- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 8, 2014

NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (AP) - A new report says the defense sector plays a major role in the Rhode Island economy, employing nearly 16,000 workers and accounting for $3.7 billion to the state’s economic output.

The Rhode Island Defense Economy Planning Commission released the report on the defense sector’s economic impact in 2013 on Tuesday at Electric Boat’s manufacturing plant in North Kingstown, Rhode Island.

The defense sector represents 7 percent of the state’s gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services. And it accounts for 6.2 percent of the state’s total employment, or about 33,000 people, when counting workers in defense and other businesses in which it generates employment, according to the findings.

The report found that defense workers are paid the highest wages in the state, and every 100 jobs created in the private defense industry support 152 jobs in other sectors. The average wage at a private defense firm was about $72,000, which is 47 percent higher than the average wage in manufacturing.

Submarine maker Electric Boat plans to double its workforce in Rhode Island to about 6,000 by 2028 to build a new class of submarines.

Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed and the co-chairmen of the commission, Sen. Louis P. DiPalma and Rep. Raymond E. Gallison Jr., said they would cite the report when asking for support for initiatives to promote and grow the defense industry. Paiva Weed said it shows the importance of approving a $125 million bond in November for an engineering school at the University of Rhode Island, to educate the state’s future defense workers.

“The report enables us to make fact-based, data-driven decisions as we make investments in our state,” DiPalma said.

The Newport County Chamber of Commerce paid $7,000 for the report using a grant from the General Assembly.

Edinaldo Tebaldi, the economist who wrote it, said he did not compare 2013 to previous years because he did not have reliable data from those years. The number of defense workers has stayed relatively constant, so the economic impact was likely similar in the past, said Tebaldi, an associate professor at Bryant University.

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