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RI Biz Winners and Flops

Saturday, August 11, 2012

 

Rhode Island’s economy is searching for a direction.

For years the state’s employment has been lagging.

For months, Rhode Island has been void of economic development leadership. Now, the debate over the future of the Economic Development Corporation is now full on.

Governor Lincoln Chafee has tapped RIPEC Executive Director John Simmons with the task of designing a new model for EDC.

This week, former EDC Director Marcel Valois and developer Scott Gibbs – the initiators of the crowd sourcing initiative RIsurgence – have teamed with former RIPEC Executive Gary Sasse to propose a unwinding of the EDC model. Shifting much of the decision-making to the Governor.

And, the RI Foundation has entered the discussion too. The Foundation is hosting a two-day initiative called, Make It Happen RI to be held on Friday and Saturday, September 7-8.

The race to breaking up the embattled EDC and reorganize is on. While policy makers contemplate a new model, the state has been functionally development morbid since the collapse of 38 Studios and the mass resignation of Board members.

WINNERS:

- Part of being a smart company is not ruining what you have right. Foster Grant (FGX International) of Smithfield, has been pitching the cool mid-market sunglasses with the tagline, “Who’s that behind those Foster Grants? ” since back in the 1960’s. It kicked off then with Peter Sellers, Ann Margret and Raquel Welch and now 40-plus years later they keep the brand relevant with Brooke Shields.

- Washington Trust keeps rolling. The combination of consistent earnings, investment in Rhode Island’s psyche with the I LUV RI campaign and now a new branch in Cranston indicates consistent performance and growth from the Westerly Headquartered Bank.

- Despite the 38 Studios aftershocks, Rhode Island had back-to-back success in hosting the America’s Cup Trials and the Tall Ships.

- Kudos to Providence-based Nortek who recorded Net sales increased 9% in the second quarter of 2012 to $615.7 million from $564.9 million in the second quarter of 2011. A good sign for the company and the recovery of the building industry.

-The residential Real Estate market is starting to show its first sign of life. Could the bottom have been hit?

- Summer in Rhode Island - the weather, the natural beauty and the ease of life should be part of the assets used to build on future economic success.

FLOPS:

- The vision as to how Rhode Island’s economy should grow and how the private sector and public sector should lead is missing. The dismantling of EDC as we know it seems inevitable, but what are the goals and priorities of the next entity need to be identified?

- Fragile is the only way to describe Providence’s Financial District. The loss of restaurants like Downcity and McFadden’s may speak to other issues, but they also point to a morbid feel in the core of the City. A number of businesses have closed during the Taveras Administration’s tenure. If there is a game plan to revitalize this critical element of the City’s business sector, it might be time to communicate it.

- What happend to EngageRI, the business initiative to reform RI's economy? Did they think the work was complete?

 

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