Nelson Silva, the owner of Graphic Ink, a screen-printing and embroidery shop in East Providence, likes to joke that he normally works half days- 6 am to 6 pm. That’s what he told Governor Gina Raimondo Wednesday afternoon when she toured Graphic Ink in an effort to spread information about her different economic initiatives, and how they would help small businesses like Silva’s.
“This business, [with] 17, 18 employees, this is the lifeblood of Rhode Island’s economy. Most Rhode Islanders work for companies just like this, [with] 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 employees,” Raimondo said. “So, as governor, I am very focused on making it easier to do business, less expensive to do business.”
Some of the initiatives that Raimondo spoke about were big parts of the state budget, like the elimination of the sales tax on energy for businesses, as well as decreasing the corporate minimum tax from $500 to $450. Raimondo also took the time to highlight other parts of her jobs plan, such as the streetscape improvement fund, a small business assistance program run by the Commerce Corporation, and a program for “innovation vouchers.”
“Think of it as a coupon,” Raimondo said. “You can come to the Commerce Corporation, get a coupon, and then redeem your coupon at one of our local universities to get access to R&D. If you have a new technology you want to investigate, if you’re a healthcare company, if one of your clients is a healthcare company, a lot of the times they want access to a research team at URI or Brown or RISD or Johnson & Wales. Get the coupon from the Commerce Corporation, check it in with the university, and have special access. We’re trying to promote more innovation.”
Silva, who has owned and operated Graphic Ink since 1997, said that he was very excited for the governor to come visit his shop, and expressed support for her jobs plan.
“I think her plan that she’s launching is right on point with where small businesses need to be, and small businesses are the backbone of the state in my opinion,” Silva said. “It’s very exciting to hear that she is really encouraging to support small businesses.”
Silva said initiatives like the energy sales tax elimination and the roadside improvements continue to make it easier for his business, and businesses like his, to keep employing people, and therefore invest in the local community. He even said that he believes that, because the state is on an economic upturn, that Rhode Islanders are more likely to invest in small businesses.
“I believe she has recharged the state in a way that, there are many people, companies, organizations, colleges, that have a lot of activity going on. We are an event-based business. We produce things for events. There are lots of things going on, which in turn makes us a busy shop,” he said.
According to Silva, this increase in activity, and reinvestment in small businesses, has opened up a lot of jobs in the community, which is looking for skilled workers. In his opinion, now that the economy is beginning to heal, the next logical step is to work on getting vocational education programs out there for students to become trained laborers right out of high school, or in college. Silva said that he is always willing to train an employee on site, but some positions do require skilled labor, such as graphics or design.
With all of these changes, Silva envisions a bright future for small businesses in Rhode Island.
“I see small business, in my case, [becoming] stronger and stronger, as the owners and employees are willing to put some effort into it. As long as we put some effort into it and work hard, hard work pays off.”