Innovation Ecosystem

What does public health have to do with future prosperity in RI?

New strategic economic plan for Rhode Island has some significant gaps

Image from draft version of report, courtesy of online version posted by WPRI's Ted Nesi in his Feb. 1 column

The cover image of the new strategic economic plan for Rhode Island, "Rhode Island Innovates 2.0."

By Richard Asinof
Posted 2/10/20
What is “missing” from the 118-page strategic blueprint for Rhode Island’s future innovation economy, RI Innovates 2.0, may prove more important than what is included. The gaps between top-down and bottom-up innovation is on full-frontal display in the report.
What is the state’s economic vision for Narragansett Bay as the estuary of Rhode Island’s future prosperity in a time of rapidly increasing threats from man-made climate change? What are the economic implications of the coronavirus as a force of economic disruption? Do the resignations of Annie De Groot and Paula Grammas from prestigious research positions suggest that there may need to be an investigation into a potential problem of bias against women scientists at URI? Why weren’t Health Equity Zones and Neighborhood Health Stations, two homegrown Rhode Island innovation initiatives, included in RI Innovates 2.0 narrative? Is there irony in the decision for Twin Rivers to relocate its corporate headquarters at the new Wexford Innovation Complex? When will Rhode Island produce its own Index of the RI Innovation Economy, similar to what Massachusetts has done for more than two decades, to have better benchmarks and metrics to measure what is occurring in a longitudinal fashion? How would a Quality of Life Index for Rhode Island help translate anecdotal information about “what a special place this is” into an economic development tool? Has Rhode Island become too dependent on outside private contractors, such as Deloitte, to manage its public benefits, such as Medicaid? Will the R.I. Senate recommend a state audit of private contractors performing Medicaid services? How will the political debate swirling around a national single-payer system to deliver health care play out in Rhode Island? How will the new economic strategy address the structural racism of our housing crisis?
No five-year strategic economic plan could have predicted the success of WaterFire, which draws millions of people to Rhode Island each year, attracted by the elemental displays of wood fires in metal stanchions atop a river, surrounding by music, as a flowing pedestrian art installation celebrating the senses. Similarly, the success of Providence Flea as a marketplace was not predicted as part of an economic planning exercise. Both depend on serendipity as a human experience.
Now, a new group, Motion State Arts, in partnership with WaterFire creator Barnaby Evans, is launching the Motion State Dance Festival, with inaugural performances on March 5-7 at the WaterFire Arts Center, with the goal of creating the country’s next contemporary dance hub. A dance floor is being rented for the occasion, with the hopes that one can be purchased to facilitate more performances.
The serendipity of collisions around art, music, food, dance and theater, which celebrate the diversity of culture, cannot be underestimated as an economic force in promoting a sense of place and performance, as a humanizing force in our fractured world.
The naming of the Providence pedestrian bridge for civil rights activist Michael Van Leesten is an example of how remembering our past can help shape our future. Discussions are underway to create a bench near the pedestrian bridge to honor Toni Morrison and the descendants of slavery in Rhode Island.

PROVIDENCE – Some days, it feels like being stuck in the Bill Murray “Groundhog Day” movie from 1993, caught in a time warp where the scenes keep repeating themselves, over and over and over again, much like listening to the repetitive Dave Clark Five lyrics from 1965 on an AM transistor radio, “I said over and over and over again, this dance is going to be a drag…” while the unplanned forces of disruptive innovation change the marketplace.

[Of course, that sense of “déjà vu all over again” [the malapropism made infamous by New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra in the early 1960s, referring to the frequency in which Yankee stars Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris were hitting back-to-back home runs], re-occurred when “Groundhog Day” was resurrected into a TV ad for the 2020 Superbowl, starring Murray, on Feb. 2, the actual date to celebrate Groundhog Day, in order to sell cars.]

Such was the feeling when ConvergenceRI sat down to peruse the draft 118-page report, “Rhode Island Innovates 2.0,” the epic sequel to the 2016 original, “Rhode Island Innovates: A competitive strategy for the Ocean State,” which had been a $1.4 million study produced by the Brookings Institution – and paid for by philanthropic sources, including the Rhode Island Foundation, with CommerceRI as the client. [See link below to ConvergenceRI story, “A history lesson about innovation.”]

The featured author of the new RI Innovates 2.0 report is Bruce Katz, formerly with the Brookings Institution and co-author of the first report, now a principal at New Localism Advisors, an economic consulting firm. This time around, Katz’s fee of $468,600 was paid for by a mix of public and private entities, including: the R.I. Commerce Corporation [$178,600], the R.I. Department of Labor and Training [$150,000], the R.I. Division of Statewide Planning [$40,000], and the Heron Foundation [$100,000].

In an interview, Katz described RI Innovates 2.0 as a report that “essentially updates the performance of the advanced industry clusters and others that were identified in that first [Brookings] report.”

RI Innovates 2.0,  Katz continued, represents a “particular kind of thesis of how economies grow in the 21st century. I think it’s worthy for you or others to basically describe the report as covering a certain amount of economic territory, focusing in very clearly on advanced industries.”

Katz stressed that R.I. Innovates 2.0 was “a platform to stimulate broader conversation about the Rhode Island economy. But it starts with a very particular focus on what is, in terms of workforce, a relatively small number of jobs in the Rhode Island economy, but a very large impact on exports, research and development, multiplier effects.”

Rhode Island is a place that doesn’t tend to celebrate success, Katz said. “There are aspects of this report, particularly the assessments of how a group of workforce support programs, and business support programs, and place-making efforts have really been integrated and aligned over the past couple of years. And, they’ve had a real effect, frankly, helping the state grow a more robust and prosperous economy.”

The main message, Katz emphasized, was that it was important to understand the economic development is being practiced differently in Rhode Island today than it was a relatively short period of time ago. “It’s important for stakeholders and observers to dig deep iemphasis added] nto the report and see what it covers and what it doesn’t.”

[Editor’s Note: An in-depth interview with Katz follows as a separate story, "One on one with Bruce Katz of New Localism Advisors."]

Digging deeper

The first report by Brookings had sought to identify “new sources of high-value economic growth to rectify the state’s heavy losses in manufacturing and advanced industries” which had begun after 1980, according to the summary in the preface of the draft of the new report, which apparently had been “leaked” to select news media last week, including The Boston Globe and WPRI. [The online version ConvergenceRI “acquired” came from WPRI’s Ted Nesi’s Feb. 1 column; at the top of each page was the warning that the contents were a draft and not for external distribution.]

The final hard copy, printed version of the “Rhode Island Innovates 2.0” study could be released as early as the end of this week, according to sources.

A major focus of the new report seemed to be to serve as a strong vote of endorsement for the current work being done by the Raimondo administration and its economic team, led by CommerceRI Secretary Stefan Pryor, some of which are commendable, in ConvergenceRI’s opinion.

The programs highlighted, analyzed, and endorsed include: Rebuild RI Tax Credits, SupplyRI, Wavemaker Fellowships, Real Jobs RI, Rhode Island Promise, CS4RI. PTECH, Prepare RI, and Innovation Vouchers.

Consider the report’s up-front pronouncement: “Rhode Island’s economy has turned a corner and has made substantial progress since 2016.”

The state, the report continued, “has shown its ability to design, finance, and deliver a series of meaningful projects that support businesses, workers and communities. It now needs to move from individual transactions to structural transformation and to grow the distinctive assets and capacities of this special place into a productive, sustainable and inclusive economy. That will require a shared vision among multiple stakeholders and a collaborative, cross-sector approach to shaping and stewarding the economy.”

Translated, this is what a top-down innovation economic policy looks like. Unlike the first report, it does talk, in a commendable but somewhat obligatory fashion, about quality of place, affordable housing, diversity as an asset, improving public education, and making infrastructure investments – but always through the lens of a top-down corporate vision.

Who will read a 118-page report?
Few if any folks are going to read the full 118-page report. [How many have read the Mueller Report, for instance?] The reality is that people do not read anymore; it is also the fact that we have become captive of a social media world that demands instant gratification and immediate responses by emoticons. We behave much like the roaring crowds at the old Roman coliseum, cheering on the fake, staged battles between slaves and centurions, the verdict of life or death rendered by the emperor, with a thumbs up or thumbs down gesture.

For us, in the 21st century, in the age of surveillance capitalism, we are encouraged to like or love Facebook or Instagram posts or Tweets, with our responses being mined for data that can be tracked and transformed into marketing algorithms to influence personal and political decision-making.

This is not futuristic science fiction: a recent story published in January by The National Catholic Reporter detailed how a conservative pro-Trump group, CatholicVote, has used the technique known as “geofencing” to capture data from Catholics in Wisconsin attending Mass who kept their mobile phones on – without their permission and without permission from the church.

“With this mobile targeting, we are able to reach our fellow Catholics in the pews,” said CatholicVote President Brian Burch in a blog post, the group behind the data mining, according to the reporting in the National Catholic Reporter. Using geofencing, CatholicVote has already identified some 200,000 Catholics in Wisconsin who attended Mass at least three times in last 90 days, according the story. “CatholicVote then plans a ‘ground team’ to encourage registration and voting among the Catholics identified through geofencing,” reporter Heidi Schlumpf wrote.

The moral of the story: turn off your mobile phone when attending religious services – and when shopping at big box stores such as Walmart and Target.

Massaging the messaging

When the RI Innovates 2.0 report is officially released, we can expect to see bite-size messaging produced and managed around its findings, in tweet-size sound bites, or arfs. [From my days as a communications professional, an arf is defined as something that can be said in 18-25 words, in two to three breaths, the sound bites when the media asks us to respond, and we get to bark three times, arf, arf, arf.]

• Rhode Island needs to put a major new focus on the emerging Blue Tech industry sector by investing in ocean technology and offshore wind. [That was the “arf” picked up and rebroadcast in The Boston Globe preview story.] What the report did not say is that a major proponent of Blue Tech, Mark Huang, has departed Providence and is now living in North Carolina. where his wife got a great job. Huang is the co-founder of SeaAhead, a firm that has partnered with the Cambridge Innovation Center in Boston to develop a blue tech innovation hub. It seems highly unlikely that the Cambridge Innovation Center will agree to move one of its signature Boston innovation hubs to Rhode Island. [See link below to ConvergenceRI story, “The new blue tech, blue-collar cluster.”]

• Rhode Island needs to create a minority business accelerator to take advantage of Rhode Island’s demographic shift in diversity, where it will soon become a majority minority state. To its credit, the report included a breakdown of future demographic trends, including the rising number of “old old” residents, people 85 years and older. Surprisingly, what the report did not address within its economic vision was the fact that the state’s growth in population is being driven by new immigrants, whose full count in the 2020 census will determine, in large part, whether Rhode Island keeps two seats in the U.S. House and whether Rhode Island loses some $3 billion in federal aid. [See link below to ConvergenceRI story, “An insurance policy to protect $3.8 billion.”]

• The large influx of new immigrants has brought with it enormous pressure on the public school systems in urban core cities, which often lack the resources to work with English language learners in the classroom. The current situation at Hope High School is emblematic of the crisis, where some 336 out of 812 students – more than one-third – have been designated as ELL students, yet many lack regular teacher in the classroom, dependent on substitutes for the current academic year. [See link below to ConvergenceRI story, “Is this what success looks like?”]

The new Rhode Island Innovates 2.0 offers nine detailed bullet points lauding the programs to support developing skilled workers, but without the capability to connect the influx of new immigrants to competent public education that supports better language learning skills, the question is: Will the impressive statistics achieved to date and cited in the new report translate into workplace success? Good question.

What got left out?
What got left out of the report, however, may prove in the long run, to be much more important: the convergence of health, health care, community, public health, and a sense of place as a driving economic force.

• There is no mention of Health Equity Zones, a community-driven initiative in Rhode Island, and the way that data from its community needs assessments have been adopted by hospitals and by the Rhode Island Life Index, produced by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island in partnership with the Brown School of Public Health. [See links below to ConvergenceRI stories, “What happens when the news narrative flips?” “Taking the pulse of Rhode Island life,” and “What we talk about when we talk about community needs.”]

That omission is made more glaring by the fact that the Rhode Island Foundation is convening a follow-up session on Monday, Feb. 10, at the Convention Center, to its long-term, 10-year statewide plan for health, which had as its central thesis the need to shift the paradigm to address health equity concerns.] It is a big omission, in ConvergenceRI’s opinion. [See link below to ConvergenceRI story, “No risk, no reward.”]

• When talking about quality of life, the report mentions the plans underway to renovate the Central Falls/Pawtucket commuter rail station as an example, but it fails to mention the new Neighborhood Health Station in Central Falls, the first major new construction completed in Central Falls in decades – as well as the fact that it is a central, walk-able place where the primary and urgent health care needs can be met for more than 80 percent of the city’s residents. It is the place where Gov. Raimondo and Sen. Jack Reed have held news conferences during the last six months, in part because it has parking and a public space to meet. [See link below to ConvergenceRI story, “The evolution in health care will not be televised.”]

• The new report talked about “convergence” as a force of the future, but failed to talk about the convergence of health, community, and neighborhood when it came to delivering health care to one of the most vulnerable populations in Rhode Island – teen-age girls and young women without access to health insurance, in order to prevent at-risk pregnancies. The work of Dr. Beata Nelken as director of the Central Falls high school health clinic, helped to drop the number of teen-age pregnancies in Central Falls by 55 percent over three years as well as the drop in the transmission rates of Chlamydia by 28 percent in that same time period. The economic impact in breaking the cycle of poverty and on improving the health of the community by preventing at-risk births to young mothers has been documented by Rhode Island Kids Count Factbook for years. [See link below to ConvergenceRI story, “How Central Falls is changing the health care landscape.”]

• The study proposes a new tax initiative to spur further development in the state’s urban core communities, leveraging federal opportunity zone tax credits, but fails to mention any of the current work being down by community development corporations such as West Elmwood Housing Development Corporation and ONE Neighborhood Builders to build healthy neighborhoods. Did Katz or his team visit the Sankofa Initiative in the West End, developed by West Elmwood, now celebrating its 50th year in business? Or visit the construction site of the Sheridan Small Homes project of five net-zero passive homes in Olneyville, to be completed by the fall of 2020 by ONE Neighborhood Builders? [See links below to ConvergenceRI stories, “We build housing, communities, and lives,” and “Five small homes poised to become a giant step for Rhode Island.”]

• One important piece of economic data totally missing from RI Innovates 2.0 is the calculation around the business cost of the current opioid overdose epidemic in Rhode Island. In developing its recovery friendly workplace initiative, New Hampshire cited analysis conducted by PolEcon Research in 2017, saying: “Untreated addiction costs New Hampshire’s economy $2.36 billion,” with 66 percent of that cost, some $1.5 billion, incurred by businesses in the form of impaired productivity and absenteeism. Rhode Island has announced the launch of a similar initiative based on the New Hampshire model. What is that business cost for Rhode Island, and why wasn’t that calculation part of RI Innovates 2.0? Good questions. [See link below to the ConvergenceRI stories, “Championing recovery friendly workplaces in RI,” and “A legislative push to create harm reduction centers in RI.”]

It is not as if such data is not easily accessible: The New England Public Policy Center of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston published a policy report in 2018, “The Fiscal Impact of the Opioid Epidemic in the New England States,’ which attempted to calculate the annual fiscal costs, to borrow a lyric from Neil Young, “I’ve seen the needle and the damage done, a little part in everyone,” incurred by the criminal justice system, medical treatment, and medical complications. For Rhode Island, the total was $90 million, which breaks down to a per capita cost of $89.89, and 1.04 percent of the total state government expenditure in 2015, although those numbers need to be updated.

Left out of those calculations are the social and human costs of the opioid epidemic, the disruption of families and children’s lives and the high incidence of maternal depression – as well as the business costs identified by New Hampshire as impaired productivity and absenteeism.

Translated, what is missing from the state’s strategy of future economic prosperity is a calculation of the costs of the deaths from the diseases of despair, alcohol, suicide and drugs, afflicting the demographic age group of 25-34 in Rhode Island, tied to economic conditions.

To ignore those economic realities, or to pretend that they do not exist or not worthy of discussion as part of future economic strategies, is a great definition of stigma at work. [See link below to ConvergenceRI stories, “Painting by numbers: coloring in the landscapes of despair,” and “Billions and billions of pain pills delivered, at what cost?]

Another example of a “missing” overall component in RI Innovates 2.0 strategy is a full-fledged chapter on the threats of man-made climate change and strategies needed to address the coming economic disruption to Rhode Island’s quality of life and its future population health. What is the vision for the future of Narragansett Bay, not as a vehicle for the “Blue Economy,” but for survival of Rhode Island’s economic future tied to rising waters, higher ocean temperatures, flooded communities, and the coming scarcity of drinking water?

If asthma is the leading cause of chronic school absenteeism, which is a predictor of failure in school achievement, how does the future economic strategy engage in prevention activities related to reducing air pollution and curtailing polluting businesses?

How will Rhode Island attempt to redefine its perverse relationship with the fossil fuel industry? All good questions, all unanswered in RI Innovates 2.0, [See links below to ConvergenceRI stories, “In the shadow of no towers,” “A deep dive down Toxic Avenue in Providence,” “The stench that is eating the Providence waterfront,” and “We are not the dumpster.”]

[Editor’s Note: The Interdisciplinary Association for Population Health Science’s 2020 annual conference, to be held from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2 in Minneapolis, Minn., is entitled “Policies, Places and Profits: Manufacturers of Illness and Health.” The theme recognizes the work of John B. McKinlay, an epidemiologist and medical sociologist, whose metaphor of health as a stream pointed to the role of “manufacturers of illness” in pushing people into morbidity and mortality. The overall goal of the conference is to elevate awareness of how policies, places and profits shape population health for better or for the worse. Perhaps Bruce Katz, Stefan Pryor and Tom Giordano, the CEO of Partnership for Rhode Island, should put it on their agenda to attend.]

Many of items in the “what’s missing” categories are examples of bottom-up innovation, driven by community needs, not corporate desires. Much of was not included in the strategic planning exercise could be described as a reflection of the way that “retail politics” are changing the conversations around economic policies. Translated, there are two different economic narratives occurring, and they often do not connect. [See link below to ConvergenceRI story, “Crossing the chasm of progress when there are two trains running.”]

The objects of Rhode Island’s desire
All that said, there are some commendable parts to the economic strategy outlined in RI Innovates 2.0, addressing the potential of Rhode Island to grow its research base and to invest in innovation campuses. To borrow a psychological concept, both could be said to be objects of desire within Rhode Island’s new strategic economic framework.

• The study promotes the positive growth of the biomedical innovation cluster, named as a key advanced industry in the previous study. “Biomedical innovation advances scientific knowledge of biological processes and systems in ways that reshape our understanding of disease, medical diagnostics and devices, and treatment options,” the RI Innovates 2.0 report says. It envisions an economic pipeline that connects basic, translational and clinical research into the creation of new biomedical products, extending the reach “from bench to bedside.” It rightfully praises the development of industry cluster groups such as RI Bio.

There exists within Rhode Island a strong collaborative research framework and with it, the ability to attract talent and federal funding, despite the overall consolidation and colonization of Rhode Island’s health systems. The issue appears to be more about how to define Rhode Island’s relationship with other regional hubs of innovation, such as Cambridge/Boston, New York and New Haven, and not get stuck in a chauvinistic view of Rhode Island, with fears that you will fall off an economic cliff when the 401 area code ends. [See links below to ConvergenceRI stories, “RI as a scalable research lab in a regional universe,” and “Shining a bright light on extraordinary research talent in RI.”]

To quote the draft RI Innovates 2.0 report: “Rhode Island’s research capabilities within the cluster are strong and established. Brown University and the University of Rhode Island are world-class institutions within the bio cluster niches of neuroscience, oncology, and medical devices. Both universities continue to strengthen their capabilities within the field and are investing in life sciences research infrastructure by supporting and expanding new innovation campuses. The infrastructure, financing, and support for identifying, creating, and moving IP [intellectual property] off of university campuses and into the market, is beginning to coalesce at the universities and at the innovation campuses. However, the lack of available wet lab space will limit future growth potential.”

However, it is not just the lack of wet lab space that could deter future growth potential. The strength of the research engine has been undercut by apparent management problems that have surfaced at the University of Rhode Island, with the resignation of two top women research scientists, Paula Grammas, Ph.D., and Dr. Annie De Groot, both of whom had excellent records in securing federal research grants. [See link below to ConvergenceRI story, “Paula Grammas resigns as director of Ryan Institute at URI.”]

In a table in RI Innovates 2.0, “NIH grant recipients in Rhode Island, 2016-2019, EpiVax, the pioneering biotech firm that De Groot co-founded 21 years ago and who now serves as its CEO and CSO, is listed as the top non-hospital recipient of NIH grants, at $4,751,993. The decision by De Groot to resign from URI and affiliate with the University of Georgia is a body blow to the image being presented as part of the RI Innovates 2.0, particularly given that EpiVax could be poised to play a prominent role in designing an effective vaccine for the coronavirus.

What also gets left out of the conversation when it comes to Rhode Island’s research engine is the ongoing disruption of the current business model of health care delivery and the unsustainable business models for health systems in Rhode Island, which are capital-constrained and losing money.

The closing of Memorial Hospital, the failed attempt to broker a marriage between Care New England, Lifespan and Brown, the strategic growth of Ortho RI and its model of care that is not hospital-centric, and the recent announcement that Coastal Medical, one of the largest physicians’ groups in Rhode Island, is planning to “merge” with Lifespan, all point to the frailty of the current business model for the hospital industry sector that is Rhode Island’s largest private employer, casting a shadow on the long-term viability of the research pipeline in health care delivery. [See link below to ConvergenceRI stories, “Matchmaker, matchmaker, find me a find, catch me a catch,” “To infinity and beyond: Day trip to a RI science fest,” and “Creating a continuum of care in orthopedics in RI.”]

Investing in a hub of innovation campuses
The development of five new innovation campuses to date, in partnership with the University of Rhode Island, is a long-term strategic investment supported by a $20 million bond approved by voters in the 2016 election, is another example of potentially smart economic policy objectives contained in the state’s economic strategic plans for future prosperity. [See link below to ConvergenceRI story, “Two more innovation campus awards announced.”]

The choices for investments to date, as reported previously by ConvergenceRI, include:

• An innovation hub focused on cybersecurity, Big Data analytics and the Internet of Things, as a collaborative venture between URI, Arizona State University and Cisco Systems, Inc. The state will be investing $5.5 million from the bond, to be matched by $5.5 million by the corporate partners.

• A startup incubator and accelerator to be known as the Rhode Island Innovation Hub, or RI Hub, a collaborative venture between URI, Brown University, IBM, Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba, Israel, and MassChallenge. The state will be investing $2.5 million, with approximately $8.7 million being leveraged by investments by the corporate partners.

• A Rhode Island Agricultural Innovation & Entrepreneurship Campus in West Kingston, to be built on 50 acres adjacent to the URI campus, which will include some 25 acres of greenhouses, in partnership with the Rhode Island Mushroom Company and American Ag Energy, Inc. Additional corporate partners include Verinomics, a genomics and computational biology firm, and VoloAgri, a vegetable seed company.

• An initiative known as “401 Tech Bridge” will receive $1 million in state funds, and in turn will leverage $5 million in matching investments from other sources, including the U.S. Department of Commerce. The partners include: Polaris MEP, Toray, Composites One, Hope Global, the International Yacht Restoration School of Technology and Trades, the Composites Alliance of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Textiles Innovation Network, the Rhode Island Manufacturers Association, and DESIGNxRI. The goal is to create a “catalytic center” focused on innovation in advanced textiles and composites.

• The “Rhode Island Cell Therapy Training Institute” will receive $1.4 million in state funds, as part of the ongoing Rhode Island CAR-T Design and Development Center at Roger Williams Medical Center, leveraging $7 million in matching contributions over the life of the project from the corporate parent of the medical center, CharterCARE Health Partners.

The five new innovation campuses, RI Innovates 2.0 admits, are “all in their early stages of formation and growth, making an in-depth assessment premature.” Approximately $14.4 million out of the $20 million bond have been allocated. The report suggests that two additional investments in innovation campuses could be anticipated: a blue-tech innovation campus and a biotech/bioscience wet lab incubator facility.

Coming up for air
This has been a deep dive, for sure, into the proposed future economic prosperity strategy for Rhode Island, reporting and analysis critical to enabling the community – and not just business executives – to participate in the conversation. Call it an opportunity to move beyond, in the lyrics of Paul Simon, “a loose affiliation of millionaires and billionaires and babies.”

The failure to include health, not just the delivery of health care in the calculations, is a major flaw. Perhaps, if Bruce Katz, the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, and the Partnership for Rhode Island were regular readers of ConvergenceRI, those gaps in strategic planning might have been mitigated. [I remain an optimist.]

A more fundamental question, unresolved, is: what are the changing roles of government in promoting a new economic vision of Rhode Island? In the absence of a willingness of the R.I. General Assembly to raise new resources to address statewide needs in education, in health, in support of children and families, the vacuum has been filled by the Rhode Island Foundation and the CEO-driven Partnership for Rhode Island making investments, for better or for worse.


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