RI governor focuses on economic development vision
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Gov. Lincoln Chafee says improving Rhode Island’s economic development efforts is a key priority for the coming year, but success will have more to do with vision and less about rearranging government bureaucracy.
The independent governor tells The Associated Press that that’s why he is recommending no big changes to the structure of the Economic Development Corp., the agency that approved a $75 million loan guarantee for former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling’s failed video game company, 38 Studios.
The EDC has been sharply criticized following the company’s collapse, and some observers have called for changes ranging from a renamed and rebranded agency to a cabinet-level secretary of commerce.
But Chafee said consistent priorities at the EDC are more important than the structure of the agency. He tapped EDC Deputy Director William Parsons to be executive director of the agency. Parsons has spent 37 years working on economic development initiatives for the state and has handled day-to-day operations at the EDC since May, when Executive Director Keith Stokes resigned following questions about the 38 Studios debacle.
‘‘The programs the EDC administers are best led by a veteran,’’ Chafee said. ‘‘It’s my job as governor to really be the economic development director.’’
Chafee has also created the new position of EDC chief of staff in a move to boost the agency’s accountability.
Parsons’ nomination must be approved by the state Senate.
Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed said she expects lawmakers will discuss a range of ideas for improving economic development. But she said she agreed with Chafee that vision and execution are more important than government structure.
‘‘We must articulate a vision and stick with the vision,’’ the Newport Democrat said. ‘‘That really has little to do with structure.’’
The state is potentially on the hook for as much as $100 million following the collapse of 38 Studios. The EDC lured Schilling’s company to Providence from Massachusetts in 2010 with a loan guarantee based on the promise of hundreds of jobs. The company laid off its employees in May and filed for bankruptcy in June.