Gov. Chafee nominates five to board of new-look EDC

by John Perilli

This week, Gov. Lincoln Chafee named five additional appointments to the board of the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation, a semi-public business development agency that last year earned notoriety as the organization that signed off on the disastrous 38 Studios deal. Despite this setback, Chafee appears bullish about the future of the new board, and hopes to defy Rhode Island’s business-hostile image and bring commerce to the Ocean State.

“We are going to do all we can to help existing Rhode Island businesses — many of them small businesses — succeed and grow,” Chafee declared. “And we are going to continue to improve our economy by building upon Rhode Island’s strengths and assets.”

In this spirit of diversity, Chafee’s nominees came from a wide range of fields:

  • Shannon Brawley, Executive Director of the R.I. Nursery and Landscape Association
  • Nancy Carriuolo, President of Rhode Island College
  • Roland Fiore, President of South County Sand and Gravel Co., Inc.
  • Jason Kelly, Executive Vice President of Moran Shipping Agencies
  • George Nee (the lone reappointee of the group), President of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO

Each is subject to the advice and consent of the Rhode Island Senate, and all will likely travel through the recently renamed Senate Committee on Commerce.

The EDC’s Board of Directors has recently been plagued by bad press and sudden resignations, and many are skeptical that the organization can reform itself. Some commentators have suggested that the board be absorbed as a full state agency, while others would eliminate it altogether, believing that the state should not pick winners in the private sector.

It seems, though, that Chafee will forge ahead with the organization he already has. The General Assembly will thus have its hands full sorting through his nominees, some of which are bound to be contentious. The Committees on Oversight of both the House and Senate will also be on heightened alert this legislative session for any trespasses the EDC commits.

Rhode Island’s unemployment recently dropped below 10 percent for the first time since 2009, but there is still challenging work to be done to improve Rhode Island’s business climate.

“This is a new direction for the RIEDC,” Chafee said, “and, I believe, a more promising path to a stronger economy for Rhode Island.”