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RI Biz: Winners & Flops

Tuesday, September 06, 2011


RI Biz Winners and Flops – a review of the people and companies that make RI’s economic engine go or slow. August was dominated by Irene and the response to the tropical storm. Between the vacations, the storm and the clean up, there was a lot of business action.


Citizens Bank - Citizens Bank is offering loans and 0 percent interest credit cards to their customers affected by Irene. The effort is meant to minimize the adverse impact to consumers, business and not-for-profits. Webster Bank also offered some solutions to customers hit by the storm.

Rhode Island's Bond Rating with Fitch - just before Irene hit, RI got some good news when the bond rating agency held Rhode Island's bond rating. In its message, Fitch wrote: "Revenue forecasts are markedly improved, as evidenced by receipts through June 2011 of 12.7% year-over-year growth in personal income tax collections; 1.6% year-over-year growth in sales tax revenue, and a total 4.9% year-over-year increase in General Revenues. This results in estimates of fiscal 2011 ending with a $57.2 million operating surplus and an $80.8 million deposit to the Budget Reserve Fund which increases total rainy day funds to $130.6 million." Some good news in Rhody here.

Toray Expansion - Toray Plastics President and CEO Richard R. Schloesser to announce and celebrate the company’s planned $11.5-million expansion in Rhode Island, which will create 28 new jobs in the state. The state has some incentives in the project.

38 Studios - the state-backed video game company announced that its first game, titled “Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning”, is scheduled to be released on Feb. 7, 2012.

NuLabel Technologies - a Brown spinoff and Providence startup makes high-tech labels for the shipping industry. It closed on $1 million in new funding and is still looking to close another $1.5.

Senator Tassoni - the union-leaning Senator was on to something with a PUC review of National Grid. Nothing wrong with reviewing the response. 

Betaspring - 12 teams will be presenting on Thursday Sept 8th on Demo Day. These start ups are looking to get some traction and attract some funding.


RI Tech Community got shut out by Mass High Tech - the trade magazine for the New England tech community did not select a single company for its All-Star category or its Emerging Stars. These awards are a queue to the Boston venture world.

195 Commission - this could be in the winner category too as it is made up with solid appointments. But, that is the weakness. It lack visionaries and seems rather local. Where are the John Palmieri-types or Richard Florida... or even a Bob Kraft? If these 20 acres are going to be the focal point and transformation of the RI economy, then this group needs some fire power.

Irene - by the time it made shore in Rhode Island, this storm was barely a tropical storm, but the backbone of our energy infrastructure was crushed. At one point, as much as 60-70 percent of the state was without power. 

Unemployed - there simply seems to be no game plan to put people to work. It has been more than three years that Rhode Island qualifies as a distressed state - a state with an unemployment rate one full point higher than the national average.

Pension PR - The Labor Day issue of the Washington Post featured a story on the threat to American workers' pensions. Rhode Island runs the risk of becoming the poster child for pension liability. The Post's Michael Fletcher writes, "This state has barely a million residents, but it is at least $6.8 billion short when it comes to funding pension plans for retired teachers, police officers and other public employees."


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