Fox Proposes 14 New Bills in Hopes to Reform State's Business Climate

House Speaker Gordon D. Fox, along with several house leaders and community stakeholders, released a total of 14 new bills designed to reform the state’s economic development on Thursday.

Fox sought to improve the state’s policies on business. First, by replacing the R.I. Economic Development Corporation. And second, to create an Executive Office of Commerce, which will aim to the coordinate the state’s business operations.

“We want to have economic-development policies that work, with a forward-thinking strategy, a coordinating agency that has the tools and authority but also the oversight it needs, and programs that effectively support businesses in their efforts to grow and bring prosperity and jobs to Rhode Island,” said Gordon D. Fox.

One bill in particular proposes to being back the tax-credit program to develop historic properties. If you remember the latest news about the well-renowned Superman Building in downtown Providence, then you’d understand the importance of bring back historic tax-credits. It’s latest tenant, Bank of America, made its final way out of the building almost two weeks ago. The building is officially closed and it is unclear when it will be open to the public again. Sadly enough, its even been said that the closing of this 26-story building may be a symbol of the state’s great economic decline. This may hurt but Nicolas Retsinas, a senior lecturer in real estate at Harvard Business School, has said that it may become “the ultimate urban pothole.” Ouch.

However, bringing back historic tax-credits may save this iconic building as well as the state’s reputation. The building owner, High Rock Development of Newton, Mass., has stated  in the past that they want to turn the space into 290 apartments and have been asking lawmakers to bring back the program to do so.

All in all, these proposals are a much-needed step forward into a brighter direction. And they might be solidified soon enough.“We expect significant legislation to be finalized in May and June,” says Fox.

Here are a few proposals listed and reported by Providence Business News:

  • Executive Office of Commerce, to be headed by a secretary of commerce. Transfers functions currently assigned to other state departments to improve coordination.
  • Commerce Corporation, would replace the RIEDC, with the Secretary of Commerce as its chairman and CEO. Would establish guidelines for financial-program oversight and evaluation.
  • Council of Economic Advisors: Advisers from the public and private sectors would collect and publish economic data.
  • Economic Planning Council, to convene once every four years.
  • Historic-structures tax credit program re-established to include a per-project cap of $5 million.

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