From Twitter @huffpost from NYT original
Smallest State Faces Economy-Size Problems
In several dozen recent interviews, Rhode Islanders agreed on this much: Their state’s smallness has contributed to its problems, but could be its best asset if properly exploited. Saul Kaplan, who until December was executive director of the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation, called the state’s size a “secret sauce” that could help businesses develop products or services quickly.
But many of those interviewed said that, instead, the smallness has trapped the state in parochialism, insecurity and outdated traditions that block change at every turn.
“The whole political system is based on back scratching and getting things for your friends,” said Robert Whitcomb, editorial page editor of The Providence Journal. “That’s true for every place, but more so here because of the intimacy — you keep bumping into people you know.”
As the lyrics of University of Rhode Island’s fight song suggest — “We’re Rhode Island born and we’re Rhode Island bred, and when we die we’ll be Rhode Island dead” — natives of the state, including lawmakers, rarely cast a curious eye outside it, Mr. Whitcomb and others said.
“They focus primarily, if not exclusively, on us and on the here and now,” said Leonard Lardaro, an economics professor at the university. “We need to be looking at a lot of other states — what they do and how we compare.”