Rhode Island’s Man of the Year
Monday, December 30, 2013
In just four short years, he helped to grow a small Rhode Island jewelry company from just $4 million in sales to over $200 million. No favorite son has spent more time and energy reinvesting in the Ocean State, between rebuilding a manufacturing base, to multiple million dollar donations to colleges in the state, to growing jobs.
A Cool Company
In Boston there are a lot of cool companies, but in Providence they are few and far between. In the past couple of decades, companies like ad agency Leonard Monahan were cool, Hasbro from time to time has been cool, and 38 Studios was supposed to be cool.
Alex and Ani is cool.
A design driven, lifestyle brand that is fast growing and hiring is more than cool, especially in a state with the worst unemployment in the U.S. It is a company that has grown from 10 employees to more than 1,000.
While founder Carolyn Rafaelian (who was featured in GoLocal’s 12 Who Made a Difference in 2012) has been the passion behind the brand, her CEO, Feroce has helped to make Alex and Ani one of the fastest growing companies in America. This year Inc. Magazine tapped Alex and Ani as the 94th fastest growing company in the U.S. scoring more than 3600% year over year in growth.
It might just have been one of those RI jewelry companies being handed off to the next generation. So many of them in Rhode Island were filled with artisans and a wealth of manufacturing experience, but were lost in the new economy and production in Asia. Most are gone – and the jobs are gone.
While other strong Rhode Island product companies have grown, none have made this level of commitment to make Made in America mean something. Alex and Ani has produced real job and real wages in Rhode Island. A Bryant University study found Alex and Ani may now be generating as many as 3,000 to 4,000 jobs in Rhode Island in direct and indirect full-time jobs.
Cost of Success
The success of Alex and Ani has not been without its proverbial haters. One alternative weekly newspaper in Rhode Island spent the summer trying to write a sensational story about the company, but at the end of the day could only conclude that Alex and Ani was ambitious. More recently, a number of union leaders have tried to tie Alex and Ani to a controversy with conservative talk show host John DePetro, and in both cases, Feroce has just stayed focused at growing Alex and Ani.
Between Charity by Design -- and million dollar gifts to both Rhode Island College and Bryant University – Alex and Ani transformed charitable giving in Rhode Island.
For the philanthropy, for the job creation, for the cool factor and for his leadership, GoLocalProv names Giovanni Feroce Rhode Island’s Man of the Year for 2013.
PLEASE NOTE 2013 Woman of the Year will be Published on Tuesday, December 31, 2013.
Related Slideshow: 13 Biggest Business Stories in RI in 2013
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
• 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- GoLocal’s Man and Woman of the Year
- Man of the Year - GoLocal
- Rhode Island’s Man of the Year
- Rhode Island’s Woman of the Year
- Woman of the Year - GoLocal