The smallest state, he says, needs to market its unique advantages — size, natural resources and strategic locale in the Northeast corridor, among others — rather than try to be like everyone else. Rhode Island, he says, needs to adopt some of the optimism that transplants bring to the state.

It all sounds good. But can a down-on-itself state get with the program? Yes, Wolf says. "I think there's a lot of superficial pessimism," he says. "But scratch beneath the surface and you'll find Rhode Islanders like a lot about the state."

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