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Information Technology, Life Sciences At Forefront of Rhode Island's Development

Dec/Jan 09
Melissa Withers, director of communications and market development for the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation (RIEDC), says that targeted high-wage industry sectors include health and life sciences, financial services, information technology and digital media (ITDM), marine trades and defense technology, advanced manufacturing and industrial products, and consumer products and design.

The state's highest paying industry, the ITDM sector, accounts for more than 15,000 jobs and more than $1 billion in wages. In financial services, more than 1,400 companies provide more than 32,000 jobs. Withers notes that from 2004 to 2014, that subsector is projected to gain an additional 4,000 new jobs. Health and life sciences - encompassing drug manufacturing, basic academic research, biomedical devices, nanotechnology and biomedical textiles - employs more than 35,000 people.

Rhode Island's location in the "Knowledge Corridor," 45 minutes from Boston and three hours from New York City, offers "big-city" benefits at more affordable prices, says Withers, who adds that with the most college students per capita, Rhode Island consistently educates a quality work force.

In April 2008, the RIEDC changed its expedited permitting process, the Certificate of Critical Economic Concern (CCEC), to help expedite high priority economic development projects and to accelerate the creation of higher wage jobs. Now, projects eligible for CCEC designation must create at least 100 new full time jobs, with an average wage at or above 105 percent of the average wage in Rhode Island. At least 50 percent of those jobs must meet or exceed 105 percent of the average wage. Another option is that the project must create more then 50,000 square feet and have more then 50 percent of the total development square footage dedicated to new office, manufacturing or research and development space.