The commonwealth's strength in knowledge-intensive sectors of the economy are driving the increase in the gross state product, which the editorial board said was exceeding the rate of expansion of the nation. Among the professions cited as continuing to exhibit strong hiring are: architectural, engineering and specialized design services; computer services; computer systems design; consulting services; research services; software development; and other professional, scientific or technical services.
The MassBenchmarks board also noted that with a few exceptions, Lowell and Worcester among them, the growth has been restricted to the region inside the Interstate 495 beltway around Boston.
At the same time, the state's growth and the past winter's extreme weather are identifying challenges going forward. For one, housing costs have risen so much that they are restricting the ability of employers in the region to attract the highly educated workers they require. And the transportation infrastructure was revealed to have many issues during the winter, having to shut down for days on end in the Boston metro area just at the time that it was needed most.
In addition, inadequate energy supplies are creating barriers for economic growth in some of the lower-performing region's especially in the west of the state.
The editorial board said that while international issues, from the Greek and Puerto Rico debt crises to the slowing growth among major markets for U.S. goods and services, were beyond the control of Bay State leaders, investments in infrastructure and education are essential to keep the economic momentum on track.
The journal, which is published by the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute in cooperation with the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and is managed by the institute's Economic and Public Policy Research unit, released the summary of the editorial board's June 25 meeting, with the caveat that the opinion reflects a consensus of the board, even if not all members agree on every detail.
PROVIDENCE - With each new fiscal year comes a volley of changes to the state's tax code, and this year is no exception to that rule. One set of taxes among the one dozen changes highlighted by Acting Department of Revenue Director David M. Sullivan in particular has drawn significant attention in the hospitality sector.
The fiscal budget includes new tariffs directly affecting companies - or individuals - who provide alternative lodging for travelers. Probably the most identifiable company that falls within this category is the travel accommodation site Airbnb, which is one of the quintessential companies that people associate with the sharing community.
Traditionally, travel companies, such as Airbnb or FlipKey and others, have not paid lodging taxes in Rhode Island. But now the companies, and those who provide lodgings through them, face new taxes.
For categories being called a "short-term vacation rentals," anyone who is renting out an entire house, beach cottage, condominium or apartment, for a period of 30 days or fewer, must register with the Division of Taxation - and pay a $10 fee annually - and charge 7 percent sales tax and 1 percent local hotel tax on all transactions for a total of 8 percent.
But a greater tax is placed on individuals or companies renting out just individual rooms.
For what's being called "short-term room rentals," anyone who rents a room out for 30 days or fewer, must register for a sales permit with the division - and also pay a $10 annual fee - and charge 7 percent sales tax, a 5 percent statewide hotel tax and a 1 percent local hotel tax on all transactions for a total of 13 percent.
Prior to the new tax code, any property renting two or fewer rooms was exempt from collecting the 13 percent tax that properties with three or more rooms must collect.
All rentals lasting longer than 30 days are tax exempt, as long as a documented arrangement - such as a lease - is agreed upon between the tenant and holder of the property.
Airbnb applauded Rhode Island for the legislation, writing in a blog post on June 30, "The Governor of Rhode Island signed statewide legislation that will enable the people of the Ocean State to share their homes," according to the post. "These smart laws facilitate collection of tax revenue and an increase in the number of guests, whose spending supports local businesses."
All taxes collected through these transactions must be paid in full to the Division of Taxation.
The taxes went into effect on July 1 and the division is holding a seminar at the Newport Hyatt on Goat Island at 9 a.m. on July 8.
"The seminar is geared chiefly to those who rent out short-term vacation rental property, but it is also open to others who have questions and who will be affected in one way or another by the new law, including owners or operators of bed and breakfast establishments, inns, hotels and others," according to the division.
The ranking, compiled by the data-based consumer website Good Call, gives the largest cities in the Ocean State high points for availability of amenities. Other factors weighed in the ranking included the average salary for lawyers, housing affordability and density of legal jobs.
The Providence metro area defined for the survey, which crosses into Massachusetts, includes 1.6 million people. The average attorney in the area earns $104,300. The housing affordability factor was high, meaning lawyers spent 10.4 percent of their salary on housing. The ranking evaluated metro areas with 100,000 or more residents.
Landing in first place was greater New York and Newark, N.J., where the average salary was $148,140. The rest of the top five, in order, were: Bridgeport-Stanford-Norwalk, Conn.; Pittsburgh; Hartford, Conn. and Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, Tenn.
In other New England locations, Portland-South Portland, Maine, was ranked in the 14th place, while Boston-Cambridge-Newton made the 18th slot. Manchester-Nashua, N.H., ranked No. 29, with Pittsfield, Mass., in western Massachusetts, ranked 33rd. New Haven-Milford, Conn., ranked No. 38. Worcester came in at No. 85, while Springfield, Mass., ranked 93rd and Norwich-New London, Conn., garnered a ranking of No. 95.
To see the full survey, click HERE.]]>
The book signing is scheduled for 2-5 p.m. at the Newport Mansions Store on Bannister's Wharf in Newport.
Researched and written by Alyssa Lozupone during a public policy fellowship with the preservation society, the book tells of Warren's contributions to the city's revitalization during the middle of the 20th century.
The Preservation Society of Newport County was founded in 1945. Warren served as president from 1946 to 1975.
"Alyssa has done a masterful job of documenting my mother's activities and contributions, to the point where I suspect she knows her almost better than I do," Warren's son, George H. Warren, said in a foreword.
The idea for the biography emerged several years ago as the nonprofit began to research its own early history in preparation for the 70th anniversary, said CEO and Executive Director Trudy Coxe.
"We were really surprised to learn that very little was publicly known about this incredibly intelligent, energetic, and forward-thinking woman who truly helped to define and create the Newport we know today," Coxe said.
The author, Lozupone, holds a master of science degree in historic preservation from the University of Pennsylvania and a bachelor's degree in cultural and historic preservation from Salve Regina University. She is the preservation policy research specialist with the Preservation Society.
Published by Commonwealth Editions in cooperation with the Preservation Society, the book sells for $14.95 at the Newport Mansions stores.]]>
Cunha served the department for nearly 35 years and has been chief since December 2013. He's reached the department's mandatory retirement age and will leave in mid-July, said Elorza, who in a statement praised Cunha's "commitment to the safety of Providence and its residents." The administration will conduct a search for a permanent replacement.
Mello has been with the department since 1984. "Throughout his career he has demonstrated courage and leadership that befit the responsibilities of acting chief," Elorza said. "I look forward to working with him in that role."
Mello has served as assistant chief of department since February. He worked at the Branch Avenue, LaSalle Square and Broad Street fire stations for nearly 25 years before being named director of training in 2011.
As acting chief, he said he looks "forward to working with tireless dedication and commitment to the safety of Providence."]]>
The new school, approved by the R.I. Department of Education on June 9, will serve students and families in Woonsocket, Burrillville, and N. Smithfield at 1 Social St. downtown. The charter school will grow one grade a year until it reaches Grade 8. The capacity is for 81 students total and enrollment is still being accepted, said Katelyn Silva, chief communications officer for the Providence-based Rhode Island Mayoral Academies.
To date, 41 students have enrolled from Woonsocket, nine from Burrillville and five from North Smithfield. There is a waiting list of 25 Woonsocket students, Silva said.
RISE Prep has signed a multi-year lease on the two lower levels of the Innovation Plaza. The building is in a central downtown location accessible to the three communities, near local businesses, across from a YMCA, and offers parking for staff and families. RISE Prep is investing about $400,000 to renovate the empty two floors.
"RISE Prep is excited to make downtown Woonsocket its home," said Rosalind Murphy, head of school. "There's ample room for our culture-building events, including weekly community circles in which we will build a positive school culture and develop core values. The layout will allow for larger classrooms for both whole-group and small-group instruction, as well as classroom libraries and reading centers to foster our scholars' love of reading."
RISE Prep is a tuition-free, public mayoral academy designed eventually to educate kindergarten through Grade 8 students in a structured learning environment.
"I am pleased that the academy has chosen Woonsocket to call home," said Woonsocket Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt, who is also a RISE Prep board member. "This new educational opportunity is also beneficial from an economic development standpoint."
Woonsocket parent Michelle Grenon said the school that her daughter Kaitlynn will attend will revitalize the city downtown.
"It's great that an alternate option to traditional public education is available at such an impressionable age level," she said. "My child has such greatness inside her, and RISE Prep will help make that greatness blossom."
Rhode Island mayoral academies also include Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy in Cumberland, comprising two elementary schools, a middle school, and a high school; and the Achievement First Providence Mayoral Academy.]]>
Callahan replaces retiring Major General Kevin R. McBride and has more than 25 years in various roles with the guard in the state. Currently he leads 900 solders as commander of the 56th Troop Command at Camp Fogarty in East Greenwich. Previous positions include director of operations at the Joint Force Headquarters at the Command Readiness Center as well as director of aviation and safety at the Quonset Point Air National Guard Station. He also served in Iraq as a battalion commander with the 18th Aviation Brigade.
"I am honored to have been chosen to serve my state and this country in this role," said Callahan in a statement. "I look forward to working with the talented men and women of the R.I. National Guard to ready our team for swift responses to emergencies, strengthen our partnerships with civilian partners, build on our work to improve interagency collaboration, and protect Rhode Islanders from 21st century challenges like cyber-attacks."
The Army officer was recommended by a search committee that included Lt. Gen. Reginald Centracchio (ret.), Lt. Col. Karen Pinch (ret.), Hospital Corpsman Chief Jonathan Rascoe (ret.), Adm. James Stavridis (ret.) and Lt. Com. Camille Vella-Wilkinson (ret.). U.S. Sen. Jack F. Reed, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, noted that "his vast experience and unique skill set make him well-qualified to lead our men and women in uniform. [He] has a proven track record of achievement in both operational and strategic roles."]]>
The addition of 223,000 jobs followed a 254,000 increase in the prior month that was less than previously estimated, a Labor Department report showed Thursday in Washington. The jobless rate fell to a seven-year low of 5.3 percent as more people left the labor force.
The figures indicate corporate managers are confident they can temper hiring and meet demand against a backdrop of stronger consumer spending and feeble overseas markets. At the same time, more moderate job gains may still be enough to reduce the unemployment rate, consistent with the Federal Reserve's perceived timetable to raise borrowing costs by year end.
"One month's low number wouldn't shake our optimism," Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody's Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Pa., said before the report. "The job market still has a ways to go, but we're making progress."
The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey called for a 233,000 advance. Estimates of 97 ranged from gains of 160,000 to 350,000 after a previously reported 280,000 advance for May. Revisions to prior reports subtracted a total of 60,000 jobs from payrolls in the previous two months.
The economy has just completed its sixth year of expansion since the recession ended in June 2009. While the job market has rebounded, faster wage growth has been slow to follow suit.
Average hourly earnings at private employers held at $24.95. They increased just 2 percent over the 12 months ended in June, following a 2.3 percent gain the prior month. They've posted a 2 percent gain on average since the current expansion began.
Seasonal adjustments, or a calendar bias, probably explain the downward pressure on the wage figures in June after artificially boosting them in May, according to economist Ted Wieseman of Morgan Stanley and Lou Crandall, chief economist at Wrightson ICAP LLC.
The unemployment rate, which is derived from a separate Labor Department survey of households, fell from 5.5 percent and is the lowest since April 2008. The decrease reflected fewer Americans in the labor force.
The participation rate, which indicates the share of the working-age people in the labor force, decreased to 62.6 percent, the lowest since October 1977, from 62.9 percent.
Government payrolls were little changed in June after a 4,000 increase in May. Employment at state and local agencies is often influenced this time of year by swings in the timing of school closings for summer recess.
Retailers increased payrolls by 32,900. Employment in leisure and hospitality rose 22,000.
Factories increased payrolls by 4,000 after a 7,000 gain a month earlier. Manufacturing and mining have been hurt by cutbacks in drilling and exploration following the plunge in oil prices.
The improving outlook for the labor market is among the reasons Fed policy makers have said they may begin to raise the benchmark interest rate this year from near zero.
Fed Chair Janet Yellen has said she expects the central bank to raise borrowing costs this year, and that subsequent increases will be gradual without following a predictable path.
"Although progress clearly has been achieved, room for further improvement remains," Yellen said at a June 17 press conference. She described wage growth as "relatively subdued."
Recent data underscore why employers are adding staff. Consumer purchases, which account for about 70 percent of the economy, rose 0.9 percent in May, the biggest gain since August 2009, Commerce Department figures showed last week.
Households are feeling upbeat about employment prospects as more respondents than at any time since early 2008 said jobs were plentiful, a Conference Board report showed on Tuesday.
A separate report Friday from the Labor Department showed applications for unemployment benefits held below 300,000 for a 17th consecutive week. Jobless claims rose by 10,000 to 281,000 in the week ended June 27. The median forecast called for 270,000 applications.]]>
PROVIDENCE - The R.I. Public Utilities Commission on Wednesday unanimously approved the elimination of an upfront billing adjustment cost on customers who switch to competitive electricity suppliers, setting the stage for all ratepayers to pick up the difference.
Prior to Wednesday's vote, if a customer of National Grid PLC - Rhode Island's largest electricity utility company - decided to procure electricity elsewhere through a competitor they could rightly do so. But consumers were made to pay an adjustment charge equaling the difference between the price they paid the third party for electricity and what National Grid was paying on the open market when it went to purchase the electricity it was delivering to the consumer on a month-to-month basis.
Thus, if a customer paid 10.5 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity that actually cost National Grid 18.5 cents per kilowatt hour, the adjustment amounted to 8 cents per kilowatt hour. This difference in cost would be spread out among customer's bills throughout the term of the agreement with National Grid.
But this past winter, when many customers decided to leave National Grid after two winters of volatile energy costs to third-party suppliers, they received the difference as a lump sum charge, which - much to the chagrin of customers - looked more like a service-termination fee rather than money owed.
For residential ratepayers living in homes that used 500 kilowatt hours, the adjustment billing adjustment between January and February could cost about $75, according to PUC spokesman Thomas Kogut. But for ratepayers using much more energy, the billing adjustment totaled more than $1,000 in the same period.
"The Division of Public Utilities and Carriers, along with our office and the office of the attorney general, received hundreds of complaints about the adjustment," said Lt. Gov. Daniel J. McKee in a statement following the vote.
McKee has been advocating against the billing adjustment system since it came to light this past winter.
"This decision is a big win for small business and an important step in the right direction," he said.
Eliminating the full individual billing adjustment does provide some respite to customers who leave for competitive services, which McKee calls "a barrier to the type of competitive electricity market that could bring small businesses and residential customers real relief in their energy bills."
But moving forward, the adjustment costs left behind will be absorbed by all ratepayers who pay for service through the electricity grid, which is largely owned by National Grid.
Whatever amount isn't paid by individual departing customers will be pooled, socialized and applied to the distribution costs paid by the majority of ratepayers.
"It will be folded into the cost of distribution rates rather than assigning it on the energy side," said Kogut, thus making whole National Grid for its costs to purchase electricity.
Exactly how those costs will be divvied up between the different type of ratepayers - residential, commercial and industrial - isn't quite clear, but the commission and National Grid moving forward are going to track costs under the new rules.
The commission also voted to shift the procurement period from its current six-month cycle beginning in January to a six-month cycle beginning in October. The change will happen following an initial nine-month procurement period beginning January 2016 and Kogut says the shift could potentially dampen costs.
"This commission plays an important role in recommending the leaders of Rhode Island's judicial system," Raimondo said in a statement. "Sally's years of experience in the legal field will be a tremendous asset to the commission. I am grateful Sally has agreed to serve as chair of the commission."
Dowling said she is honored by the opportunity.
"I look forward to working with my colleagues on the commission to find the best legal minds to lead Rhode Island's judiciary," Dowling said.
Dowling is a lawyer at Adler Pollock & Sheehan P.C., where she counsels privately-held businesses and their shareholders on acquisitions, divestitures, financing, business succession, governance and other corporate matters. Dowling is listed in The Best Lawyers in America, which also named her as one of 2015's Best Lawyers of the Year for Mergers and Acquisitions in Providence.
Dowling will replace Louise Durfee, whose term recently expired.
The Judicial Nominating Commission screens applicants for vacancies on all of Rhode Island's courts. After an extensive application process, the commission interviews, solicits public comment and conducts background checks on all judicial candidates. The commission votes and submits multiple, highly qualified options to the governor for each vacancy.]]>