Q: What is Rhode Island’s competitive edge when competing for investments?
A: Rhode Island’s advanced industries – from software to advanced manufacturing to defence – are key to our future growth, and we have seen big moves in the past 12 months. GE Digital is busy hiring for a new technology centre in Providence, while Trade Area Systems, a Massachusetts software company, is also relocating to [state capital] Providence. Meanwhile, General Dynamics Electric Boat is adding 3000 jobs to build a new class of submarines at Quonset Point, and manufacturer AT Cross is expanding and moving its headquarters to Providence.
Q: What initiatives have you undertaken since taking office to attract investments to these sectors?
A: As part of our focus on skills development, Rhode Island has launched a new P-Tech [Pathways in Technology Early College High School] programme to get high school students college and career ready in STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] skills. Students in three Rhode Island cities will graduate with a high school diploma and associate’s degree tailored to the needs of participating technology companies.
Meanwhile, our first-in-the-nation CS4RI [Computer Science for Rhode Island] initiative will ensure that every public school offers computer science classes for grades from K-12 [between the ages of five and 18) by December 2017.
Q: Given that Rhode Island is one of the smallest states in the US by population, can it successfully compete with bigger states?
A: Rhode Island sits on the Northeast Corridor [rail line], a 35-minute train ride from Boston in one of the world’s greatest concentrations of talent. Brown, Harvard, Yale, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and more than 100 other top colleges and universities are located either in Rhode Island or a short drive away. Moreover, because of its small size, Rhode Island is able to offer companies a level of personal attention impossible in other places.
Earlier this year, the CFO of General Electric, reflecting on Rhode Island’s bid to host GE’s new world headquarters and announcing the opening of a technology centre here, said: 'I can tell you that no state that I’ve interacted with over the past year has done a better job of putting its best foot forward than Rhode Island.'
Q: What are the main destinations that you see as the most promising potential sources of crossborder or cross-state investments?
A: A few years ago, Rhode Island moved a major highway that ran through Providence, opening up a large tract of prime downtown land. That riverfront land, the I-195 redevelopment district, is a short walk from Brown University, the Rhode Island School of Design, Brown Medical School and Johnson and Wales University. We are currently working with Wexford Science Technology on a one million-plus square foot life sciences complex on the land, to complement a new 400,000 square foot Brown-URI medical facility already under construction [nearby].