In Their Own Words: How Entrepreneurs Are Supported in RI

When TechCrunch host and best-selling author Andrew Keen visited Providence late last year, all of us here at the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce were excited to introduce him to Gov. Gina Raimondo and Secretary of Commerce Stefan Pryor, along with several of our entrepreneurial-minded board members. In the interviews we arranged between Andrew and these board members—such as Verizon’s Donna Cupelo, CCRI’s Dr. Meghan Hughes, BCBSRI’s Kim Keck and Duffy & Shanley’s Jon Duffy (which you can find soon on this website), a key theme developed: One hundred fifty years into our work as a chamber, the GPCC is doing something right. We will strive to continue to live up to the words that follow: 

Stefan Pryor, secretary of commerce for the state of Rhode Island: “We have the best relationship between a state commerce operation and a chamber of commerce in the country. The GPCC has teamed up with us to recruit businesses and spread the word on momentum in Rhode Island. They raised private money to do it. They deployed themselves simultaneously with us to trade shows and site selection events and to other forums where states are competing. The power of being jointly deployed—as state officials and chamber of commerce officials—it means that the private sector is at the table when we’re recruiting another business. What better message could there be about what our business community thinks of itself? Of the pride, the optimism to be sitting with the chamber? The future is bright in terms of this collaboration blossoming.” 

Donna Cupelo, regional president of New England at Verizon Communications Inc.: “One of the things the [GPCC] has done over the past few years is try to convene people who have an interest in innovation. That had never been done before. The Chamber has convene[d] all types of folks in academics and business and government and research and development, and the role they’re playing is very unique because they’re asking some very interesting questions: What does it take for entrepreneurs? What does it take for young companies to be thriving and successful, and how can companies like mine enable those companies in a larger ecosystem?” 

Jon Duffy, president of Duffy & Shanley: “Not all states have a city-state, so you’ll [ordinarily] see multiple chambers that make up a certain geography. The Providence chamber is the dominant chamber here; almost every major business is a member so you have the ability to get everybody together from the same hymn book, which is rare. The size of Rhode Island is one of the reasons the [GPCC] is able to act as a leader. It’s easy to bring people together; it’s easy to get a lot of decision-makers in a room and agree on a strategy, agree to put your shoulder against something and make things happen. The Chamber plays an important role in that in terms of leading—you need leadership and the business community will follow.” 

Meghan Hughes, president of Community College of Rhode Island: “The Chamber [is one of the] unique strengths that Rhode Island brings that other states just can’t compete with. If you are a business and you’re looking at coming to Rhode Island with relative ease, we can bring together our congressional delegation, our local government leaders, our local employer leaders, our local educational leaders and our local nonprofit leaders into the same room trying to solve the same problem. The Chamber is a really effective partner at listening to what potential employers need [and] what current employers need here in order to grow.” 

Kim Keck, president and CEO of BCBSRI: “The Chamber is a great convener—of opportunities, information, resources—connecting companies who have already solved a problem to companies who have an opportunity. … One of the things I think the Chamber does particularly well is understanding what’s going on in different industries and different states and bringing [that understanding] home to Rhode Island.” 

Find Andrew Keen’s interviews with Rhode Island business leaders—ranging from Verizon’s Donna Cupelo to CCRI’s Dr. Meghan Hughes to BCBSRI’s Kim Keck and RIC’s Dr. Frank Sánchez and many more—on the Chamber’s web and digital channels in the coming weeks and months.