NEW: Report Suggests Port Could Create Jobs, Boost Economy
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Finishing nearly three years of study on the potential economic opportunities associated with Rhode Island’s ports, a Joint Legislative Commission reported today that development of port infrastructure and growth of maritime industries can result in 1,000 new jobs, $70 million in personal income, $127 million in business revenue and $8.1 million in state and local tax revenues in the near future.
The Special Legislative Commission to Study Potential Economic Opportunities in the Development of Port Facilities in Rhode Island today issued its final report which makes several major recommendations that resulted from 11 meetings, three port tours and more than 40 hours of testimony.
“The future success in developing potential port related economic opportunities in Rhode Island is dependent on focused coordination and cooperation among key stakeholders in government as well as private sector owners, operators and investors,” the final report concludes.
Created by a joint resolution adopted by the 2009 General Assembly, the commission listed six major findings and recommendations:
-- That the commission’s efforts become an integral part of the governor’s and Economic Development Corporation’s agenda through the creation of a Governor’s Port Economic Policy Ombudsperson charged with port economic policy implementation so that the state can move forward toward creating more than 1,000 new maritime related jobs.
-- It is critical to address the lack of coordination between various governmental and non-governmental stakeholders with respect to marketing and infrastructure development of the state’s ports, related facilities and maritime trade.
-- Development of a “Marine Highway System” hub(s) in Rhode Island in partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation.
-- Explore public/private partnership opportunities to further infrastructure investment and business development of Davisville.
-- Formulation and execution of a non-federal funding dredging project for Davisville as well as funding for the permitting of new CAD cell sites in the Providence River.
-- Revision of Rhode Island’s Statewide Master Guide Plan in order to specifically identify and maintain vital water dependent commercial operations and ensure the viability of Rhode Island’s marine economy.
In creating the study commission, Senate and House leadership acknowledged that Rhode Island is already one of the major ports of entry for autos in the Northeast and that Narragansett Bay has the potential to be a major economic engine for the state because it is one of the nation’s largest protected waterways and is close to the most densely populated regions in the nation.
The commission, in its report, said that during the past six decades, the state’s port and marine activity had fallen well behind others along the Atlantic coast. Despite that, the state’s port-related economy today employs more than 3,600 people, generates more than $320 million in economic activity and provides annual tax revenues exceeding $25 million.
The commission’s final report projects that full development in several identified areas – auto import/export, offshore wind farms, container feeder and break bulk – could result in significant growth in new jobs and business and state/local tax revenue.
Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown), one of the driving forces behind the creation of the study panel, said that “We are very excited about the commission’s recommendations, which can better position Rhode Island to maximize the economic potential of our working waterfronts and create quality jobs for Rhode Islanders. We have taken numerous steps to assist small businesses and reduce regulatory hurdles in recent years. With the work of the Port Commission, these economic development efforts are being extended to the state’s ports and related marine enterprises so that the Ocean State can seize upon the tremendous opportunities in maritime job development.”
Speaker of the House Gordon D. Fox (D-Dist. 4, Providence), who co-sponsored the House version of the resolution to create the study commission, said “To shore up Rhode Island’s economic future, we need to build our state’s strengths, and one of our strengths is our maritime industries. I am committed to giving the ports the tools they need to compete in this global economy and to create jobs.”
Chairing the study commission were Sen. William A. Walaska (D-Dist. 30, Warwick) and Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 73, Jamestown, Middletown).
Said Senator Walaska, who co-chaired the commission since its inception, “As the commission wraps up its business this year, it is our goal to work in partnership with the Chafee administration to grow maritime employment opportunities as well as promote all of Rhode Island’s waterfront assets in a way that will increase job opportunities for the thousands of men and women now unemployed or underemployed in this tough economy.”
Said Representative Ruggiero, “The Ocean State history is deeply rooted to the working waterfronts of the state and we hope the excellent work of the commission will be leveraged to continue this tradition in ways that will be successful in the 21st century. If we work together to market our ports as outstanding locations close to major population areas and target the industries that are poised for growth, our ports have the potential to become much greater transport hubs that employ many more Rhode Islanders.”
Among its other findings, the commission wrote in its final report that the state’s ports do and can provide economic opportunities for both new and existing businesses, but called on “local and state economic development agencies (to) devote additional resources to small-business and middle-market loan guarantees in order to further facilitate job creation in this segment of the economy.”
A number of other individuals who participated in the work of the commission through testimony offered their observations on the final report.
Michael Miranda, president of North Atlantic Distribution (NORAD), a major automobile importer based in Quonset, said: “I am encouraged to see the recommendations of the Port Commission. A draft of at least 32 feet will help me to grow my business and create additional job opportunities for Rhode Islanders as Davisville becomes a world-class auto import destination able to accommodate all current and contemplated transport vessels.”
James S. Bennett, President of the Providence Office of Economic Development, said: “These recommendations help to focus attention on port economic development and the numerous job opportunities that could be realized at the Port of Providence and at all of Rhode Island’s ports. The ports are our best asset, an advantage Rhode Island has that many other states do not. Developing our ports creates the high-paying blue-collar jobs that we lost with the decline of manufacturing in our state.”
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