The India-based tech company Infosys plans to add 500 new jobs in Rhode Island over the next five years while creating its first U.S. hub for digital design in Providence, state and company officials announced Monday.
"It's 500 jobs for Rhode Islanders," Gov. Gina Raimondo told reporters after a news conference at the Providence Public Library. "They're good-paying jobs. Not all of them require a college degree, so it's just another sign that we're creating good jobs for Rhode Islanders."
Infosys will be eligible to get about $10 million in tax credits through the state's Qualified Jobs program, which requires jobs to be created and paying income taxes for at least one year before incentives are paid. The company announced earlier this year a plan to hire 10,000 American workers over two years.
Raimondo hailed the news -- the latest in a string of job announcements -- as a sign that Rhode Island is moving in the right direction.
With the governor gearing up for a tough re-election fight in 2018, political rivals have accused Raimondo of relying too heavily on tax incentives to spark economic growth.
In a seeming response to such critics, state Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor said the 22 companies that have moved to Rhode Island, or added jobs here, under the Qualified Jobs tax credit program will add $72 million in net new tax revenue over the next 12 years. "So if you're asking whether these are revenue-positive transactions, whether in general these are positive for Rhode Island, you have your answer," Pryor said.
(By Monday afternoon, former state Rep. Joe Trillo, an expected GOP candidate for governor, offered this criticism of Raimondo: "Governor Raimondo is touting her success this morning by announcing that Infosys is promising to create 500 jobs in Rhode Island by 2022. This comes after three months of embarrassing job losses which are reflective of the state’s general business climate which is hostile to business and jobs. What the governor’s office is less interested in announcing are the millions in taxpayer-funded incentives they have to give to such companies to attract any jobs. Unlike what is happening on the national level under President Trump and his efforts to cut business-killing regulations and taxes to create jobs, Rhode Island chooses 'business as usual' through special deals and corporate welfare programs at the taxpayer’s expense. Why not improve the overall business climate in order to allow real job growth?")
Pryor said Infosys will add almost $63 million annually to the state's gross domestic product.
Infosys, a Fortune 600 company that employs about 200,000 people at a series of global locations, marks the largest job infusion under the Qualified Jobs program. The company's local clients include CVS Health, Hasbro and Citizens Bank.
Company President Ravi Kumar said Infosys specializes in developing digital designers -- a much-needed skill in an era of growing e-commerce.
"Our endeavor now is to take design students who have an orientation of physical objects and artifacts and reorient them to platform systems and technology," he said, "and create design talent which is potentially going to be used for digital transformation of all large customers across industries. Every industry, every customer is going through a digital transformation."
Infosys intends to open a Providence office, and plans to unveil a location in the near future, Kumar said.
While Rhode Island continues to wrestle with under-performing public schools and students in need of remedial education at the Community College of Rhode Island, Kumar pointed to the stste's academic environment as a good fit for his company's needs. "What is very important is the academic situation around the center we establish," he said, offering particular praise for Brown University, CCRI, and the Rhode Island School of Design.
In explaining Infosys' move into the Ocean State, Kumar said Rhode Island is a geographically desirable location for because of the company's business in nearby states. Finally, he said the state government "is a very important orchestrator of economic activity," and that Rhode Island won him over as a tight-knit place that can get things done when various institutions and people pull together.
That effort began when Lynn Rakowsky, vice president of business development at Commerce RI, the state's economic-development agency, reached out to Infosys' leaders through the online networking site LinkedIn.
That led to multiple conversations, two visits by Kumar to Rhode Island, two visits by Pryor to Kumar's office, and finally a trip by Raimondo to meet with two of Infosys' board members in New York, Kumar said.
Kumar's praise for Rhode Island marked a contrast from some of the persistent sour notes about the state's economy, despite shrinkage in unemployment, such as a recent report prepared for lawmakers warning of anemic jobs growth in future years. The company's decision to locate in the state also marks at least a partial validation of Raimondo's refrain about creating a flywheel of momentum through new jobs in emerging sectors.
A crowd of more than 100 business, political and civic leaders turned out for the news conference at the Providence Public Library, including Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, U.S. Rep. David Cicilline, and state Senate President Dominick Ruggerio.
Kumar said changes in federal immigration policy were not a significant factor in the company's U.S. expansion.
He said he hopes to be an ambassador for Rhode Island and to attract other companies to the state.
Meanwhile, state Republican Chairman Brandon Bell used a statement to suggest Raimondo should offer some thanks to President Trump. In a statement, Bell wrote, "According to multiple national news reports, Infosys pledged to move jobs back to the United States after President Donald J. Trump took steps to reform the work visa programs that Infosys and other out-sourcing companies use."
This post has been updated.