The biggest R.I. stories of 2012

AS 2012 ENDS, PROVIDENCE Business News takes a look back on the biggest news stories of the yaer.
AS 2012 ENDS, PROVIDENCE Business News takes a look back on the biggest news stories of the yaer.

PROVIDENCE – It has been an exciting, if tumultuous, year in the Ocean State. As 2012 comes to a close, Providence Business News notes the biggest news stories of the year.

Pension reform – Continuing off work beginning in 2011, 2012 was a banner year for pension reform in the Ocean State. Municipalities across Rhode Island, including Providence, Cranston and Warwick, reached deals with unions over cost-of-living increases for pension recipients.
In December, R.I. Superior Court Associate Justice Sarah Taft-Carter ordered the parties involved in the state pension reform litigation into mediation. According to a release, the judge has said that the parties were in agreement to try mediation to solve their differences.

38 Studios – The very public demise of former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling’s videogame company 38 Studios LLC made headlines for much of 2012. The now-defunct gaming company, which was lured to Rhode Island from Massachusetts thanks to a $75 million loan guarantee from the R.I. Economic Development Corporation at the behest of former Gov. Donald L. Carcieri, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in June, leaving its 400-plus employees out of work.

Since declaring bankruptcy, the company’s assets have gone to auction, earning the state back only a fraction of the $75 million it paid to lure the Schilling and his company to the capital. Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee and the EDC filed a lawsuit against Schilling, former EDC Director Keith W. Stokes and 12 other institutions and individuals connected with the failed company for allegedly misleading state officials about the deal’s risks.

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The R.I. Economic Development Corporation – Amid the collapse of 38 Studios, Rhode Island’s quasi-state organization has undergone a major overhaul. The EDC’s Executive Director Keith W. Stokes resigned and six of the 13 members of the board of directors either stepped down or were not reappointed.

After a summer of replacing board members, Chafee nominated current managing director of community and business development William J. Parsons as the EDC’s next executive director in November. In December, John R. “J.R.” Pagliarini was named as the quasi-state organization’s inaugural chief of staff – a new position designed to establish a liaison between the governor’s office and the EDC.

Hurricane Sandy – When Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast on Oct. 30, more than 122,000 Rhode Islanders were left without power. Storm surges and heavy winds hit Rhode Islanders hard, especially in the southern portion of the state. Pieces of homes were torn off and blown about neighborhoods and roads were covered with nearly a foot of sand in some areas.

In the aftermath of the storm, President Barack Obama granted Rhode Island’s request for a federal disaster declaration in hard-hit Washington, Bristol and Newport counties, where inspectors from the Federal Emergency Management Agency estimate there was at least $5.5 million in damage to public buildings and infrastructure.

Providence financial crisis – The state’s capital city started 2012 in a precarious financial state. In March, Robert Flanders, the state-appointed receiver for nearby Central Falls said Providence would likely need to seek bankruptcy court protection to deal with its budget deficit.

After cutting ties with Flanders’ firm, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and other city lawmakers worked to pass new pension rules expected to save $16 million annually and reach a deal with the city’s seven largest tax-exempt institutions, contributions that will total nearly $48 million in additional revenue over the next 11 years.