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Announcing his candidacy for governor on Nov. 4, Republican Allan Fung promised he would create 20,000 jobs in Rhode Island during his four-year term in office.
As evidence that he can do it, he pointed to his own record as the mayor of Cranston.
"Hospitality, manufacturing, retail. In each of these industries we have created new jobs here in Cranston -- more than 1,000," Fung said in a speech at Taco Inc., in Cranston. "And this is what I intend to do as governor in every community in the state of Rhode Island."
Such claims, common in political campaigns, are not always easy to check. The cause-and-effect relationship between the office of mayor, governor or president and how many jobs are won and lost in a community is complicated. So there is some hyperbole here.
Unless a municipality directly hires workers, it doesn't literally "create" new jobs, any more than Barack Obama "created" about 3.6 million jobs during his first term as president. Finally, Fung took office on Jan. 5, 2009, when the economy was still in a nose-dive and the stock market was just two months away from its lowest point since May 1997.
Nonetheless, we decided to check Fung’s claim.
We called Fung's chief of staff and the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training.
DLT cautioned us that because local employment statistics vary on a seasonal basis from month to month, the only reliable way to compare time periods for a city is to select comparable months or full years.
According to its data, from January 2009 to January 2013, the net gain of private-sector jobs in Cranston increased by 1,121, going from 26,631 to 27,752. (In that same time period, the number of employed Rhode Islanders declined by 1,099.)
(If you add in government jobs -- federal, state and local -- the increase was 1,294, but Fung's speech focused on the private sector. The increase is even higher if you look at annual numbers -- 1,684 in additional private sector jobs from 2008, the year before Fung took office, to 2012.)
So there's reason to believe that Fung's "more than 1,000" number is correct, even when you include jobs lost in the city during that period.
But how many of those jobs were the direct result of efforts of the Fung administration?
We posed that question to Fung's chief of staff, Carlos Lopez. The city, it turns out, keeps its own count of added jobs. Cranston's spreadsheet lists 37 companies that, Lopez said, were actively helped by the city. By its count, those businesses added 1,209 jobs.
"Our criteria for this included a range of assistance, from a simple initial meeting with all of the required departments for easy, one-stop shopping, to actually guiding them along the permitting process all the way, to more complex things like having them take part of the revolving loan plan or providing them with tax incentive plans," said Lopez. "These businesses all received actual assistance, not just ribbon cuttings or PR-related things."
We called some of those firms to double check the numbers. We got through to four top officials. All confirmed that the city provided assistance, even if precise estimates of the numbers of jobs created were off by a bit.
Ernest G. Pullano, president of the restoration company Clean Care of New England, which went from Cranston to Warwick before returning to Cranston in 2011, said the Fung administration offered a "tremendous amount" of design, engineering and public works help. "As far as being conducive to business, they were fantastic."
The city told PolitiFact that Cranston gained 25 jobs by the move. Pullano said about 10 workers were actually involved, but his work force has since grown to 40 or so. "They may have asked me at the time what I thought the employee base would be. That sounds like a number I would have given them for the new facility," he said.
David Levesque, founder of the local Brewed Awakenings CoffeeHouse chain, said the city's economic development office offered financing assistance (which Levesque didn't need) and helped by working to let the coffee shop use the huge sign on Pontiac Avenue near the junction of routes 95 and 37, a sign that once advertised a Sunoco station. The city says the project produced 25 jobs. Levesque said the actual count was about 35.
And Carl Palermo, executive vice president for the Virginia-based surgical device company Cadence Inc., said city officials were hugely helpful when the company acquired a Smithfield firm with 80 employees and, needing more space, decided to renovate an existing building on Plainfield Pike.
The guidance offered by the city "saved us a lot of time and effort in terms of stumbling through the maze," said Palermo. "That may sound insignificant, but when you're completely unfamiliar with a state, that's huge."
The city says 125 new jobs were created for Cranston there in 2009. Palermo said that wasn't correct then but it is now; 130 people work there.
The fourth company official verified that jobs were created but didn’t want to be identified.
It's also important to note two other things.
In some of the cases, the businesses on the list were not necessarily new. Walmart expanded with 100 new jobs and Stop & Shop built a new store with an estimated 157 additional jobs. Those chains usually go and grow where the people are.
In other cases, Cranston gained jobs because the city brought in companies originally located in other Rhode Island communities, which lost jobs as a result.
Allan Fung said his administration created more than 1,000 new jobs in the city.
The city quickly produced a list of companies and an estimate of new jobs. When we spot-checked the list, business owners confirmed that they had received help from the city and the number of jobs was close to the city's tally.
Although the evidence shows that Fung's administration deserves credit for helping them along, it was the businesses themselves that actually created the jobs. And all of this occurred as part of the recovery from a major recession.
Because the statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information, we rate it Mostly True.
(If you have a claim you’d like PolitiFact Rhode Island to check, e-mail us at [email protected]. And follow us on Twitter: @politifactri.)
ProvidenceJournal.com, "Cranston Mayor Allan Fung confirms run for R.I. Governor," Nov. 4, 2013
Interview and emails, Laura Hart, spokeswoman, Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training, Nov. 5-7, 2013
Www.DLT.RI.gov, "Rhode Island Labor Force Statistics; Not Seasonally Adjusted; 1976 - Present," Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training, accessed Nov. 7, 2013
Interviews and email, Carlos Lopez, chief of staff, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, Nov. 5-6, 2013
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