- Associated Press - Monday, March 10, 2014

SMITHFIELD, R.I. (AP) - Rhode Island gubernatorial candidate Gina Raimondo would create so-called “innovation institutes” and tap into the Community College of Rhode Island to provide more workforce training under a plan released Monday to increase manufacturing jobs in a state with one of the worst unemployment rates in the nation.

The Democratic general treasurer said the state, a leader in the Industrial Revolution and a “powerhouse” in manufacturing, had lost tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs in recent decades while its leaders failed to make a plan to adapt.

Raimondo said she had a track record of solving tough problems, referring to her signature achievement of pushing through an overhaul of the state’s pension system.

“I’ve done this. I know how to do this,” she said following the announcement at Videology Imaging Solutions, a manufacturer of video cameras. “We’ve lacked leadership to make a plan. We’ve lacked leadership to make these things a reality.”

She did not place a dollar amount on her plan and did not say how many jobs she hoped to create, calling that premature.

One part of her plan would be to create innovation institutes focusing on areas in which the state already has strengths: food sciences, marine industries and health sciences. The institutes would be launched with the collaboration of universities and businesses and could be a place schools can develop new ideas for products and bring them to market.

She said there would have to be little state money behind the institutes, but the state would bring the parties together and possibly provide land, such as the plot that has been freed up near downtown Providence by the relocation of Interstate 195.

She also wants CCRI to work more closely with manufacturers to provide training and to create a loan forgiveness program for students who agree to stay in Rhode island, which she said would also be paid for in part by employers.

Raimondo is running in the Democratic primary against Clay Pell and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras. Republicans Ken Block and Cranston Mayor Allan Fung are also running to replace Gov. Lincoln Chafee.