- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 21, 2009

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - State political leaders have failed to create a consistent economic growth strategy and the board that runs a state economic development agency should resign, a group impaneled by the governor said in a report released Tuesday.

Gov. Don Carcieri had tasked the panel of business leaders, lawmakers and a union leader with evaluating the quasi-public Rhode Island Economic Development Corp. after the group’s former executive director, Saul Kaplan, resigned in December.

Unemployment in Rhode Island has reached 10.5 percent, one of the worst rates in the country.

“We have not moved the economy, reshaped it fast enough, sufficiently enough,” Carcieri said at a news conference Tuesday.

In its report, the panel suggested that state leaders request the resignation of the EDC’s board of directors and abolish a related group, the Economic Policy Council. Consolidating the board and council would ensure that the people setting economic plans also oversee the follow through, the report said.

The board is chaired by the governor and its other members _ there are currently seven _ are appointed by him. Overhauling the board would require changing state law.

Carcieri said the governor should remain head of the corporation, at least in title. He has not made any decisions about whether to resign from the board, Carcieri spokeswoman Amy Kempe said.

Carcieri, a Republican, and Democratic leaders in the General Assembly have not yet proposed legislation to change the board’s leadership structure. Some current directors could be reappointed, Carcieri said.

The report criticized the development agency for failing to attract enough new employers to Rhode Island. It said that task should be assumed by a partnership between state government and private businesses.

Other recommendations included:

_ Launching a nationwide search for a new EDC executive director;

_ Hiring an economist to monitor key economic data and trends;

_ Streamlining the process for businesses seeking government permits;

_ Helping businesses seek federal contracts.

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