Raimondo proposes 'innovation institutes' to grow jobs

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gina Raimondo releases her job creation plan, Monday, March 10, 2014.

Thirty-seven people work at Videology Imaging Solutions in Smithfield, building the guts for miniature cameras and corporate surveillance equipment.

The company is coming up on its 20th birthday, and founder Carol Ethier built it from scratch -- a classic startup.

Ethier said she never went looking for government help.

"I was a loner. I didn't look for help. I didn't want help," she said.

But it wasn't easy, and Democratic candidate for governor Gina Raimondo wants to create an environment in Rhode Island that not only makes it easier for businesses to grow, but that attracts entrepreneurs.

"We have to make Rhode Island a destination. People have to want to start their businesses here and expand their businesses here," Raimondo, the incumbent general treasurer, said Monday during a tour of the company.

Raimondo wants to build an "innovation institute" that would make colleges responsive to businesses. She gave a scenario of how the two might work together.

"We want to expand in a new line of manufacturing, but in order to do that I need people to be skilled in X-Y-Z skills. Will you help develop a curriculum and an apprenticeship program for me?" Raimondo said.

Infrastructure investment, streamlined regulations -- these are not new answers.

"I took office and I said, 'We have a pension problem.' And (reporters) said, 'We know Treasurer. We've been talking about the pension problem forever,'" Raimondo said. "But I did get it done. I had the courage to take on the issue and the ability to bring everybody together to solve the problem."

Ultimately, that's her pitch and that of everybody else: It is leadership that will pull the state out of the doldrums. All the candidates said the answers are there; the leadership is missing.

Raimondo is running in the Democratic primary against Clay Pell, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and Todd Giroux. Republicans Ken Block and Cranston Mayor Allan Fung are also running to replace Gov. Lincoln Chafee. Thomas Davis is an independent candidate.