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Governor Chafee Joins Sustainable Rhode Island Consortium for Release of Reports on State's Economic Development Data and Conditions of Social Equity

Data Gathering and Analysis is a Critical Action Step in the Development of an Integrated Plan to Mobilize State and Community Assets for a Better Rhode Island

February 20, 2013 (Providence, R.I.) - Governor Lincoln D. Chafee today joined the Sustainable Rhode Island Consortium to receive two reports analyzing Rhode Island's economic development data and conditions of social equity. The data compiled and evaluated by Fourth Economy Consulting and PolicyLink is an important move forward in efforts to build a sustainable, prosperous, and equitable future for Rhode Island.

The Division of Planning's Statewide Planning Program and the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation (RIEDC) coordinated the economic data collection and assessment conducted by Fourth Economy Consulting. PolicyLink's Equity Profile of Rhode Island was coordinated by Statewide Planning, the Sustainable Rhode Island Consortium, and the Sustainable Rhode Island Social Equity Advisory Committee. Both reports are critical first steps as part of Rhode Island's Sustainable Communities initiative. The data analysis also serves as the basis to help the state better understand Rhode Island's business climate rankings and find ways to improve.

Rhode Island's Sustainable Communities initiative is funded by a $1.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Over the next two years, the multi-agency effort will develop an integrated approach for the state to land use, transportation, housing, and economic development. The work will result in a series of short-term strategic actions and the implementation of long-term, comprehensive plans over 10 to 20 years.

"As we work collaboratively to identify the most promising path to a prosperous future, we must understand how Rhode Island fits into our regional economy, what our strengths are, and where we can improve," Governor Chafee said. "Now, we have the data analysis to inform our decisions about how to use our assets wisely to improve the state's economic climate in ways that make a real difference for all Rhode Islanders."

"The economic data analysis will feed directly into our efforts to develop a comprehensive, long-term strategy that integrates economic development, land use, housing, environmental issues, and transportation," said Kevin Flynn, Director of the Division of Planning. "We have an opportunity to take a new approach that unites the efforts of multiple state agencies and community partners in order to create a stronger more equitable Rhode Island."

"Having the data to assess our state's regional performance is an important part of helping us to better direct our resources over the short- and long-term. The work of Fourth Economy Consulting and PolicyLink is a key first step as we mobilize the efforts of multiple state agencies and community partners to bring Rhode Island the best chance of success through data-driven decision making," said Bill Parsons, RIEDC Managing Director of Business Services and Community Development.

"The timing for Rhode Island to be engaging in this work is perfect," said Rich Overmoyer, CEO at Fourth Economy Consulting. "Following the great recession, many throughout the economic development sector are looking for better solutions and more sustainable approaches to supporting business and job creation. Rhode Island can learn from the collective experience and pioneer efforts that uniquely support businesses and communities in the state."

"The reinvention of the Rhode Island economy should be built upon principles and strategies for both sustainability and equity," said Dr. Victor Rubin, Vice President for Research at PolicyLink. "The process that the State is undertaking is designed to ensure that growth is tied to greater inclusion and to the creation of communities of opportunity. PolicyLink is pleased to assist the State and all its partners in this innovative effort."

Fourth Economy Consulting was selected through a Request for Proposals (RFP) process facilitated by the RIEDC and Statewide Planning. Fourth Economy was asked to compile economic data, analyze the state's regional performance, and identify strengths and possible opportunities to improve Rhode Island's business climate. Fourth Economy Consulting partnered on the project with Providence–based Britt Page Consulting and Kevin McAvey of Economic Partners, Inc.

The Equity Profile of Rhode Island, a joint project of PolicyLink and the Program on Environmental and Regional Equity at the University of Southern California (PERE), is a result of a request from Statewide Planning to HUD for technical assistance. Rhode Island is among the first four areas of the country to receive an Equity Profile through PolicyLink and PERE.

This report takes a look at the increasingly diverse demographics of Rhode Island and how economic development indicators can be used to unlock the great potential of this diversity by promoting equitable policies. The report analyzes national data sources to address the following questions: How is Rhode Island doing on measures of economic growth and well-being? How prepared are Rhode Island residents for jobs in the 21st century economy? How strongly connected are all residents to one another and to Rhode Island's assets and opportunities?

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