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Foundation reports on action following Make It Happen RI
By Lauren Paola / March 13, 2013 /   Loading Disqus...

Six months following its economic development gathering Make It Happen RI, the Foundation announced awards totaling $630,000 to initiate and accelerate 12 projects catalyzed by the event.

Make It Happen RI, supported through the Foundation’s Civic Leadership Fund, brought together more than 300 private sector and community leaders in September 2012 to brainstorm ways to jumpstart the state economy. One month later, the Foundation released a progress report identifying six major themes that emerged from the working sessions: create jobs, close skills gaps, better connect the unemployed with existing job opportunities, address specific barriers to success, collaborate, and promote Rhode Island internally and externally. The Foundation also announced a commitment of $1 million above its regular grantmaking to fund ideas and projects stemming from Make It Happen.

At a Macrh 14, 2013 breakfast, the Foundation presented 12 action-oriented projects supported with the Make It Happen RI funding.

“Six months after our event, we are excited to report things are happening,” said Foundation President and CEO Neil D. Steinberg. “We have seen a tremendous amount of energy, new collaborations across public and private sectors, and an expanded sense of possibility, represented in part by these initiatives. We believe this is the kind of momentum and engagement we need to move Rhode Island forward.”

The 12 Foundation-supported projects are:

  • Buy Local RI: The Rhode Island Foundation will enhance resources to sustain and grow this effort, initiated by the office of Lt. Governor Elizabeth Roberts with assistance from the Small Business Advocacy Council, to promote locally owned independent businesses, strengthen Rhode Island’s merchant and commercial associations, and provide a public resource for people to connect to local products and services.College and University
  • Research Collaborative: A first-of-its-kind partnership to provide data for informed economic policy decisions in Rhode Island. The Collaborative will focus on consensus state economic policy issues identified by public policy representatives from the executive and legislative branches of state government. Foundation funding was matched by the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation.
  • DESIGNxRI: This group will connect Rhode Island’s vast and talented design sector to form a strategic single voice and leverage its collective resources.
  • Emerald Cities Providence: Providence will undertake a deep retrofit of at least five municipal buildings, which will result in reduced environmental impact, cost savings for the city, and quality jobs for local residents.
  • Historic Tax Credit Advocacy: A diverse coalition is seeking to restore in modified form Rhode Island’s nationally recognized State Historic Tax Credit program.
  • Marketing Rhode Island: A marketing campaign for the state of Rhode Island will highlight the state’s strengths, attributes, and resources with the goal of inspiring positive public conversation and perception of Rhode Island internally and externally.
  • MedMates: This group brings together professionals from the state’s med tech sector to enhance connectivity and collaboration and leverage the concentrated diversity that exists in Rhode Island.
  • Regulatory Reform: To improve the business climate, Rhode Island’s Office of Regulatory Reform is assisting with the design and implementation of a statewide electronic permitting system to streamline building and fire permitting.
  • Rhode Island Manufacturing Renaissance Project: An extensive survey of the top 1,000 Rhode Island manufacturing companies will identify, assess, and evaluate the potential of the state’s manufacturing sector.
  • Rhode Island Partnership Project: This group will create a physical and virtual statewide “one stop shop” to ease the path of reentering post-secondary education, focusing on internships/apprenticeships, adult-learners, and loan mitigation.
  • Shipbuilding/Marine and Advanced Manufacturing Institute: This new program at New England Institute of Technology will connect employers in the marine trades and manufacturing industries and unemployed individuals.
  • Urban Economic Development Planning: Several groups are collaborating to develop and implement strategies inclusive of small and minority-owned businesses to accelerate urban economic development in Rhode Island.

Steinberg also recognized several additional projects for advancing in the last six months, having been started or cultivated at Make It Happen RI, including the Founders League, initiatives of the Governor’s Workforce Board, Hatch Entrepreneurial Center, Ocean State Angels, and Quonset Business Park.

“Our challenge to the community at Make It Happen RI was to turn rhetoric to action,” said Jessica David, vice president of strategy and public affairs. “We are so pleased to see that happening and look forward to celebrating real change in the future.”

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