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The beginning of the end of apathy about Rhode Island’s economy?

July 31, 2012

Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but we’re seeing a few attempts to bring some urgency to Rhode Island and its perennial economic struggles.

The Rhode Island Foundation is hosting an economic development forum September 7-8, with the goal of developing actionable plans [emphasis in the foundation’s news release] to juice the economy.

“Our goal is for Make It Happen RI to be different from anything else that’s been tried so far,” says Neil D. Steinberg, President and CEO of The Rhode Island Foundation. “We will be focused on generating ideas, taking action, and delivering results to revive Rhode Island. Our plan is to be realistic, positive, and forward-thinking and strive to have the broadest cross section of input and participation in this effort.”

Meanwhile, Mike Stenhouse, head of the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity, used a ProJo op-ed to call out the lack of urgency in addressing Rhode Island’s most important needs:

[T]he real question is whether Rhode Islanders really want to continue down the same path that has failed our state so miserably or if we can find the willpower to tear down the barriers that have prevented us from increasing our quality of life.

Do we as a people want to live in an entitlement state or in a state of prosperity? One could reasonably assume, based on the above pattern of apathy, that we collectively want the former. But I doubt that.

So what is a concerned citizen to do? Especially when there is no leadership coming from policy-makers? 

Are these just blips in Rhode Island’s decades-long struggle for economic relevance?

Will they help to render obsolete nicknames poking fun at the Ocean State’s perpetual budget distress?

Back when the budget red ink started worsening around 2008, some critics of the status quo predicted wholesale changes in the General Assembly and elsewhere. That hasn’t happened, and many legislative races are going uncontested this year.

Still, a time may come when people hereabouts get sick and tired, to use a phrase, about the economy being sick and tired.

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