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Backyard bus tour
By Neil Steinberg / December 17, 2014 /   Loading Disqus...

Two ideas that emerged from the Foundation’s 2012 Make It Happen RI initiative recently came together in an exciting way. 

The state’s self esteem challenge was a major theme from the 2012 convening. The Foundation launched Rhode Island: It’s All In Our Backyard to combat the unproductive and ill-informed negativity by highlighting many of our state’s success stories, assets, and strengths. One specific suggestion was to take Rhode Islanders on tours of businesses and companies that are emerging or established at the tops of their industries. 

And so on November 21, 17 business leaders joined us for an inaugural Backyard Bus Tour. Our mission: to introduce the group to a small number of growing and successful companies, to talk with passionate business owners who have found success in Rhode Island, and to hear “wow!” 

Along for the ride were Shannon Brawley, Polly Daly, Anthony DeMatteo, Rich DeRienzo, Maeve Donohue, Charlie Dunn, Scott Gibbs, Ned Handy, John Howland, Jason Kelly, Joe Nagle, Bob Nangle, Marc Perlman, Cindy Reed, Dan Shedd, Marcel Valois, and Ron Yanku. 

We boarded an Experience Rhode Island coach at Roger Williams Park at 8 a.m. (It was an unexpectedly cold day!) Adhering to a rigorous schedule, we visited six companies and heard six unique and inspiring stories of growth and success. 

  • At Daniele, Inc., a third-generation, family-owned charcuterie maker with 400 workers, we got a preview of a 350,00 square feet addition to their factory in Pascoag that relies on solar energy and robotic technology. 
  • We received an enthusiastic welcome from employees at Banneker Industries in North Smithfield, which manages over a billion dollars in product each year for government, aerospace, defense, and commercial customers. 
  • We toured Teknor Apex Company, one of the world’s leading custom compounders of plastics founded in 1924, family-owned and headquartered in Pawtucket. 
  • At The Design Exchange in the former Rhode Island Cardboard Company, we visited Fuzion Design and Orange Square Design, two of the creative companies centered in this unique, collaborative work environment. 
  • At Clear Carbon and Components in Bristol, we glimpsed some of the material and processes technologies, as well as the craft, that has brought the company into diverse industries such as architecture, industrial marine, transportation, renewable energy, musical instruments, and defense. 
  • We ended the day at Ximedica in Providence, the only product development firm worldwide that is FDA registered and ISO certified focusing solely on the innovation, creation, and commercialization of medical products. 

Every business demonstrated its own unique brand of innovation, determination, and resourcefulness. It was truly remarkable to see such a diverse range of industries, company cultures, and backgrounds. Several industry experts joined us to provide greater context, including David Dadekian of Eat Drink RI, Jim Nellis of Rhode Island Food Fights, Bill McCourt of the Rhode Island Manufacturers Association, Lisa Carnevale and Joye Whitney of DESIGNxRI, and Wendy Mackie of the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association.                                                                                                                    

At the end of the day, most of the participants reported learning things they didn’t know and experienced a sense of optimism. Mission accomplished! Specific feedback from those on the tour included:

  • “I learned things about the world of business in Rhode Island I wasn’t aware of……we visited companies which have successfully transformed themselves through a combination of vision, hard work and patience.” 
  • “The stories we witnessed all had a wonderfully varied story to tell on just why they are here… as do the business folks on the bus have to tell about their companies and why they are here”.
  • “We saw energy and enthusiasm from younger business leaders at the companies we visited.” 

We were pleased to spotlight local vendors throughout the day with a seemingly endless supply of snacks, including Easy Entertaining, Allie’s Donuts, Pranzi Catering, Granny Squibb’s Iced Teas, Biggest Little Popcorn Company, Providence Granola Project, and the CupCAKE Contessas. 

Thank you to the six businesses we visited and their passionate, hard-working leaders. Thank you to the participants on the bus who took a whole day out of their busy schedules to tour our backyard. And thank you to the Foundation who made this happen with top-notch execution. 

One thing we know for sure: there is a lot more to see! I encourage you to explore Rhode Island and learn about the many success stories in Our Backyard.

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