unique skills available in the veteran labor pool, and opportunities to hire veterans.

  • We will increase the participation of women in manufacturing. Women are underrepresented in manufacturing and have not shared in the sector’s recent jobs gains. Women’s share of manufacturing employment in the United States right now is 27 percent, the lowest it has been since 1971. We will increase STEAM education and proficiency for girls beginning as early as elementary school and equip women with the skills and knowledge needed by manufacturing employers through strategic outreach by CCRI. We can take advantage of the Women and Minorities STEM Booster Act to access grants to increase the participation of women and underrepresented minorities in STEAM education. 

Part 4: Promoting Tourism

Tourism is already one of our state’s most prosperous industries, supporting thousands of jobs and bringing in millions in spending and tax revenue.

But our tourism industry has even more untapped potential. We need a coordinated, statewide plan with strategic, collaborative, targeted marketing efforts to highlight our strengths. An effective campaign can bring more visitors inside our borders, fill our hotels, retail stores, and restaurants, and have powerful ripple effects throughout our entire economy, helping to create thousands of quality jobs and grow our state. Other states and cities around the country offer instructive lessons that we can follow.

With our unbelievable cultural assets, prime location on the East Coast, and gorgeous natural resources, there is absolutely no reason why we cannot take advantage of our state’s attractiveness to grow our economy and create new jobs.

Any plan to invest in Rhode Island’s economic development must have a strategy for growing tourism. As governor, I will take a four-pronged strategic approach to grow our tourism industry and create more than 5,000 new jobs in the next five years. My plan will:

  1. Invest in highly targeted marketing and advertising with a cohesive statewide strategy to attract more visitors to Rhode Island. Other cities and states have found that small, smart investments in tourism marketing result in millions in visitor spending, support thousands of new jobs, and bring in much-needed tax revenue. We should do the same here in Rhode Island.

  2. Make Rhode Island a world-class culinary destination by highlighting our amazing restaurants, breweries, vineyards, and thriving food industry. We already have a rich culinary landscape, but we must create branding efforts to highlight this asset to bring more visitors inside our borders.

  3. Foster workforce development efforts that focus on tourism and hospitality industries. We have a world-class hospitality college right here in Rhode Island. We should forge a tighter relationship between Johnson and Wales and our tourism industry to prepare a tourism workforce ready for growth.

  4. Improve our state’s tourism infrastructure. With an ideal location on I-95, we have the perfect opportunity to capture travelers traveling on the East Coast, if we invest in smart tourism infrastructure like welcome centers, highway signage and links to other regional destinations. 

Part 5: Supporting Start-ups & Small Businesses

In order to create a state government that supports its small businesses and encourages start-ups, I will dedicate myself to the following efforts:

1. Regulatory Reform and Reducing the Cost of Doing Business

  • Running a business in Rhode Island means dealing with layers of red tape, pages of documents, and repetitive, often unnecessary regulatory burdens. As governor, I will:

    • Supercharge the work being done in the Office of Regulatory Review (ORR) and undertake a complete review of the state’s regulations in my first year in office;

    • Bring small business owners to the table at ORR so that the state knows exactly which regulations are the most burdensome to our small businesses, and targets processes that will do the most good;

    • Simplify and unify the state’s regulations where there are duplicative efforts or inefficiency caused by the siloing of government agencies;

    • Create a single, online source for all state and municipal permitting;

    • Improve transparency by setting deadlines for government decisions; and

    • Create incentives for cities and towns to modernize their permitting and regulatory processes.

  • In addition to taxes, our state government often “nickel and dimes” our small businesses, charging them for a variety of routine and necessary procedures. As governor, I will:

    • Take on a full review of non-tax state fees that are being charged to our small businesses, with an eye toward eliminating or consolidating fees that make it tougher for businesses to comply with government regulations.

2. Making it easier to start and run a business

  • Rhode Island cannot afford to be a state where people with great ideas are discouraged from starting a business because the process is too daunting. We must invest in resources that help our residents turn good ideas into new businesses. As governor, I will:
    • Increase entrepreneurial training, education, and mentorship, starting in our high schools, and on through our public colleges and universities, to give our residents the support and training they need to start new businesses.
    • Create a “concierge service” for our businesses and start-ups. Sometimes all our start-ups need is a person to help them navigate the tricky waters of government regulations and find other resources in our state to get going. There should be someone in the state government who helps them every step of the way, and guides our state’s businesses to success.
    • Create a “start-up and small business toolkit,” so that entrepreneurs know exactly what they need to do to get their businesses going, and have access to resources that will allow them to hit the ground running.

3. Using collaboration and innovation to foster a culture of entrepreneurship

  • We’ve got shining examples of collaborative incubators like Betaspring and Hope and Main, and a wealth of innovation in our colleges and universities. We should strengthen their relationship with the state in order to foster a culture of entrepreneurship in Rhode Island. As governor, I will:
    • Highlight and promote our incubators and accelerators. Our state can do a better job of exposing potential entrepreneurs to these resources, and market them across the region to attract new start-ups to the state.

    • Use the Rhode Island Innovation Institute to commercialize innovative new products and ideas. Our colleges and universities are a wealth of great ideas. RI II will help turn these ideas into new businesses by providing end-to-end support (helping them find access to capital, hire a workforce, patent their products, etc.).

4. Improving access to capital

  • No new venture can get off the ground without access to capital and credit. And our state is desperate for new capital from elsewhere in the world. That’s why as governor, I will:
    • Welcome immigrants and capital to Rhode Island with an expanded EB-5 program. Immigrants are incredibly entrepreneurial, and federal programs are increasingly creating opportunity for foreign investment in local start-ups. We must embrace this program to grow small businesses in our state.

    • Improve access to seed capital. As part of our small business concierge service and toolbox, the state will maintain relationships with all area sources of capital, including but not limited to venture capital firms, angel investors, and local credit unions and banks — and provide educational tools and coaching for entrepreneurs seeking private capital — so that people hoping to start a small business will know where they can turn to get the capital they need.

    • Ensure that women- and minority-owned businesses have access  to loans. We must work with our local banks and financial assistance organizations to help finance and guarantee loans and microloans targeted to minority- and women-owned businesses.

5. Giving our small businesses the tools they need to grow

We must create an environment in our state that welcomes and encourages the growth of small businesses. As governor, I will:

  • Strengthen connections between our businesses and local colleges and universities. URI has a Business Engagement Center that has resulted in fruitful relationships between the university and local businesses. We should have a statewide effort to do the same, so that innovations and ideas at our colleges are being shared with small businesses that can grow and create new jobs.
    • Workforce development. In particular, we need to bring our businesses of all sizes to the table with our public colleges and universities to help tailor curriculum that will provide them with a workforce equipped with the skills they need.
    • Export initiatives. Many of our small businesses are making amazing products, but lack the resources to market them on a global scale. The state can help with a robust export initiative designed to show the world all that our state has to offer.
  • Improving gigabit Internet connectivity in Rhode Island. With so many of our businesses dependent on teleconferencing, online sales, and high- bandwidth applications, we must do a better job of ensuring high-quality Internet connectivity. Cities and states around the country are doubling down on gigabit Internet. We must do the same, not only for the sake of our small businesses, but for our families and schools as well. 

Click here to read through Gina's full, comprehensive jobs plan.

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