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Governor hopeful Foulkes unveils a plan to boost the RI economy

Former CVS executive Helena Foulkes, a Democratic candidate for governor of Rhode Island.Handout

A day before the first high-profile candidate forum for Rhode Island’s gubernatorial hopefuls, Democrat Helena Foulkes is out with a new plan for boosting the state’s economy.

The former CVS executive, who has kept a surprisingly low profile for a first-time political candidate since she launched her campaign last year, is seeking to borrow $250 million (modeled after Massachusetts’ life sciences bond in 2008) for the “blue economy,” which focuses on marine and coastal resources.

She also wants to expand the state’s signature workforce training program and establish a state broadband program that would help municipalities offer high-speed internet access to their residents and businesses.

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Two of Foulkes’ more intriguing ideas are to establish a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) inspector general to ensure that the state is following through on the requirement that at least 10 percent of the dollar value of state-funded projects is awarded to minority-owned companies, and to double the tax benefit for qualified small businesses in her first budget as governor.

Foulkes’ proposal also checks the bureaucracy box with a new blue economy board, a government services delivery council, and an office of state broadband that will have oversight of municipal broadband programs.

There hasn’t been a lot of talk about economic development (or any policy issue, really) in the race for governor, but Foulkes is being strategic with the release of this plan ahead of Thursday’s candidate forum, hosted by the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council and moderated by Channel 12′s Steph Machado.

In addition to Foulkes, the forum is expected to feature the entire Democratic primary field, including incumbent Governor Dan McKee, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, former secretary of state Matt Brown, and health care advocate Luis Daniel Muñoz. Republican Ashley Kalus is also expected to attend the forum.

It will be interesting to see if the candidates discuss how their economic plans differ from the strategies implemented by former governor and current US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, particularly when it comes to business incentives.

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This story first appeared in Rhode Map, our free newsletter about Rhode Island that also contains information about local events, data about the coronavirus in the state, and more. If you’d like to receive it via e-mail Monday through Friday, you can sign up here.


Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.