Last week’s annual meeting of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce was proof that the region’s leaders understand what needs to be done in order to build a 21st-century, self-sustaining economy.
The first step is to understand that long-term economic development will be led by businesses in the knowledge economy. The story told by the data is pretty convincing. Since 2008, according to Chamber research, the number of jobs in the region in the knowledge economy has grown, while those in the other sectors of the economy have declined.
One announcement at the Chamber meeting seems likely to combat that deficit. Brown University, Care New England and Lifespan are creating a task force to explore ways that they can collaborate, based on the assumption that combining forces will yield more groundbreaking research, more technology transfer and more companies founded or expanded. And of course, more jobs.
It’s not a pipe dream. In the learning trips put together by Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee and attended by Chamber members and other thought leaders from the region to Houston, Baltimore and Pittsburgh, it was proven time and again that collaboration among institutions connected to the knowledge economy yields great rewards.
That is not to say that other segments of the region’s economy should be neglected, especially those that possess competitive advantages, including our robust hospitality and tourism sector, as well as specialty manufacturing that fills niches in unique ways.
But there is no question that the key to future prosperity lies with the “meds and eds” sector of the economy. To deny that reality is to consign Rhode Island to remaining behind the economic eight ball. •