State officials on Monday announced the availability of two tax incentives, both contained in the budget passed by the General Assembly in June, that are meant to improve Rhode Island's economy.
Governor Gina Raimondo, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed gathered at Slater Mill in Pawtucket,, the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, to launch the new economic tools. Raimondo said the tax incentives mark a turning point for the state.
"With these two tools were beginning to end the cycle of chronic under-investment," Raimondo told an audience of local officials, developers and others. "We’re beginning a new cycle, a cycle of the new Rhode Island economy. An economy rooted in innovation and rooted in a very active, proactive economic development strategy."
One of the incentives offers thousands of dollars in tax credits to qualified companies that expand in Rhode Island or come to the state, up to a total maximum benefit of $75,000 over 10 years, and was the brainchild of state Rep. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Warwick). The other is meant to spark the reuse of historic properties through incentives capped at $15 million.
Raimondo acknowledged the latter program may lack sufficient funding to have a broad impact, but she called it a start.
She also argued that looking at the cost of the two incentives isn't the correct one to assess them.
"These programs are designed to create jobs, so in a way, they're not costing taxpayers money," Raimondo told reporters during an impromptu Q+A following the event. "These incentives are going to incentivize jobs that we wouldn't have otherwise. Right now, buildings aren't happening. These jobs aren't being created."
"So what we're saying is, build the building that otherwise wouldn't happen and we'll give you a credit. Create the jobs that otherwise wouldn't be created, and we'll give you a credit. So I don't think of it as costing taxpayers money. I think of it as creating economic opportunity and giving up some small piece of new additional activity and jobs."
The initial deadline for incentives to spark the reuse of historic building is November 25. Meanwhile, state Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor said the first 500 jobs qualified through a new tax credit program will get the maximum benefit.
Pryor prefaced his remarks by noting how Samuel Slater, the father of the Industrial Revolution, faced a series of tough challenges before finding success. The same will be true for Rhode Island, Pryor suggested.
“In the coming months and years, one by one, we’ll be making investments. One by one, we’ll be helping businesses to expand and relocate. One by one, we’ll be helping developers to restore historic structures and to build new structures ground-up.”