Blackstone Group director predicts economic ‘growth we haven’t seen in a generation’

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Patrick AndersonThe Providence Journal

The chief strategist at investment firm The Blackstone Group is bullish on the year ahead and Rhode Island’s chances of benefiting from current economic trends.

“The economy is going to boom,” Joseph Zidle, a managing director at Blackstone, told Gov. Dan McKee in the first “Rhode Island 2030” strategy session on the future of the state’s economy.

Zidle estimates the national economy will grow by 7% this year, “like a thoroughbred out of the gates.” 

“Growth we haven’t seen in a generation,” he said.

In particular, Zidle says two industries — clean energy and life sciences — are poised to take off in the years ahead and Rhode Island is well-positioned to take advantage of them.

“There is no other city with strength in biotech like Boston. There is potential for Rhode Island to take advantage in a unique way,” he said. “Companies are moving out of Boston because it is busting at seams.”

Zidle said clean energy is “ready to boom” and offshore wind “has a substantial role to play.”

“Rhode Island’s advantage is in expertise with Block Island being the first operational offshore wind farm,” he said. “Rhode Island has proof of concept in the Block Island Wind Farm.”

McKee is taking advice from experts, businesspeople, community leaders and others on what economic strategies the state should pursue and how its should spend the $1.78 billion in federal coronavirus aid on the way.

The money “should be invested, not spent,” House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi said before the presentation.

On the panel that followed Zidle’s presentation, Smithfield Town Council President Suzy Alba said, “It’s all about workforce and training” to get the companies the workers they need.

In addition to clean energy and biotech, Citizens Bank CEO Bruce Van Saun urged the state to look at digital industries such as data analytics sand software engineering.

Larry Warner, chief impact and equity officer at the United Way of Rhode Island, noted that “without housing, we can’t grow our economy.”

Roby Luna, president of Aretec Inc., said federal contracting has become more flexible about where and how work for the government can be performed, opening up potential opportunities for Rhode Island companies.

Martha Wofford, president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield Rhode Island, focused on building out health-care capacity equitably and affordably.Your stories live here.Fuel your hometown passion and plug into the stories that define it.Create Account

“If we let our health-care costs go up, we are going to crowd out the kind of wages that we want to pay people,” Wofford said.

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