November 27, 2014
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Make It Happen action plan to be revealed Jan. 23

The next step in The Rhode Island Foundation’s Make It Happen RI economic development initiative will be unveiled during the second meeting, Make it Happen 2.0, later this month.

Neil Steinberg, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation, said the presentation on Jan. 23 at the Rhode Island Convention Center would serve as a “rolling out” of the action plan compiled from information collected during work sessions from the past three months.

According to Steinberg, over 200 business leaders have been participating in work sessions held by the Rhode Island Foundation and Rhode Island Commerce Corporation to come up with unique marketing opportunities in a number of fields; the goal of the resulting action plans will be to create jobs and grow industries. There will also be some recommendations used to further inform the governor’s RoadMap RI plan for economic development.

The fields included in the 20 sessions are manufacturing and design, the food value chain, logistics and connectivity, technology, biotechnology and public health, marine and water, the natural resource based economy, finance and insurance, tourism and hospitality, arts and culture, and the business ecosystem.

The sessions have been facilitated by Fourth Economy Consulting, a national economic development consulting firm based in Pittsburgh, Pa.

“They are writing the report,” said Steinberg.

Steinberg explained invitations to Make It Happen 2.0 were sent to anyone who attended the first Make It Happen workshop, roughly 300 individuals from the private sector. In addition, for the first time, a number of public officials, leadership from the General Assembly, and all mayors were invited to attend.

“We’re convening a group of folks to hear the results,” said Steinberg.

Steinberg said he has not seen the final report, so he does not know what the suggested action plans will be or what they will entail.

“Some could require legislative support, but most are probably private sector,” he said.

The new action plans is only the next step in a process that began a year and a half ago. During the first Make It Happen workshop in September 2012, 300 leaders from the private sector met to brainstorm ways to improve Rhode Island’s economy. As a result, 19 Make It Happen RI initiatives to look at various facets of Rhode Island’s economy and workforce were identified. Steinberg said many of these initiatives became reality because the individuals were sitting together and wanted to find a way to work together.

Some of those initiatives are Buy Local RI (an effort to promote and connect the public to locally-owned, independent businesses), the College and University Research Collaborative (a partnership between the state’s institutions of higher education to provide data for economic policy decisions), DESIGNxRI (a group to connect professionals within the design community), Downtown Office Marketing Campaign (a campaign to promote Providence as an ideal location for start-ups and firms), Historic Tax Credit Advocacy (a coalition which worked to restore the Historic Tax Credit), and MedMates (a group to connect professionals in the med-tech world to foster collaboration), among others.

Steinberg believes the formation of these initiatives shows that one day Make It Happen can become “Made It Happen.”

“We jumpstarted some of these initiatives within a year,” he added.

In September 2013, The Rhode Island Foundation invested more than $1 million into the 19 initiatives.

In addition to learning about the results from the business work sessions, attendees to Make It Happen 2.0 will also have an opportunity to hear presentations from a number of these initiatives, which Steinberg explained would be highlighted during the event.

“We invited people to present what they have done,” said Steinberg. “Mostly, this is going to be, come and see what we have.”

Although this time around the event is more of a presentation than a working session, Steinberg said attendees would have a chance to voice their opinions.

“We hope to get feedback,” he said.

Steinberg hopes that the work done during Make It Happen RI helps to “take rhetoric to action.”

“We’re not complaining; we’re not mad,” said Steinberg. “We’re asking what do we need to do.”

He added that the goal is to help shape the conversation, look forward, stay positive and hopefully encourage people from different sectors to work together to improve the state’s economy.


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