If you are a believer in the power of the Knowledge Economy to transform Rhode Island, the past few weeks have been unsettling.
First, Brown University pulled the plug on the Rhode Island Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
Then, news came that the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce backed out of a marketing plan with the city and the R.I. Economic Development Corporation designed to attract knowledge-based enterprises to the Capital City.
Finally, the House Finance Committee’s fiscal 2013 budget proposal dropped plans to fund the building of a joint University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College nursing-school complex in Providence’s Knowledge District.
Taken along with Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee’s remaking of the EDC board of directors in the wake of the 38 Studios scandal – none of the proposed board members fit the profile of Knowledge Economy entrepreneur while replacing a number who do – it is clear that the bloom is off this rose for many in positions of power. That is unfortunate.
For if Rhode Island is going to pull itself out of the economic doldrums in any permanent way, it is through just the kinds of companies that the Knowledge Economy develops. Right now the state’s median wage and gross state-product growth are well below Connecticut and Massachusetts. The reason – they have a greater percentage of knowledge-based businesses.
All of the initiatives mentioned above, and others, were important pieces of creating those kinds of businesses here. Without restoring them or similar initiatives, we are consigning ourselves to years more of substandard growth and continuing deterioration of our standard of living. •
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