Three years ago, the Rhode Island chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. spent nine months getting permit approvals for a small, $30,000 office renovation in Pawtucket that its president says should have taken a month.
Today, the land-use permitting process in Rhode Island is still stymied by a time-consuming approval process that ABC President Robert J. Boisselle and builder Bob Baldwin, president of R.B. Homes Inc. in Lincoln, say could be streamlined with e-permitting, an electronic mode in use in Michigan and Virginia.
That’s just one of the next steps members of the Rhode Island construction industry would like to see pursued here to improve the construction climate and help attract businesses and residents to the state, following last week’s release of a report documenting the local industry’s economic value.
Intended to jump-start a statewide dialogue about ways to enhance the construction industry’s contribution to the economy, the study by economist Edinaldo Tebaldi, a Bryant University associate professor of economics, finds that a boost in construction employment would also cause the state unemployment rate to drop 1.4 percentage points from its current level, to 7.3 percent.
“This study is extremely valuable to the construction industry as a whole to prove our point,” Baldwin said. “The industry is a highly relevant one and a main economic engine that the state needs to turn back on.”
According to the report, the construction industry supported 29,916 jobs in Rhode Island in 2013, adding $3.9 billion to the state’s output, which represents 7.7 percent of the state’s gross domestic product. If the industry were able to return to the “normal” operating levels observed in 2001, the sector’s direct GDP contribution would rise from $2.07 billion to $2.75 billion.