Raimondo approach doing one thing Chafee’s didn’t: create jobs

DEALS WORTH MAKING: Gov. Gina M. Raimondo and Jeffrey S. Bornstein, right, senior vice president and chief financial officer for General Electric Co., faced the media following the announcement of GE Digital’s plans to bring 100 jobs to Providence.  / PBN FILE PHOTO/ MICHAEL SALERNO
GOV. GINA M. RAIMONDO has among the lowest approval and highest disapproval ratings among the nation's governors, according to pollster Morning Consult. / PBN FILE PHOTO/ MICHAEL SALERNO

One thing about former Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee – he’s consistent. Sort of like how he described himself during the presidential campaign, a “block of granite.”

The issue in question is the former governor’s antipathy to targeted government incentives. One could argue that such a conservative approach to economic development is a responsible shepherding of limited state resources.

But in the case of Rhode Island, it also was a sure-fire way to make sure the state did not recover the job losses suffered in the Great Recession.

His recent tossing of verbal and written hand grenades in the direction of Gov. Gina M. Raimondo’s economic-development successes reveals the full limitations of the former governor’s approach.

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Gov. Raimondo has been able to justly claim wins in bringing GE Digital, Virgin Pulse and Johnson & Johnson to Rhode Island, along with a number of other company expansions and relocations, all using one of the administration’s economic-development tools.

A number of real estate incentives (what precipitated former Gov. Chafee’s latest attack) have brought significant investments from outside Rhode Island, with more possibilities in the pipeline.

Gov. Raimondo and her team have made the incentives kick in only after the investments have been made or jobs have been created here, thus guaranteeing that the economic benefits are in place before state money goes out the door.

That is a far cry from profligate public spending, as former Gov. Chafee would have you believe. And it’s a smart way forward for Rhode Island.