The pulse of new RI jobs

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Every little bit helps, and when it comes to millions of dollars, that can be the difference between pulling up stakes and leaving Rhode Island or keeping a company here and growing jobs.

Legislation first introduced by Warwick Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi in 2011 (it didn’t get approved until 2013) played a role in the decision for Virgin Pulse to keep ShapeUp, Inc. the Rhode Island company it acquired, here rather than moving operations to its home base in Massachusetts. Rep. Shekarchi’s bill gives companies the opportunity to earn tax credits equivalent to the income tax revenues of new jobs. There are requirements on salary and number of new jobs but, in essence, the state is giving up income tax revenue it has no guarantee of getting in exchange for new jobs.

What is fascinating about the Virgin Pulse story, however, is that while tax incentives played a role in keeping the company here, it was not the deciding factor, according to Chief Operating Officer David Osborne. Osborne said the decision was made based on a combination of factors, including the compelling arguments made by Gov. Gina Raimondo and Dr. Rajiv Kumar, the Brown grad who founded Shape Up Rhode Island. Later named ShapeUp. Inc, the Providence-based technology company that started off with two employees was sold to Virgin Pulse this year. Both Kumar and Raimondo successfully argued Rhode Island was the place to stay and grow.

In his remarks last week at the State House, Osborne spoke about the state’s assets, including the state’s location and ease of access to commercial centers. He mentioned Green Airport, although he confessed he had yet to fly in or out of Warwick. Top on his list was a direct flight to Atlanta.

He also focused on the educational institutions that play a key role in building a workforce. Osborne is saying the Virgin Pulse deal will create 300 jobs in Rhode Island. The story made headlines and the politicians held it up as proof of their commitment to building jobs and opportunities. It’s a change from the oft-told story that the state excels at delivering higher education but fails to provide good career opportunities for college graduates.

While tax policy will always be a leading factor for companies looking to relocate, it’s good to see that believers in Rhode Island – and we have many of them – are also playing a significant role in communicating a vision for the state and its future generations and encouraging growth.

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