To fly ahead, R.I. needs to start many more businesses

On Aug. 16, Inc. magazine released its annual Inc. 5000, a list of the fastest-growing private businesses in the United States.

We applaud the eight Rhode Island companies that made the cut, and for showing that fast growth can be accomplished here. But we are saddened that only eight businesses made the list.

Rhode Island represents roughly one-third of 1 percent of the U.S. population, yet the number of Rhode Island-based companies that made the Inc. 5000 account for roughly one-sixth of 1 percent of those enterprises on the list. In other words, Rhode Island is hitting below its weight.

There are many possible explanations for this reality, from a hostile regulatory environment to high overhead, an underperforming workforce (thanks to a poor educational system) and a lack of startup capital to support fast-growing enterprises. No doubt, all these things are factors.

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We certainly cannot come to a conclusion right now as to why this state of affairs exists. But we can recognize that it is an issue. And from that point, we can move forward.

To begin with, public policy should orient itself to support new business creation. That is a broad charge, but the components are easy to identify, from improved educational infrastructure to streamlined regulation. And capital. The worst long-term consequence of the 38 Studios mess was not the taxpayer money that was lost, but rather that the will to make investments with public funds was ­destroyed.

Yes, public investment brings risk. But with no risk, there is little gain. Which is where Rhode Island finds itself today.