It is nice to see that the Rhode Island unemployment rate is coming down, but it is not because of anything that Rhode Island politicians are accomplishing. It is just a residual effect of an improving economy in our surrounding New England states and Rhode Island is still last or near last in the nation in employment. So the question needs to be asked; what can our local legislative leaders do to make things better?
As I look at the people of Westerly, I see an unemployment rate that is unacceptable. Many of our residents are still without work and many more people are under-employed. The answer I believe lies in our industrial park off of Airport Road. While the beach will always be the economic and tax driver in our town, it does not generate year round full-time employment, with good pay, solid health benefits and retirement plans. We need some industry to do that.
It would not be an understatement to say that job creators have rejected our industrial park, as it is almost empty. How can this be?
We have such a nice community, with an educated and willing workforce, and magnificent local beauty. We should be extremely attractive. Another question that needs to be asked is; what can the Westerly Town Council do about it?
Some might say nothing, and look at the macro-economic conditions, but I believe otherwise.
I believe that the Town Council should become engaged, with our Westerly Chamber of Commerce partners, to come up with ideas that can make our industrial park more attractive to job-creators, and I don’t mean by corporate welfare either. As Mayor Fung has shown in Cranston, with the landing of Alex and Ani with no tax breaks, the answer centers on helping job creators be able to maneuver through the massive red tape of licensing, permitting, and just dealing with government in general.
If job-creators feel that they have willing partners in local government to help them simply deal with government, I believe we could land some excellent employers right here in our industrial park. This is one of the major areas in which I feel the Westerly Town Council should focus on, as we can’t rely upon other communities to create jobs for us.