Rhode Island has come a long way in the past 35 years and has unlimited potential to keep getting better.
We are extremely fortunate to live in a state with an economy built on a strong foundation of higher education that sparks the entrepreneurial spirit and keeps us on the cutting edge.
Before the pandemic wreaked havoc on the hospitality industry, Rhode Island’s natural beauty and the culinary acumen we developed locally helped make the state a popular destination for tourists and food lovers from around the world.
In addition to our deep roots as a hub for medical research and defense contracting, we are also staking out a position as a leader in the alternative energy space, including solar and offshore wind support and development.
As we move forward, we should draw on lessons from these challenging times and set future generations up for a brighter tomorrow.
This is such a pivotal moment in our history.
Discussions are under way about how to invest $1.1 billion in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds that will help shape the future of Rhode Island for years to come. We need to make long-term investments that will strengthen our state’s economy so that never again will we be the first state to go into a recession and the last state to come out of it.
Just as we look back over PBN’s 35-year history, we must look ahead to the next 35 years. I hope we’ll be able to say that Rhode Island’s civic and business leaders came together and made the tough decisions when it mattered most.
Several opportunities stand out as we consider the next 35 years.
We have a generational opportunity to invest in K-12 education and help our students prepare for whatever comes next. And whatever comes next does not necessarily need to be a four-year college degree. We can – and should – do a better job of promoting trade schools and other alternatives as options.
The pandemic brought into sharp focus the makeup of our workforce and the need to ensure we all have the necessary skills to survive and thrive in an evolving economy. The challenges caused by the pandemic may abate, but the disruption caused by technological changes likely will not.
Rhode Island residents need solid, transferable skills and training to keep pace with the ever-changing landscape.
Another policy decision that may help foster growth for Rhode Island is the proposed plan to bring Lifespan Corp. and Care New England Health System together, under one umbrella, along with Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School in an effort to build a fully integrated academic health care system.
We are currently the only state in the country that does not have an integrated academic health care system.
Finally, we need to work together to create a more business-friendly environment in Rhode Island. Size matters, and it could be to our competitive advantage if we all row in the same direction and focus on ways to promote smart business growth and lower barriers for entrepreneurs and businesses looking to create jobs and invest in the state and its residents.
Citizens Bank has played an important role in the Rhode Island economy since 1828. This is our home. And as we grow and expand, we view ourselves as a Rhode Island success story. Like many businesses, banking is changing, but our commitment to the communities where our colleagues live and work has never been stronger.
When I look around at the many homes and buildings, the small businesses creating jobs, I see examples of how Citizens has helped customers reach their potential and made their dreams come to life.
We celebrate PBN for telling the stories of our business community for the past 35 years. I look forward to working with all of you to help build a Rhode Island economy that thrives for another 35 years and beyond.
(Keith Kelly is Rhode Island president of Citizens Bank.)
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