Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce

Strong Momentum

Rhode Island Is Growing Jobs—and Talent

Rhode Island is cultivating jobs at an impressive pace—the state’s unemployment rate is down to 4.1 percent, its lowest since 2000. And Rhode Island has added 21,000 more jobs in the past few years. The state has seen growth in multiple sectors; important industries such as biotech, advanced manufacturing, financial tech, clean energy and much more.

Some of the factors that have contributed to the state’s improved economy include:

Businesses coming in strong. Thirty businesses have moved in or expanded in Rhode Island. Its economic upswing was a large factor in Rhode Island’s stratospheric rise—from 33 up to No. 9 in Business Insider’s list of strongest state economies in 2018. The state actively seeks out creativity by emphasizing innovation with multiple initiatives, including the Innovation Voucher program, Industry Cluster Grants and its Innovation Campus.

Deep and wide talent pipeline. The value of a strong talent pipeline isn’t lost in Rhode Island. Top-notch universities such as Brown, Rhode Island School of Design, University of Rhode Island and more help to ensure that the talent pool runs deep. It recently became the fourth state in the nation to offer free community college study to residents. And it has created a program to relieve student loan burden for up to four years for qualified people who work in the state after they graduate.

Amazing quality of life. Rhode Island wants people to thrive in the state. The state’s work-life balance is unparalleled—in addition to its world-class academic institutions, it offers an eclectic culinary scene, fantastic microbreweries, amazing outdoor activities, historical sites, cultural institutions and so much more. Plus, it’s close to key metropolises Boston and New York City.

In Rhode Island, we develop young talent in STEM and cultivate a great quality of life that allows for a healthy work-life balance. The growing number of advanced-industry companies thriving in the state creates a perfect synergy for that talent to remain in the state to work, play and live.

Margaret Hartigan, co-founder and CEO of digital wealth management platform Marstone, had this to say about operating in Rhode Island: “There’s such a strong creative and artistic presence here, which means we can capture unexpected ideas and out-of-the-ordinary concepts that ensure we’re always on the cutting edge of our industry. But we also can get to Boston in under an hour if we need to, so we benefit from easy access to the financial center of the Northeast.”

These achievements have been possible because the state has strategically focused on both businesses and the people who keep those businesses running. Creating jobs for now while investing in the future—expanding skill sets so that the next generation will be prepared for the careers of tomorrow—is the strategy behind Rhode Island’s success.

Business Optimism All Around Us

Survey Results: 65 Percent of Local Business Leaders Say R.I. Economy Will Be in Better Shape in Next 12 Months

What’s the momentum behind Rhode Island’s local economy really like? To find out, we asked the more than 250 prominent business and civic leaders who attended our 18th annual Economic Outlook Breakfast, cohosted with Santander Bank on Monday.

After sharing his thoughts on the tremendous potential of Rhode Island’s economy, Mike Lee, managing director of Santander Commercial Banking, facilitated a real-time survey in which the attendees answered questions about the state of the local and national economy and the key issues facing their companies. We even got in a question about the Red Sox. Joining Mike to discuss regional business issues were Kelly Coates, president and chief operating officer for Carpionato Group; Maureen Boudreau, director of healthcare technology for Johnson & Johnson; and James Karam, president and founder of First Bristol Corporation. 

Net-net, optimism about Providence and Rhode Island was the dominant theme.

What grabbed my attention was that:

Nearly 54 percent of you believe that the U.S. economy will be in better shape over the next 12 months, while 28 percent believe it will stay about the same. 

Seventy-one percent of you believe your business is in better shape this year than last year, while 8 percent said it is in worse shape today.

Forty-two percent of you cited revenue and sales growth as the most challenging issues your businesses expect to face in the next year, while 28 percent noted talent shortage, 10 percent selected regulatory requirements and seven percent chose managing “big data” and cybersecurity. 

Nearly 55 percent of you said that you will be hiring over the next year. 

Forty percent of you indicated you will be hiring because current staffing levels cannot meet demand, while 26 percent of you selected projected sales growth, and another 25 percent noted you would be hiring because you need skills not possessed by your current staff. 

When asked about your current workforce, you cited team building and group dynamics at 54 percent and technology skills at 39 percent as the top two areas that need development.  

Oh, and last but not least: 55 percent said the Red Sox will not win the World Series. I’m sure there are some Yankees fans smiling at this!


My key takeaways from this breakfast? As confidence in the economy grows and Rhode Island secures more wins like Infosys and Johnson & Johnson, it’s important that the business and civic leaders represented at the breakfast this week continue to engage in meaningful conversations about Rhode Island. Together, we must stay focused on helping all Rhode Island companies thrive so that we maintain a competitive and attractive business climate for the long-term.

To hear more about what Rhode Island’s business leaders have to say about the state, read our blog post about the Providence: An Economic Recovery Story event we also hosted earlier this month. 

150 Years of Baubles, Bling and the Rise of America’s Only Jewelry Billionaire

Throughout 2018, we will be posting to our Then and Now blog series to unearth the roots of our state’s key industries. Today, our earliest entrepreneurs and Rhode Island’s rich and surprising history of jewelry manufacturing.

Then
In the 1880s, Rhode Island was the No. 1 state for jewelry manufacturing, accounting for one quarter of the entire country’s production, thanks to the more than 200 Providence-based jewelry firms that employed almost 7,000 workers. How did the smallest state become the “jewelry capital of the world”? 

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To put our finger on the industry’s origins in Rhode Island, we have to trace back even further, to 1794, when a man named Seril Dodge opened his jewelry store on North Main Street in Providence. He made shoe buckles that the dandies of that day took a shine to. But it was his nephew, Nehemiah Dodge, who would go on to develop an early process to plate lesser metals in gold and silver, whetting the nation’s appetite for inexpensive jewelry. Around the Dodge family, a generation of innovative jewelry manufacturers sprang up. A Jewelry District hummed to life in Providence, powered by an immigrant labor force. And around the country, the Industrial Revolution spurred increased production and economic growth. (Of note, Rhode Island is also widely credited as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. In 1790, English immigrant Samuel Slater built the first American factory to successfully produce cotton yarn with water-powered machines.) 

Jewelry-making in Rhode Island flourished for a century, and rags-to-riches stories abounded. The Great Depression put growth in the Jewelry District on pause until after World War II, but Rhode Island emerged from wartime with manufacturing as its dominant activity. And though the Jewelry District was bisected by the construction of Interstate 195 in the 1960s, jewelry represented the state’s largest manufacturing sector by 1978. At that time, Rhode Island produced 80 percent of the country’s costume jewelry and employed 32,500 workers in the industry.

Along the way, evolving trends in fashion helped feed demand for Rhode Island-made baubles. As Peter DiCristofaro, the jewelry historian who founded the Providence Jewelry Museum, tells it, “You had the counterculture, birth control—and pierced earrings. In the ’70s you had disco jewelry, and in the ’80s you had big hair and big jewelry.”

Then came a steep and sudden decline in sales. Fashions changed, and overseas companies that offered cheap labor began competing with local makers. Many Rhode Island companies went out of business. Factories closed. By 1996, only 13,500 people remained employed in jewelry in the state. 

Around the country, manufacturers were telling similar stories. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 1960, about one in four American workers had a job in manufacturing. Today fewer than one in 10 are employed in the sector.

Carolyn Rafaelian, founder of Alex and Ani. Photo by Rhode Island Monthly magazine

Carolyn Rafaelian, founder of Alex and Ani. Photo by Rhode Island Monthly magazine

Now
Nevertheless, the one-time “jewelry capital of the world” is undergoing a revival. Besides being home to Alex and Ani, the half-billion-dollar brand founded by native Rhode Islander Carolyn Rafaelian, the state can boast one thousand jewelry-related companies. According to a recent WWD account, “Rhode Island’s jewelry manufacturing is a nearly self-sustaining ecosystem—invisible to those not in-the-know. Stuffed into unassuming pre-war millhouses, their floorboards are worn to a sloping sheen and the sound of arcane machinery fills the air with a droning hum.”

Tiffany & Co., David Yurman, Shinola and Jennifer Fisher all now manufacture their wares in the state. From its HQ in Cranston, Jewelry Concepts has become a world leader in personalized jewelry, annually producing over one million unique personalized jewelry items. And companies like Luca + Danni and Alexys Ryan are quickly writing their own success stories. Why the return to manufacturing in Rhode Island? Besides the public’s embrace of the Made in America movement, jewelry makers cite frustration with quality control and delays experienced with overseas manufacturers. Designer Pamela Love, who manufactures part of her line in Rhode Island, recently told WWD, “The quality is fantastic, [the Rhode Island factories] do such a great job. I think that the chain factories, the finding factories are on par with Italy.”

Today, Rhode Island once more has the highest concentration of jobs in the jewelry industry in the United States. The 30-year-old Providence Jewelry Museum, which has long resided quietly on a dead end street in Cranston, is now being made over as the National Jewelry Museum and will be opened to the public. It will move to Providence, where it can better put the state’s industrial past on display, in the form of 50 Providence-made machines, 200 pieces of jewelry and 20,000 company samples spanning more than two centuries of jewelry making. Museum president Edward Lemire says, “We are on a mission to make [the museum] a bigger, better, permanent, public tourist attraction. A lot of people had no idea this all went on in the United States. This will bring that awareness back.”

By most accounts, one jewelry brand in particular has helped Rhode Island return as a world player on the jewelry scene: Alex and Ani, a bangle-making brand founded in 2004. Not only has the brand grown from $4 million in sales in 2010 to $500 million in sales in 2015, but it bridges Rhode Island’s past with its present, since founder Carolyn Rafaelian opened Alex and Ani out of her father’s Rhode Island jewelry factory. She and her sister had worked at the factory as teenagers in the 1960s, and she began to design jewelry herself. Today, her designs have made her America’s only jewelry billionaire, and she sits at the No. 18 spot on the Forbes list of America’s Richest Self-Made Women.

Gov. Gina Raimondo, another native Rhode Islander, also has familial ties to Rhode Island’s bejeweled past: “I had a great life as a kid—my dad had a job at the Bulova Watch company,” she told Rhode Island Public Radio. “Good jobs like his gave people dignity in their work. It’s important that Rhode Island gets [manufacturing] right.”

The governor, whose late father lost his job at the watch factory when work was shipped overseas, has committed to rebuilding and reinventing Rhode Island’s manufacturing prowess. Jewelry will always be an important part of that story. 

Providence's Leaders Tell Its Economic Recovery Story

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Last Tuesday, the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce and the Providence Foundation turned the Rotunda Room at the Rhode Island Convention Center into a sold-out love fest for Providence and a celebration of the many opportunities that our changing skyline holds. The idea for the event came from our Bisnow panel in Boston last fall. Many there were taken off guard by the number of projects going on in Providence, not just within our downtown core but interspersed throughout the city. 

And because I was surprised that they were so surprised by all that Providence has going on, we decided to put forth this event, which we called “Providence: An Economic Recovery Story.” The idea was to show the business community exactly what’s changing in terms of our physical landscape. During the event, we heard from Mayor Jorge Elorza; Alden Anderson, Jr., senior vice president/partner of CBRE New England and chairman of the GPCC board; Russell Carey, EVP for planning and policy at Brown University and chair of the Providence Foundation; Christopher Marsella, president of Marsella Development Corporation; and Martha Sheridan, president and CEO of Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau. 

In a panel discussion I moderated, Mayor Elorza confirmed that there are 60 projects under construction or in the pipeline in Providence right now. Together we explored the city’s investments in public spaces and infrastructure, the permit process for developers and entrepreneurs, the hotel building boom, how to attract more meetings and conventions, and the importance of public-private collaboration, downtown parks and intermodal transit hubs. Here are some highlights from our talk:

Where Providence is going

“During the downturn from 2008 to 2012, [Rhode Island’s] academic institutions continued to invest in our market, particularly in Providence, and that really made a huge difference in terms of keeping people at work and keeping the economy moving and taking a lot of property that was functionally challenged and putting it to alternative uses.” —Alden Anderson, Jr. 

“When I think of what we need to do to continue to encourage development, investment and optimism here in Providence, the finances are absolutely fundamental. Nothing else matters unless the foundation is strong. Because of that, over the course of the past three years, my administration has made the city’s finances an absolute priority. What we’ve done is completely, from top to bottom, changed the way that we put our budgets together and manage them throughout the year.” —Mayor Jorge Elorza 

 “[The Wexford Innovation Center] is one of the most important buildings happening in the city right now, and it is absolutely a partnership of private entities and developers with the support of the city and the state. The key of that building is in the Cambridge Innovation Center. … The environment is all about starting businesses and about community. It’s the type of place that will help us in terms of attracting students who want to stay in Providence after Brown, URI, RISD and others. But not only young people—[it will help us attract] anyone who has an idea, [anyone] who’s looking to start a business as part of a community rather than in isolation. That’s very important to the environment of innovation that we’re all trying to create. In just a little over a year that building will be done.” —Russell Carey

“We currently have about 2,400 hotel rooms in downtown Providence. We’ve seen 96 percent to 98 percent occupancy most Saturday nights. We may be adding 600 to 800 new rooms if six to seven new hotels actually open.” —Martha Sheridan

What we still need to do in Providence 

“We’ve got this mythical border between Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The more we can break that border down and become part of a regional economy, the more successful we will be.” —Alden Anderson, Jr. 

“Anywhere on the planet, but especially in cities, transit is important. Good, efficient transit creates development. Here in Providence, we displaced and disconnected the bus hub from the Amtrak station 30 years ago, and I applaud the state for trying to reconnect those. What they’re studying in terms of future and multiple modes of transportation and having it in one location is really key to not only statewide transit but also how we move around the city. Downtown transit would be a game changer for the city. That’s something the state continues to work on. It’s a big project, but we’ve done big projects before. It certainly closes the loop on the Capital Center changes that began 30 years ago.” —Christopher Marsella

“I want to remind everyone about what’s been happening in our airport in the past year. We have added over a dozen direct service flights, many of them to international destinations. And for the most part, a lot of international visitors want to come into the city and walk. They don’t want to navigate in a car. Having robust mass transit would certainly help with that. They also want to go all over the state—so the more robust and far-reaching our mass transit system is, the better it will be.” —Martha Sheridan

“The role of cities is to find ways to bring people together. … that’s what cities do—you find a way to not just coexist but to thrive together. So while we do have bricks and mortar and buildings going up, which is outstanding, and while we do have institutional assets that are as strong as they’ve ever been and growing, what we have to focus on is the programming to make sure that the network between all of the institutions, people and groups is as strong as it can be.” —Mayor Jorge Elorza 

Read our blog post about the Bisnow panel that inspired “Providence: An Economic Recovery 

Awesome events for start-ups next week

Danny Warshay, Executive Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, has assembled world-class presenters to mentor and inspire.

Danny Warshay, Executive Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, has assembled world-class presenters to mentor and inspire.

We are very fortunate to have great depth of talent in the entrepreneur's space in Providence. A lot of that leadership comes from the academic community. One of the most abundant sets of resources comes from the Jonathan M. Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship at Brown University. A couple of events coming week may be of interest to local entrepreneurs.

Monday evening's event focuses on podcasting and the art of sound and Wednesday's lunchtime book talk with the co-founder of Runa Tea (backed by Leonardo Dicaprio and other celebrities focused on sustainability) will focus on building a startup through lessons he learned in the Amazon.

SOUND IDEAS: CLOSE LISTENING, PODCASTING, AND THE NEW RADIO
October 23 @ 5:30 - 8:00 pm
Studio 1, Granoff Center for the Arts
Registration link/Facebook link

Join the Brown Arts Initiative and the Jonathan M. Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship for a panel discussion (5:30 – 7:00 PM) exploring the inception and evolution of sound ideas and the podcasting industry and the potential for sound and podcasts to act as avenues to launch initiatives, careers and businesses. You will hear from the following panelists:

  • —Torey Malatia, Co-creator of This American Life and current RIPR GeneralManager/President/CEO
  • —Morra Aarons-Mele ‘98, founder of WomenOnline and the Podcast and book, Hiding in the Bathroom
  • —Sam Harnett and Chris Hoff, founders and hosts of the podcast The World According to Sound
  • —Alan Nakagawa, Interdisciplinary sound-based artist, Artist in Residence at Great Streets/LA Mayor’s Office

Following the panel (7:00 – 8:00 PM), Danny Warshay, Executive Director for the Center for Entrepreneurship, will lead a workshop on bottom-up research, an essential entrepreneurial skill to help you find and define your target market.

FULLY ALIVE: USING THE LESSONS OF THE AMAZON TO LIVE YOUR MISSION IN BUSINESS AND LIFE
Wednesday, Oct. 25; 12:00 - 1:30 PM
Petteruti Lounge, 75 Waterman Street

 
Runa Founder and Brown University alumnus Tyler Gage gathers inspiration in the Amazon.

Runa Founder and Brown University alumnus Tyler Gage gathers inspiration in the Amazon.

Fully Alive tells the story of Tyler Gage ’08 and his immersion in Amazonian indigenous spirituality and its life-changing impact on the trajectory of his company, living a meaningful life, and making an impact in the world. Tyler built RUNA from a scrappy start-up into a thriving, multimillion-dollar company that has become one of the fastest-growing beverage companies in the United States. With the help of investors such as Channing Tatum, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Olivia Wilde, RUNA has created a sustainable source of income for more than 3,000 farming families in Ecuador who sustainably grow guayusa in the rainforest. Simultaneously, RUNA has built a rapidly scaling nonprofit organization that is working to create a new future for trade in the Amazon based on respectful exchange and healing, not exploitation and greed.

Contact elizabeth_malone@brown.edu for details.

 

Today's "Cranes In The Sky"

The spotlighting of cranes in the Providence skyline continues with this installment: a $20 million eight-story extended stay Homewood Suites by Hilton hotel project.  The developer is First Bristol Corp., led by veteran hotelier James Karam.

The building site sits at the confluence of Exchange Terrace, Steeple Street and Memorial Blvd. in the city's Capital Center District.  The lot, itself, is uniquely compact and triangular which necessitated design finesse and architectural creativity to ensure vibrant, street-level interaction.  The project got underway in earnest this summer.

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With 120 suites being offered, the hotel's target market is upscale professionals who require housing for longer than a few days.  The Providence region is  fertile ground for such an audience given the density of local colleges, universities and hospitals. 

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Homewood Suites by Hilton at the intersection of Steeple Street and Memorial Blvd. in Providence.

Homewood Suites by Hilton at the intersection of Steeple Street and Memorial Blvd. in Providence.

First Bristol Corporation, a leading Real Estate Development and Management firm based in Massachusetts, was selected by Hilton Hotels Worldwide as the National Developer of the Year for its Homewood Suites by Hilton Brand.

Karam started First Bristol Corporation 35 years ago, and has built the family business into one of New England’s premier real estate development and management companies. 

 

 

 

Crane Spotting!

I said I was on a mission! That mission is tracking down all the exciting new construction projects underway throughout Rhode Island and explaining what's being built.  Yes, there are, in fact, lots of "cranes in the sky," and the stories surrounding these projects are quite interesting. The common denominator is that none of these projects would be occurring if investors weren't confident that the economy in Rhode Island is on the upswing.

The Edge College Hill in Providence, located 169 Canal Street

The Edge College Hill in Providence, located 169 Canal Street

In my earlier posts, I spotlighted Wexford Science and Technology's groundbreaking on the former Route 195 lands in Providence, within the new Innovation and Design District.  Then I set off to the main campus of the University of Rhode Island and poked around the largest building project in their history: the complete remaking of its College of Engineering Complex.

Today,  I am showing you what this "crane in the sky" is working on:

DBVW Architects is working closely with Vision Properties on Edge College Hill, a new mixed-use residential project in downtown Providence at the base of College Hill. Located at 169 Canal Street, this new 15-story high-rise will include 202 micro-loft style apartments and first floor commercial space. Amenities for the residential units include a top floor common room and southwest facing terrace as well as a fitness center and first floor lobby/gathering space.

The Edge College Hill is a perfect project for Providence because of our deep concentration of young millennial talent, as Inc. Magazine recently reported. The region is home to elite colleges and universities where students, faculty and staff are all intensely interested in hip, high-design, affordable housing options.

These modernly furnished apartments will primarily be marketed towards students. Features include over-sized windows, high-end finishes, 9' 7" ceilings, fully equipped kitchens and fold-down beds that tuck into contemporary cabinetry when not in use. Residents will be able to choose from views of the Providence skyline, historic College Hill, and the Rhode Island State House.

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Artist's rendering (above) and the building site today.

Artist's rendering (above) and the building site today.

169 Canal Street, formerly a surface parking lot, is a long vacant parcel of land that fronts the highly acclaimed Providence River Walk. When completed, this urban, car-free development will play an important role in fostering a more walkable and livable city. In addition to adding significantly to the number of residents living downtown, the project will encourage new businesses such as restaurants and markets to join Providence's already exciting growth.

 

Providence Tops On East Coast For Millennial Talent

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Why is Providence suddenly turning heads in the race for talent?  Investors like GE Digital, Virgin Pulse, Hasbro, Johnson & Johnson and more are tapping into a plentiful and resourceful workforce. The vibe here is eclectically and fashionably urban. Plus, Providence has lots of swag in these categories, too:

  • design-thinking mindset
  • spectacular foodie scene
  • access to high-speed rail
  • easy to navigate international airport
  • ivy league academic institutions
  • affordability
  • and just plain fun!

But don't take our word for it. Check out this piece from @Inc: See why #Providence is one of the top cities attracting #millennials!

New URI Engineering Complex Coming Along Nicely

It's been about a year since Rhode Island voters bullishly approved Phase II funding to create a gleaming new complex for the University of Rhode Island's College of Engineering --- a $125 million endeavor designed to put our state's flagship research institution at the vanguard, internationally, for engineering and entrepreneurial prowess.  

Eager to see how the project is shaping up, I headed over to campus to take a closer look.  I was thrilled to see teams of construction workers moving earth, burying conduit and pouring concrete. Indeed, they are laying the metaphorical groundwork for the jobs of the future. (Check out some fun facts about the project!)

From the Chamber's vantage point as business builders, it's promising that Rhode Island is responding to market demands for engineering talent. Across the state, several of our world-class institutions of higher education, including Brown University, are investing more than $300 million in sophisticated new infrastructure that will produce high value engineering research and learning facilities. That pace bodes well for Rhode Island's ability to be a prime target for new corporate investment.

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Pictured here is the project site where the demolition of five antiquated buildings began in the spring and was completed this summer. Sparking the need, the older buildings had not undergone any major improvements in more than 50 years. Consequently, they did not provide the open and flexible teaching, learning and research spaces necessary to adequately prepare engineering students and fully serve faculty members.

Don't underestimate the ubiquitousness of engineering. It's at the heart of most everything in contemporary society: energy, medicine, water, bridges, data, physical structures and more. That's why the sector is growing jobs at such a rapid clip. 

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URI President David Dooley puts it in perspective: “Increasingly, our engineering students and faculty are not only working in interdisciplinary teams within the College of Engineering, but with students and faculty from across the University in oceanography, health, pharmacy, chemistry, computer science, and business, to name but a few, as well as companies and corporations around the state, region and the world. This new facility will stimulate collaborative, multidisciplinary learning and research. It will lead to discoveries that we cannot even imagine today. Our engineering alumni, students, and faculty have always been essential drivers of innovation and economic development in Rhode Island, and with these new facilities, we know that URI’s role in moving the state forward will be strongly enhanced."

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The Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce was proud to be an early champion of the project. We invested time, money and resources in promoting the economic benefits to the state and making the case that access to engineering talent will attract attention from corporations looking to sit alongside URI's demonstrated expertise in undersea robotics, smart building technology and other engineering disciplines. Many Chamber member companies also took up the mantle to make the project a reality: Toray Plastics (America) $2 million: FM Global, $1 million; Taco Inc., $400,000; and an anonymous gift of $2.5 million from a URI alumnus and corporate leader. 

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Ballinger of Philadelphia, is the prime architect, mechanical engineer, electrical engineer, and structural engineer on the project, and the associate architectural firm is Chamber member DBVW of Providence. The construction management firm is Dimeo Construction Co. of Providence.

Congratulations to Chamber Directors Brad Dimeo and David Dooley for their leadership on this essential project to Rhode Island's future. We're looking forward to the ribbon cutting in 2019!

 

More Shovels In The Ground in #PVD

Innovation districts are emerging in the downtowns and midtowns
of cities like Atlanta, Cambridge, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis, where advanced research universities, medical complexes, and clusters of tech and creative firms are sparking business expansion as well as residential and commercial growth.  

Now, add Providence to the mix. 

With this week's groundbreaking on the former Route 195 land, business, academic and government leaders are partnering with Wexford Science and Technology to create a grand Innovation Center that will be at forefront of discovery.

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Wexford CEO Jim Berens emphasized that the $88 million facility will draw the best minds in research, design and commercialization. "We are excited that our work in Providence will become more visible as we begin vertical construction of the first Innovation Building, anchored by Brown University, the Cambridge Innovation Center and Johnson and Johnson. This represents another step forward in the development of a dynamic Knowledge Community that brings together intellectual capital, innovation and infrastructure to create a center of gravity and congregation that can give a sense of place to the growing innovation and entrepreneurial activities taking place in Providence and across Rhode Island."

In addition to the 66,000 square feet in the Innovation Complex, CIC also is planning to locate an 8,000-square-foot Innovation Hall and Venture Cafe-dedicated civic spaces that are modeled after CIC's highly successful District Hall in the Seaport District of Boston, where the innovation community can gather and exchange ideas.

The Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce has been working for many years to champion an environment in Rhode Island that leverages our amazing assets, including our comprehensive talent base, our world class universities, colleges and hospitals and our innovative businesses. We are confident that progress is accelerating at a rapid pace now.

"Wexford's project has the potential to advance our state's economy in significant ways -- fostering innovation, spurring growth, and building opportunity for all Rhode Islanders," said Rhode Island Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor. "This project will become the catalytic centerpiece of our revitalized I-195 Innovation & Design District. It represents the culmination of the very hard work of many including our visionary Governor, Gina Raimondo; leaders at the I-195 Commission and the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation; the teams at Wexford Science & Technology, Ventas, CIC, Brown University, and Johnson & Johnson; and state, city, and federal elected leaders. I congratulate these partners on reaching this critical milestone."

Keep the announcements coming!

FinTech Firm eMoney Now Sourcing Providence Talent

FinTech firm eMoney is expanding into Providence. The wealth management technology company is opening a new office at 100 Westminster Street, with positions already being filled for the site. 

Located in a 20-story commercial building in the Financial District, the office’s downtown views paired with nearly 7,000 square feet of rented space, provide an atmosphere that is conducive to fostering the collaboration and innovation that eMoney is known for both as an employer and as a leading provider of scalable wealth management technology. 

The new office location stems from the firm’s rapid growth over the last few years and desire to explore a new talent market in the Northeast. 

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“This is just the beginning of our journey in Rhode Island,” said Ed O’Brien, CEO of eMoney. “We’re excited to get the office up and running, becoming an integral part of the Providence community and tapping its extensive network of talent. We’re proud to expand our eMoney team so we can continue to innovate and meet the needs of our clients.”

As previously announced by Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo and the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation in March, eMoney is committed to bringing 100 full-time jobs to the state by 2020. The Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce stands ready to assist the firm with its hiring needs.

“We welcome eMoney to their new Providence office,” said Governor Gina Raimondo. “With workforce training and economic development as top priorities, we have added 14,000 jobs since taking office, and regained all the jobs lost during the Great Recession. Additions to the state like eMoney show Rhode Island is on the move.”

eMoney already has 10 employees set to work in the Providence office by mid-August, and extensive recruiting efforts are underway to fill open roles in software development, user interface and experience design, software testing and quality engineering, and product management, among others.

“Providence continues to demonstrate that it has the talent, quality of life, and momentum that businesses are looking for,” said Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza. “I’m excited to welcome a fast-growing company like eMoney Advisor to the capital city and wish them success in the years to come.”

eMoney has two other office locations in the U.S. Its corporate headquarters located just outside of Philadelphia in Radnor, Pa., has more than 400 employees on-site serving all areas of the business, including software development, financial planning, security and data services, sales, client engagement, marketing, finance, and human resources, among others. The firm’s West Coast office located in the San Diego suburb of La Jolla, Ca., is home to approximately 60 employees who work in client engagement, sales and financial planning.

To learn more about eMoney’s open positions in Providence, visit here.

 

PVD: An Emerging Silicon Valley Clone

We are so proud that Providence is being recognized by Inc. Magazine for its thriving startup community. In its May 2017 issue, Inc. calls out Providence as one of "The 6 Best Cities to Start A Business Right Now." Here's what they had to say:

The State of Rhode Island has made major investments in entrepreneurship. In 2016 they attracted GE Digital, Johnson & Johnson, Virgin Pulse and a world renowned Cambridge Innovation Center--an accelerator for innovation enterprises.
Rhode Island has created college tuition incentives to attract new talent and used the existing talent of top nearby research institutions like Brown and Harvard to create an emerging Silicon Valley clone. USA Today ranked Brown #1 in the country for applied mathematics.
"We had to make connections to eds and meds, especially for existing companies," said Stefan Pryor, Secretary of Commerce at State of Rhode Island. "We have an Innovation Voucher Program. If a company is looking for R&D we'll pay for a college or university medical center to do that R&D research. We have made 22 of these arrangements so far and increase the funding year after year. It's helping to fuel the innovation economy.

Read the full article here. Share it with you everyone you know!! Make Providence your start-up community. Call us to learn more.

--- Laurie White, president, GPCC

"RI's Promise" Is A Keeper

As is well known, our key focus at the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce is economic development on behalf of business. And today we wanted to step out and make a few comments publicly about what’s now a universal issue facing general business and entrepreneurs everywhere. And that’s the demand for talent.

America’s business community is feeling optimistic. They’re in an expansion mode. They’re hiring. They’re carefully calibrating what they need to do and where they need to be to produce the most profitable outcomes.

Likewise, the Rhode Island business community is feeling optimistic about the future, and they’re hiring. Our local entrepreneurial environment has never been stronger, particularly due to the high concentration of elite colleges and universities in the area. Yet, the need for even more talent remains intense.

When talking about issues, I like to come at it from a different angle. I point to the “best practice economic development literature” for policy guidance. I think that’s important because it sets context. Area Development and Chamber Executive are two of the most helpful.

Area Development Magazine -- each year in the first quarter -- ranks the policy issues of most importance to American business when it comes to site selection and business facilities planning. In other words: jobs, opportunity, employment, growth. The number one and number two issues. What are they? Quality infrastructure and quality workforce.

American Chamber of Commerce Executives tells us what chambers and business leaders all across this country and internationally are actually doing to drive economic performance. ACCE reports that in 2016, for the first time ever, workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher (36%) outnumber workers with a high school diploma or less (34%).  The face of the workforce is changing.  Everyone knows it.

I bring this up because it shows the degree to which this is an issue nationwide and as an object lesson for RI that competitor states are going at it full bore. Our businesses --- from start-up through mid-cap and Fortune 100 --- are competing with businesses in other communities that are getting their talent pipeline in order real fast.

We want to say very clearly that we support Gov. Gina Raimondo’s Rhode Island's Promise proposal to make us a national leader in college affordability and college completion. This emphasis on talent development is squarely in line with the Chamber’s views on how to cultivate a stronger business climate. Rhode Island employers are creating jobs, and we want those jobs to go to Rhode Island kids.

We are particularly impressed with the central themes of Rhode Island's Promise: reducing the loan debt burden on students and families; improving on-time graduation for students; driving desirable enrollment at Rhode Island College, the Community College of Rhode Island and the University of Rhode Island; and increasing the concentration of our college educated workforce.

We have shared this message in testimony before the House and Senate Finance committees. And we’re teeing it up again today to remind us all to stay focused on the big picture.  We must produce more college graduates. As a nation, we can't afford not to.

 

Entrepreneur Providence Re-Launch

On behalf of the team at the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, we are happy to announce the re-launch of EntrepreneurProvidenceRI.com.

Over the past couple of months, lots of exciting new projects have come to fruition. The influx of energy and talent has been amazing --- with much more soon to come.

Through the work of our contributors, we will keep you up to date on the flavor of the local entrepreneurial ecosystem and show you why it makes sense to choose Providence.

Check back often for news, events, profiles, rankings and accolades. "Entrepreneurs begin in PVD."

Special thanks to Bank of America and The Beacon Mutual Insurance Company for their underwriting support of this special economic development project.