Opinion/Paolino: Opportunities that can make RI better

·3 min read

Joseph R. Paolino Jr. is managing partner of Paolino Properties, served as mayor of Providence from 1984-1991 and was director of the Rhode Island Department of Economic Development from 1991-1994.

Exercise, lose weight, save money. It’s a time-honored tradition; making New Year’s resolutions. Some of us stick to them, while most of us don’t. The start of a new year means new opportunities. And, in 2022, Rhode Island has many opportunities to make the state a better place to live and do business.

As I’ve stated in previous writings, we are going to see an influx of cash we will never see again in our lifetimes. Rhode Island has $1.1 billion+ in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money. Our cities and towns have an additional $500 million in ARPA money. And, we will see another billion dollars in federal infrastructure money. That doesn’t include the president’s Build Back Better Act, if Congress can pass it.

One resolution every elected official in Rhode Island should be making is helping set up our economy for long-term success. I think that starts with our children. They are the future. Ensuring they have good schools, well-paid teachers, and reasons to stay in Rhode Island is essential to creating a workforce pipeline for the jobs of the future.

We are the Ocean State, so why not team up with the University of Rhode Island School of Oceanography and build a state-of-the-art aquarium for children to visit and learn. And, a world-class art museum to complement RISD, one of the best art schools in the country, which would boost an already well established arts and tourism scene in Providence and drive our young people towards STEAM career paths. And, there is nothing wrong with history and science museums either. Plus, finally building a Department of Health Lab in Providence could be just what we need in helping establish a life sciences district. By attracting life science companies, we would also bring in high-paying jobs for a thriving new sector.

Wouldn’t it be great to travel to Boston in 20 minutes? To New York City in less than an hour? Let’s get the conversation started by talking to our neighbors about creating high-speed rail service in the Northeast corridor. After all, no one likes sitting in traffic on I-95 and I-93. I think that investment in transportation, specifically high-speed rail, is a resolution and investment everyone would like to see become a reality and one that will create and maintain jobs for future generations.

A major problem going into 2022 is our hospital and health-care staffing. There’s no doubt a lot of workers in this field are burned out due to the pandemic. Let’s find a way to recruit and retain talented nurses and senior health-care workers and pay them competitive wages.

Housing is another major problem our state faces in the new year. No one should ever have to sleep on the street because they can’t find affordable housing. Our state is too small to have a homeless problem. I am happy to see organizations like the Rhode Island Foundation continue to address the housing and homeless crises. 2022 should be the year we finally do something with the Superman Building by turning part of it into affordable housing units. We have the money to do so, let's make sure that it becomes a reality.

Small businesses, including restaurants and hotels, are part of our economic lifeline in Rhode Island and they continue to suffer. We need to create state programs like the federal Paycheck Protection Program and a restaurant rescue program to ensure these businesses stay open, people remain employed and our state doesn’t lose out on tax revenue.

These are just a few ideas that I think can help Rhode Island and our workers. It’s not complicated if we put together a plan to make us the envy of the rest of America.

This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Opinion/Paolino: Opportunities that can make RI better

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