Updated March 27 at 7:04pm

Raimondo bullish on job growth, especially at GE Digital

Gov. Gina M. Raimondo is bullish about new companies moving to and growing in Rhode Island, telling a group of business owners on Wednesday she believes GE Digital could more than quadruple its workforce in coming years.

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economic development

Raimondo bullish on job growth, especially at GE Digital

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PROVIDENCE – Gov. Gina M. Raimondo is bullish about new companies moving to and growing in Rhode Island, telling a group of business owners on Wednesday she believes GE Digital could more than quadruple its workforce in coming years.

“I was with them last week, and they’re just growing like gangbusters. I completely believe they will have 400 to 500 employees in Providence over the next several years, if we provide the talent,” Raimondo said, speaking at BNY Mellon Wealth Management’s ongoing “breakfast seminar series.”

The private networking event, held at the University Club in Providence, was attended by more than 100 business leaders and financiers from throughout the region, and Raimondo – invited to speak – talked about economic development, business and education.

“These companies are growing, and I need them to hire Rhode Islanders,” she added, touching on the importance of an educated workforce.

GE Digital, an arm of the General Electric Co., announced last year it would open an office in Providence, promising about 100 jobs over the next few years.

Asked whether the governor’s optimistic estimates matched hiring trends, GE Digital on Wednesday reiterating its sole commitment to 100 jobs.

But the company left the door open for future growth.

“Our commitment to Providence is [about] 100 employees over the next few years,” said Amy Sarosiek. “If we see good talent and opportunity, we can see growing past that.”

The company so far has hired 25 employees in Providence.

Raimondo’s optimism, however, didn’t stop with GE, as she touted the state’s work with other large companies, including Johnson & Johnson and Virgin Pulse, which have both committed to creating jobs in Rhode Island. Both companies and GE Digital are seeking related state subsidies for growing jobs.

Raimondo’s sanguinness prefaced a pitch to the business crowd regarding her newest agenda item: Free college.

The governor is trying to pass what would become a recurring $30 million budget item to pay for two years of college tuition for qualifying Rhode Islanders.

The governor, a former venture capitalist, says the success of businesses here is interdependent on the educational achievement of Rhode Island students. A better-educated local workforce, she says, will attract more businesses, which in turn will create more jobs.

“Thirty-million dollars,” she said. “It’s a drop in the bucket.”

Raimondo urged the attendees to reach out and encourage elected officials to support her free-college proposal.

“You guys have relationships,” she said. “Talk to your reps and senators, tell them it’s good for business.”

The third-year governor’s pro-economic development agenda has earned her a fair amount of support among the state’s business community, which is a sentiment that came out during the event.

“During her first two years in office, the governor has had economic development at the center of her agenda,” said Guy Asadorian, wealth director at BNY Mellon Wealth Management. “Recently, we’ve witnessed some very impressive and positive economic momentum, and some positive business wins in the state of Rhode Island.”

Roger N. Begin, who Raimondo calls a friend, is senior wealth director at BNY Mellon Wealth Management. He likewise lauded the governor’s efforts.

“Instead of doing the politically expedient quick-fix, with glitzy short-term results, Governor Raimondo has spent the last two years creating an environment that will ensure long-term, sustainable growth for our state,” he said.

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