As the smallest state in the country, Rhode Island is often overlooked by its larger neighbors, but the Rhode Island Foundation’s Make It Happen forum proved that size isn’t everything.
In fact, our size is one of our greatest assets. For starters, the Ocean State is well positioned with the port at Quonset, an airport in Warwick and major highways linking us to our neighbors. For outsiders looking to do business, those are all admirable qualities, especially when you factor in the relative cost to travel and stay here compared to nearby hubs like Boston and New York.
Size is also a benefit for businesses already based here or looking to move in. You can get from one end of the state to the other in about an hour, so when time is money, it’s a definite bonus that materials and services can be acquired so quickly.
Last week, those services came in the form of some serious brainstorming, and as Neil Steinberg observed, only in Rhode Island could you get 300 leaders from the public and private sectors and put them in a room together.
The result? Some solid ideas on how to get Rhode Island back in business. Even after the two-day event, the ideas kept coming.
Mayor Scott Avedisian, who with other elected officials didn’t attend the event, suggested that the Make It Happen format be used on a smaller, community platform. It would be another way in which stakeholders that joined forces at the Make It Happen forum could keep the conversation going, and that’s something they need to do.
It was also suggested that the state create an intellectual hub to bring together startup companies, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. These are the people who create jobs and increase revenue. We need to hear from them about what they need, and government should take its cue from there. You can’t throw money at a problem and think it will go away. We need to make structural changes in government, switching the focus from running campaigns to effectively running the state.
Supporting small business has been a campaign buzz term, and was in 2010, too, but we need less talk and more action. Government needs to get out of its own way and let the real businesspeople get to work. Government isn’t there to create jobs; it’s there to create an environment that fosters job creation and job growth. So rather than funnel state monies into public projects that create short-term jobs, legislators need to start by cutting the red tape that ties down too many small – and large – businesses. If we make it easy to do business in Rhode Island, and then advertise that fact along with the benefits of being small, then the rest will come.
Make It Happen participants emerged energized on Saturday. Let’s keep the momentum going. Ideas are good, but actions are better. So, literally, let’s make it happen.