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Rhode Island BIz Winners and Flops

Saturday, August 24, 2013


Rhode Island’s economy is seriously stuck in neutral and needs a shot in the arm. The unemployment rate continues to trail the rest of the nation’s recovery. While other New England states are making progress in job creation, Rhode Island is flatlining.

Vermont’s unemployment is 4.6% and Rhode Island’s was 8.9% seasonally adjusted in July.

Here are some companies that could change the game for Rhode Island and drive a new economy. These are companies are owned and operated by Rhode Islanders and on the verge or experiencing real success:


Early Stage Companies:

ShutterCal: The Betaspring funded company has a simple and great product/service that every family can relate to – they have a big idea. ShutterCal is a calendar-based daily photo journal. It helps people organize, document, and share their most meaningful moment of each day – from any device or photo app.

TennisHub: This is a company with a lot of momentum. Everyone likes their model. The US Open might help kickstart a little more tennis passion in the US. TennisHub connects tennis players with high quality playing opportunities while also providing tennis clubs with powerful tools like online booking to help them grow their business.

Emerging Companies:

NuLabel Technologies: The Providence company takes an old school business need – labels – and gives it a technology upgrade to drive efficiency.

It has developed liner-free label technology to help companies cut costs & reduce waste. Almost every time a label is printed, end-users throw away half of what they print & half of what they pay for.

Andera: Smart, steady and just keeps growing. While others in the space have flamed out or gotten stale, Charlie Kroll’s Andera just keeps growing the company, innovating online banking technology and creating more jobs in Rhode Island.

Brawny Companies:

Alex and Ani: Keeps getting bigger and brawnier. It may just be the perfect company for Rhode Island. Alex and Ani couples the state’s design capabilities and harnesses its manufacturing expertise. The result is a company that keeps hiring, growing and making charitable donations.

Carousel Industries: The Exeter, RI telco company is the biggest company in Rhode Island that you have never heard of. With $347 million in sales, they keep growing and innovating. It supports telecommunications systems, providing unified communications, virtualization, VoIP, video conferencing, and collaboration and data infrastructure services.

These six companies all have expertise, continue to adapt and grow. The emerging and brawny companies above create real jobs in Rhode Island.


Downtown Providence: The downtown area is turning into a bit of a ghost town. While the re-opening of the Arcade will help, the businesses closing and leaving all say the same thing – not enough people work in the downtown core. Eddie and Son’s closing is the most discussed, but in recent weeks EAT and Souper Bowl closed on Weybosset. And, Picture This closed its downtown location. All gone in the past 60 days.

House Oversight Committee and 38 Studios:  The PR play by the House leadership to show that the 38 Studios debacle was being reviewed did nothing more than further frustrate the business community and Rhode Islanders that this was an inside game gone wrong.





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Downtown is dead. The only reason some buildings are occupied is the expansion of colleges, RISD and Johnson & Wales. How long will the law fems stay? Possibly forever because of proximity to the courts.

Will conversion to residential of some buildings make a difference? Possibly, if people don't work local or work from home or work at any of the nearby colleges.

White collar businesses, if they survive, are moving closer to the airport.

The main function of downtown is now as a transfer point for RIPTA buses. Yet the plan is to stop that function with the redesign of Kennedy Plaza into a tourist attraction. Will that plan work? Probably not, but then there's always more federal money to recreate Kennedy Plaza as a bus hub. The shifting of a major portion of the bus hub to the Warwick Mall seems to be a scheme to save the Warwick Mall. But will it really help Providence?

I wonder how the Mall's doin now that Borders is gone. It used to bring in a lot of people.

Comment #1 by John McGrath on 2013 08 24

Its sad about downtown Providence which when I came in 1966 had 3 dept stores, several TV stations, movies, a supermarket, lots of streetlife and a real financial office center. All this has largely been lost with nothing to take its place and the sense of excitement a city can offer is gone from RI.
Lots went wrong. Locally owned companies were taken over by out of state (and non-American) companies who relocated jobs. In the case of Providence Gas whose President started Grow-Smart to restore central cities, its sale to Southern Union and then (non-)National Grid resulted in their office leaving the state entirely, not even a place to pay utility bills downtown. And Industrial National morphed to Bank of America leaving us with the empty Superman building.
Providence also ignored its transit system, the one transportation advantage it had over the suburbs, leaving it floundering, instead persuing the impossible dream of competing with the suburbs for easy, free, at the door parking, hopeless in central Providence. Providence residents too contributed to decline, when I lived there, it was hopeless to try to convince neighbors to protect their city by shopping and getting entertainment locally. Only the convenience of suburban parking mattered. City workers seemed content to collect their pay and pension and did little to promote the city itself.

Those of us who want to see a city succeed keep trying, and perhaps there are trends starting up to restore city life here, but frankly its more satisfying to hop on a train and go to Boston for that.

Comment #2 by barry schiller on 2013 08 24

With the exception of Alex and Arnie there are no companies adding manufacturing or related jobs. THIS is the problem, can't the missing in action leadership get it.
The state does nothing to attract new business, they are inept in this area as exhibited by 38S. Get the GA out of the picture put in a business competent EDC not friends and family of the Governor or the GA, give them the responsibility to manage for success or get let go. You can't breed success with failures administrating the effort. As far as downtown Prov goes, who in there right minds would want to have anything to do with a hell hole like it is unless the new business is into drugs, theft, crime and prostitution. It is what it has been allowed to be a swill pot.

Comment #3 by Gary Arnold on 2013 08 25

interesting comments..is providence the next Detroit?

Comment #4 by john paycheck on 2013 08 27

John paycheck ... No, Providence is not the next Detroit. For one thing Detroit has a thriving business center and a lively, young, upscale midtown. it also has a beautiful waterfront serving these neighborhoods. The rest is a disaster, yes, but the plan will probably be "urban triage," carving out the healthy part and some adjacent land for expansion into New Detroit and leaving the rest to die pr be concentrated into a few neighborhoods and the rest left to farms, probably organic, and one poor area full of pioneering artists. Perhaps an arty "village" surrounded by organic farms. Who knows. But the bankers will make sure the well off do well by any new plan for that city.

Providence may lose its business center, but not entirely, since many law firms will want to be close to the courts. But, unlike Detroit, it has the universities to keep it alive. The East Side will not disappear, Elmhurst will remain pleasant, Federal Hill/the West Side (not the West End) will continue to hang on and thrive, Mt. Pleasant and Smith Hill will continue to house some middle class, students and the working poor who want to get away from South Providence or Olneyville. The poorer outlying neighborhoods will hold on.

The city center will become a place for staged events, students, visiting parents, visiting sports fans, tourists, flaneurs and gnoshers, ex-students, free-lancers,and small businesses, etc. The arts will continue to thrive.

The fact is that Providence is very affordable for the renter who is not that poor. Not necessarily well off, but not that poor.

Neither city is really hopeless. But all the parking lots in the world will not bring back big businesses to downtown Providence.

Comment #5 by John McGrath on 2013 08 27

no sure I agree with jm...

its not just the physical aspects of the city, but you have to consider the changing demographics, crime rate that is getting worse by the day, weak finances,

who wants to live there and pay $2000 per year car tax? $4000 for 2 cars. who wants to live on the eastside in a modest home and pay $8000 per year in taxes.

many of the homes are just so rundown. many 3 families have small driveways, the schools are bad and getting worse. this is a city that took decades to approve on street parking.

the roads are terrible.

there is no commercial tax base.

the immigrant population stresses schools, hospitals, police, fire, all city services.

Comment #6 by john paycheck on 2013 08 27

You'd have to ask the people on the East Side, or Elmhurst, or Mt. Pleasant or Smith Hill or Federal Hill/the West Side why own or rent in these neighborhoods when they could be in Warwick or Cranston or Warren. They don't seem to be moving out.

and if Providence is abandoned, do you think prices would remain stable in the rest of the state?

Comment #7 by John McGrath on 2013 08 28

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