So last year, the legislature passed 28 "Moving the Needle" bills, revamping the state's economic development office, beefing up job training and further reforming regulations. One bill would free at least some businesses from an often-criticized requirement that they pay their employees once a week instead of every other week.
But Rhode Island is finding that truly moving the needle takes time.
"You can't change the environment—the ecosystem of the business climate here—instantaneously," Simmons said.
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Asked to compare the state's progress to a football game, Simmons said reformers are two years into a four-year timetable, so "every year is a quarter." But he said that doesn't necessarily mean this is halftime, because while most agree on the need to change, not everyone agrees on the timetab
"There is some question in the state of how far and how fast things need to occur," he said.
Besides, some of the provisions, like the biweekly pay law, only took effect at the beginning of the year. Others are longer-term initiatives to rebrand the state, led by a newly formed Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, replacing the old state economic development corporation. Part of the new body's mission is to improve the state's image by accentuating Rhode Island's positives.