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Chafee remains undecided on approach for reshaping EDC leadership

November 21, 2012

Governor Lincoln Chafee remains open to the idea of putting one person in charge of the state’s economic development efforts, although the precise approach for doing that hasn’t been decided, his office says.

Almost two months have passed since the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council issued its recommendations for reshaping the state’s strategy to improving the economy.

With the next General Assembly session set to start January 1, Chafee spokeswoman Christine Hunsinger says it’s premature to talk about how the RIPEC recommendations might make their way into legislation.

As part of its 136-page report, RIPEC called for creating a new executive office of commerce, headed by a secretary appointed by the governor and not subject to Senate confirmation.

Hunsinger steered clear of the word “secretary” in saying Chafee is open to the idea of having one person focused on economic-development efforts. “The mechanism to do it has not been decided,” she says.

Hunsinger says the governor likes some of the ideas in the RIPEC plan, including creating a council of economic advisers, and is less favorable about others, like putting the state Department of Environmental Management under the jurisdiction of economic-development efforts.

Asked if the governor has offered a detailed reponse to the RIPEC report, Hunsinger cited how Chafee took part in an October meeting at the EDC with RIPEC executive director John Simmons, former state revenue director Gary Sasse, Bryant University president Ron Machtley and other influentials.

Hunsinger also pointed to a request for proposals commissioned by the state to examine Rhode Island’s business climate.

The administration’s economic approach, she says, remains focused for now on guidelines issued in October to bolster infrastructure, education, and workforce development.

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