Jeffrey R. Diehl is executive director and CEO of Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank, a quasi-state agency that invests in infrastructure throughout the state. He has more than 35 years of experience in public finance, and prior to joining the agency, Diehl was the managing partner of Strategic Sovereign Advisors LLC, a consulting firm that advised public and private entities.
RIIB announced this month it would hold a Rhode Island Infrastructure Summit on Sept. 26 in Providence. Diehl talks with Providence Business News about the summit, what the agency hopes to accomplish and details some of the most important infrastructure issues facing the state.
PBN: Can you tell our readers about the summit and how it came about?
DIEHL: Infrastructure and its impact on economic development has been a hot topic globally and is extremely important to further economic development in Rhode Island. The Rhode Island Infrastructure Summit will serve as a centralized forum to bring together government, nonprofit and private-sector stakeholders and experts to generate a robust dialogue around solutions to the state of the state’s infrastructure. The summit will feature a series of prominent speakers and panel discussions.
PBN: What do you hope to accomplish?
DIEHL: The goal of the summit is to generate discussion about the critical role that infrastructure plays in the Rhode Island economy and explore solutions to increase and accelerate necessary investment. It will also serve as an opportunity for municipal leaders to learn about the variety of financing programs and other resources that are available to help them meet the infrastructure needs of their communities. The goal is not only to discuss infrastructure issues but to explore best practices and successful solutions implemented by other states and locations. It will also provide a networking forum to facilitate informal discussions among important stakeholders.
PBN: What are some of the challenges facing Rhode Island infrastructure?
DIEHL: Communities across Rhode Island are facing a multitude of infrastructure challenges, ranging from storm-water management and sewer projects to road repairs and improvements to schools and other public buildings. Communities are also focusing on the need for resilient infrastructure that can withstand the impacts of extreme weather events and climate change.
PBN: How about some of the opportunities?
DIEHL: Energy efficiency and renewable-energy projects provide an opportunity to improve both the functionality of our aging building stock while simultaneously saving money by reducing energy costs. This is only one example of the win-win that infrastructure investment can provide.
PBN: What role does clean energy and green infrastructure play in the state’s economic-development efforts, and what is the Infrastructure Bank doing to help?
DIEHL: Rhode Island has some of the highest energy costs in the nation, so finding ways to reduce consumption and expense through energy efficiency or to generate electricity through renewable-energy sources makes the state a more-competitive place for businesses to locate. The Infrastructure Bank is helping businesses through our C-PACE program and public entities through our Efficient Buildings Fund. Green infrastructure aids economic development by improving the quality of our state’s bodies of water and creating a more-attractive and economically vibrant environment. Both clean energy and green-infrastructure projects create jobs by putting our tradespeople to work.