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RI Biz Winners and Flops

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


Rhode Island’s business sector may be entering a new phase – activism.

The recent successful effort by Swipely’s CEO Angus Davis to block the Parole Board office from moving downtown to Fountain Street demonstrated a new era of public, persona driven activism.
Davis is an accomplished technologist and is now in the process of building a high potential start-up. Today, Swipely employs a reported 80 employees.
New Model
Davis did not use the traditional organizations to block the Parole Board’s relocation – the Chamber of Commerce spoke out in support of Davis’ position days after his letter. The Mayor of Providence and many members of the Council never took a definitive position. This was inspired by a lone activist.
Ultimately, the Chafee Administration backed down. Davis’ opposition may spark a new era of corporate activism.

Rhode Island Companies at CES – The good news is that three Rhode Island companies traveled across the country and made a big splash at CES.  They were Bad Dog Tools, Ximedica, and ION Audio. These companies appeared at the most important consumer electronic show in the country. The opportunity is much greater for Rhode Island – Massachusetts had 51 companies exhibit at CES.

More Businesses in Rhode Island
– In 2013, there were a total of 7,199 new entity filings processed by the Business Services Division -- an increase of 1.015% from last year’s year-end totals.

 “I am pleased to see that we are continuing to grow new business opportunities here in Rhode Island. This is positive news for our business community,” said Ralph Mollis, RI Secretary of State.
CBRE RI – The commercial real estate firm held their annual Rhode Island Market Overview. The good news for commercial real estate owners is that in some areas of the state, rents are starting to creep up. The bad news is the vacancies continue to be an issue.

Advertising, Marketing and PR of RI
– Wednesday, the group features New Harvest Coffee Roasters' Val Khislavsky at an event at their location at the Arcade.  Khislavsky is the Director of Marketing. The event kickoffs at 5:30 pm today (January 15th). More information
State Representative Anthony Giarrusso --  The Republican from East Greenwich and West Greenwich urged the state’s Small Business Advocacy Council to “stand up, and speak more loudly on behalf of business in general, and small business in particular.”
  Giarrusso’s comments were made at a meeting of the Council’s Legislative Working Group at the State House. Giarrusso appeared at the invitation of the Council, which is chaired by Lt. Governor Elizabeth Roberts.

“We can do all the marketing we wish, but this will not change the fact that Rhode Island is more expensive, less productive, less efficient, more highly taxed and deeper in debt than almost any other state in the country. It is not a pretty picture,” he said.
 Love the comments or not, he is a strong voice for business reality.
TrashVeo -- The Woonsocket provider of member-based residential services offers curbside service for senior citizens, homeowners, renters, absentee landlords, busy workers, and the disabled with weekly trash collection problems. Each week TrashVeo puts out members’ trash barrels, recycling bins, and lawn and leaf bags the night before collection day. Then it returns to put everything back where it belongs.
Monthly memberships are $19.95. http://www.trashveo.com.
Business Intelligence Event - NON-COMPETES AND CONFIDENTIALITY AGREEMENTS IN A HIGH TECH WORLD.  If you are looking to get insights into better business practices, the presentation on 

Wednesday, February 5th from 8:30 to 10:15 a.m. at the Rhode Island Foundation's offices in Providence may be of value. For companies looking to get smarter on 

non-compete and confidentiality agreements, the event is focused on helping business leaders understand the opportunities and limitations. The event is hosted by attorney Stacey Nakasian, a partner in Duffy & Sweeney's Intellectual Property & Technology Law practice.

Rhode Island Trends – Rhode Island’s population growth in comparison to the rest of the country is not just disturbing, it will have an adverse impact in the long run. Rhode Island faces the real threat of losing a Congressional seat and thus stature in Congress.  Rhode Island has lost a lot of political influence from the days of Claiborne Pell and John Chafee in the United States Senate and Freddie St. Germain and Claudine Schneider in the House. Between the four of them, at one time or another, three served as a chair of Congressional committee. This will not be beneficial to securing federal resources and setting regional priorities.

Rhode Island’s Support for the Arcade
– For the past few years, Rhode Island suffered through the embarrassment of the Arcade being dark. Now, the building is revitalized, beautifully restored and too often sparse. The Arcade is a special building and the local small business owners need shoppers' support. Most Rhode Islanders would like to avoid going back to a shuttered building. The Arcade is not part of a national mall chain and the retailers are local businesses – our support is necessary. 

Related Slideshow: 13 Biggest Business Stories in RI in 2013

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13 Best Biz Cities in RI

GoLocal's examination of the Best Cities and Towns to do business in RI explored new ground for companies looking to relocate or expand.

Our researchers culled municipally-distinct data on tax rates, workforce availability, cost of living index, economic indicators for short term and long-term job growth, even average driving time to TF Green Airport, to quantify a blend of factors that make for a pro-business environment. Because every city and state in RI complies by statewide measures, those metrics weren't included in GoLocal's research.


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12 Superman

Our coverage of the Superman building's threatened future started back in 2011, when a news story by GoLocal's News Team first unveiled the threat that Bank of America would leave the building and leave the city with the largest embarrassment.

In the story, The Superman Building: Downtown’s Ticking Time Bomb - former Mayor and developer Joe Paolino predicted the demise of the iconic building.

The failure to act by the Taveras Administration created the tallest embarrasment in America - one that has been reported by most every news organization in America.

GoLocal covered the demise of the building throughout the year.

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11 JetBlue Factor

JetBlue's arrival to Rhode Island was first announced by GoLocal is the summer of 2012, but no one quite knew the impact of the JetBlue factor, until a promotion by the airline was launched in partnership with the Big Blue Bug, which rocked the internet and sold out $20 tickets in minutes.

The promotion launched on GoLocalProv showed the world of advertising has changed forever. 

Launched one minute and thousands sold out nearly instantly.

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10 New England's Business

GoLocal's business team loves to collect and breakdown critical data to help Rhode Islander's get a beat on the story or even the bigger story.

One massively wide-read story was one that pivoted off the data of the Milken Institute and its rankings of all the cities in America.

The Best-Performing Cities study is published annually in order to highlight the cities and metropolitan areas in the U.S. that are prospering, and to point out those that are struggling from a structural point of view. By examining job, wage, and technology metrics over a five-year period, the publication utilizes a data-driven approach to provide a comprehensive measure of economic strength.

See which New England cities ranked best overall--both in the 200 largest metros pool and the 176 smallest metros pool.

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9 Arcade is Back

GoLocal has been tracking the Arcade since we came online in 2010 - from investigative video reports about the homeless living in the building to restoration and the reopenning.

While the financial district is only a shadow of itself - kudos need to go out Evan Granoff for pouring millions into the restoration of the classic Greek revival edifice.

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8 38 Studios Defendants

An exclusive report by GoLocal's Investigative Team unveiled that defendant's in the 38 Studio's lawsuit had filed responses, and they had a very different opinion of what caused the collapse and the loss of $100 million to the State of Rhode Island. 

Almost every defendant pinned the blame on Governor Lincoln Chafee for failing to give oversight and then hitting the panic button and forcing the ultimate collapse of the company.

GoLocal posted more than 440 page of court documents.

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7 Social Media

Social media continues to flex its muscle and demonstrate that it is far more influential than legacy media. 

Twitters IPO and the progression of the Facebook model have redefined business.

One article in GoLocal's on going coverage of the metamorphosis of social media was a great guidance article by Johnson & Wales' Sierra Barter which functionally went viral. 

Amazingly, one of the biggest stories of 2013, the effort by union leaders to force John DePetro off the air for calling female teacher protestors "WHORES," has been battled almost exclsuively on social media. 

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6 Alex and Ani Growth

Rhode Island's homegrown Alex and Ani continues at rocket speed growth. 

The Cranston-based, Made in America jewelry company continues to bundle the very best of Rhode Island: jewelry design, old school manufacturing and smart marketing.

According to a study by Bryant University:


• Generated $80.04 million in revenue, including $22.06 million in sales in the state of Rhode Island, $51.42 million in sales in other U.S. states, and $6.57 million in exports.

• Supported 1,094 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs in Rhode Island, from which 296 are direct FTE jobs and 798 are induced FTE jobs.

• Created $35.4 million in income for Rhode Island households. Direct earnings totaled $10.32 million and induced earnings totaled $25.1 million.

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5 College Endowments

In Rhode Island, colleges and universities are big business. They are major economic engines and each of the local colleges readily announce the positive impact they have on the local economy and job creation.

GoLocal's look at the top 50 endowments of the college and universities in New England, found that Harvard's $30+ billion endowment overshadowed all other colleges in New England.

Brown ranked ranked 5th in New England and 28th overall with an endowment of more than $2.4 billion.

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4 Fastest Growing

While Rhode Island's economy is trailing the rest of the country, there are some bright spots. Throughout 2013, GoLocal featured a number of companies that were fast-growing.

Inc Magazine's fastest growing companies in the US list flagged some real growth engines.

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3 Twin River Rebound

Twin River is now a real casino with humans not video tapes dealing black jack.

Under the leadership of John Taylor, the company has rebounded from bankruptcy and become a model for gaming firms.

Now, Twin River is expanding and has made a strategic purchase in Mississippi.

With casinos coming online in Massachusetts sometime in the future, Twin River is doing a better job diversifying and planning for the future than the state of Rhode Island, who is so dependent on the revenue.

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2 Unemployment

Rhode Island's unemployment situtation is a national embarrassment, and it is hard to see a governmental strategy designed for its improvement. In the post-38 Studios environment, decision-makers are affraid to champion significant initiatives.

The result is now that Rhode Island is last in America in unemployment and the crisis has gone on without improvement for years and years.

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1 Demise of Newspapers

In the past year, the Providence Journal has laid off, demanded buyout or pushed retirements of over 50 reporters, editors and photographers - a staggering percentage of the newsroom.

Many of the those who departed were among the most recognized. Pulitzer Prize winning writer Mike Stanton quit to take a teaching job at UConn and now freelances for the Boston Globe.

Speaking of the Boston Globe, Red Sox owner John Henry bought the Globe from the New York Times for $70 million which represented a 97% loss in value for what the NYTimes had paid for the Globe and other related media.

As GoLocal's Pultizer Prize winning reporter Dean Starkman has written repeatedly about the need for media to invest in content. His words seem to fall on deaf ears.


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