A community effort will move RI forward


Commerce RI is squarely focused on helping to create the right conditions where businesses can thrive in Rhode Island, and we are working with others who share that vision every day to help “Make it Happen.”

Over the past few months, we have been honored to work in a terrific new partnership with the Rhode Island Foundation. The partnership was on full display last week when Governor Lincoln D. Chafee, Neil Steinberg, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation, myself, and hundreds of business, community and legislative leaders gathered at the Rhode Island Convention Center to discuss a myriad of ways to move Rhode Island forward.

As part of the event, Commerce RI and the Rhode Island Foundation unveiled a new economic action agenda, entitled Economic Intersections of Rhode Island. This product was the result of more than 200 business leaders and subject matter experts participating in 20 sessions over the past three months to identify unique market opportunities at the intersection of industries.

Our goal was to inform the RhodeMap RI process, which will produce an economic development plan for the state by October 2014, and generate specific actions that can be undertaken in the meantime.

What has driven this effort over the past few months is a common belief that improving our state’s economic health is truly a “community effort.” We need to get away from the notion that one person or one agency, one institution, one idea, one program, or one plan will change our world.

What came out of these discussions are great stories about economic activity that is quietly churning in discreet places throughout Rhode Island – stories of innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship and work ethic that coalesce, giving rise to new products and services and spawning new generations of business ventures.

Our challenge as a community is how do we nurture this economic energy? How do we stoke this enthusiasm? And, how do we encourage our economic pioneers to grow and prosper here, in our state, instead of exporting their success?

Economic Intersections of Rhode Island is not “the” plan. It is not “the” solution. Nor, is it “the” answer. We look at it as part of the ongoing conversations among very engaged, caring business leaders about specific action steps (not limited to government action) we might take to propel our economy forward.

Economic development should be about the public, private, non-profit and institutional community working together in a sustained way to create the conditions in our state for companies across multiple sectors to grow and thrive. This effort is a testament to that dynamic.

The Rhode Island Foundation is a true community asset, and we are grateful to their staff, benefactors and philanthropists that support our efforts to help move Rhode Island forward.

Marcel A. Valois is the Executive Director of Commerce RI, formerly known as Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation.


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