Rhode Island Foundation Awards Final $150,000 of Make It Happen RI

PROVIDENCE, RI – The Rhode Island Foundation today announced the final $150,000 in awards stemming from its year-long Make It Happen RI economic development initiative.

“We’ve been successful in putting the focus on concrete ways to improve the economy. Our work is just beginning, but we are making steady progress. Tackling the state’s vital issues takes inspiration, leadership and the willingness to go the distance,” said Neil Steinberg, the Foundation’s president and CEO.

Last September, the Foundation brought together 300 business leaders, policy-makers, academics and others for two days to brainstorm about how to jump start the state’s economy.

Six major themes 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.

“As we mark the first anniversary, we’re taking stock of the progress to date and planning for what’s next. We know that Make It Happen will continue to inspire collaborations and a call to action,” said Jessica David, the Foundation’s vice president of strategy and public affairs.

The Foundation has committed more than $1 million over and above its normal grantmaking to fund Make It Happen RI projects including the final two awards for job training and internships announced today.

The bRIdge.jobs initiative received $100,000 to develop and implement a statewide education and outreach campaign that will address the current and future workforce needs of Rhode Island businesses through the expansion of internships and other work-based learning.

The initiative is a partnership between the R.I. Student Loan Authority, Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Rhode Island, Governor’s Workforce Board, Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce and R.I. Partnership Project.

“The bRIdge.jobs web site is a free one-stop shop for internships, which makes it easier for employers to post internships that all students can access,” said Charles P. Kelley, RISLA’s executive director.

“Internships have proven to be a very positive learning and career development experience. A national study shows that 63 percent of paid interns in the class of 2012 had at least one job offer when they graduated, while only 40 percent of those who did not have an internship received a job offer. Employers say internships are a smart strategy for recruiting, accessing and mentoring future employees,” he said.

On-Ramps to Career Pathways received $50,000 to enable state agencies to use their resources more efficiently by braiding their funding streams, to make it easier for workers to identify career pathways, to offer career coaching and to implement a work readiness and work experience certification.

A pilot program will operate in the state Department of Labor and Training’s (DLT) one-stop career centers, through industry partners and community-based organizations.

The initiative is a partnership between DLT, the Governor’s Workforce Board, the state Department of Education, the state Department of Human Services, Workforce Solutions of Providence/Cranston, the Workforce Partnership of Greater Rhode Island and the Community College of Rhode Island.

“By aligning public and private workforce systems and improving the connection among them, On-Ramps will increase the ability of residents to access the education, training and placement services they need for economic stability,” said Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee.

Sixteen Make It Happen RI initiatives are already underway:

Buy Local RI

The 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 – $100,000

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 – $45,000

This group of professionals will connect Rhode Island’s vast and talented design sector to form a strategic single voice and leverage its collective resources.

Digital City: Creating a Rhode Island Digital Media Industry – $50,000

Led by Gary Glassman of Providence Pictures and Renee Hobbs of the Harrington School of Communications and Media at the University of Rhode Island, this initiative aims to create a critical mass of Rhode Island-based companies and digital media literate workers to enable the state to be internationally recognized for digital media design and production. The project plans to formalize a digital media membership organization, a communal digital media design and production center, and a digital media education center.

Downtown Office Marketing Campaign – $25,000

A marketing campaign led by The Providence Foundation and the Downtown Improvement District to introduce and position downtown Providence as an ideal urban/downtown location for start-up entrepreneurs and firms based outside Rhode Island.

Emerald Cities Providence – $100,000

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 – $10,000

A diverse coalition worked to restore a modified State Historic Tax Credit program. The state has received $54.5 million in applications for $34.5 million in available credits.

It’s All In Our Backyard – $100,000

An in-state marketing campaign highlighting Rhode Island’s strengths, attributes and resources with the goal of inspiring positive public conversation and changing the way Rhode Islanders think about their state. The Foundation worked with Basics Group and Myranda Group on development of the campaign.

Lean Government Initiative – $47,000

The Department of Environmental Management is expanding and implementing systems developed under its lean government process to enhance customer service by simplifying regulatory and permitting processes for companies doing business or investing in Rhode Island.

MedMates – $50,000

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.

Práctico Innovation – $50,000

Led by Kipp Bradford, Walter Callender and Don Stanford, this project will launch a competition to encourage Rhode Islanders of Hispanic, Black and Asian backgrounds to create 21st-century products and services that address specific challenges of their communities.

Regulatory Reform – $50,000

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 – $60,000

An extensive survey of the top 1,000 Rhode Island manufacturing companies that will identify, assess and evaluate the potential of the state’s manufacturing sector.

Rhode Island Partnership Project – $40,000

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 – $50,000

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 – $25,000

Led by the Rhode Island Black Business Association, several groups are collaborating to develop and implement strategies inclusive of small and minority-owned businesses to accelerate urban economic development in Rhode Island.

Make It Happen RI is supported through the Foundation’s Civic Leadership Fund. Launched in 2012, the Fund allows the Foundation to go beyond traditional grantmaking to serve as a leader for critical or emerging issues in the state. Activities supported by the Fund include commissioning research, convening interested parties, advocating for changes in public policy and bringing nationally known speakers to Rhode Island.

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. In 2012, the Foundation made grants of more than $30.4 million to organizations addressing Rhode Island’s most pressing issues and needs of diverse communities. Through leadership, fundraising, and grantmaking activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping our state reach its true potential. For more information, visit www.rifoundation.org.

Sep 8, 2012; Make It happen RI.  Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne

PHOTO CAPTION (L-R): Rhode Island Foundation President and CEO Neil Steinberg talks with business leaders following a brainstorming session on ideas to jump start the state’s economy. In the background are posters capturing some of the proposals coming out of the Make It Happen RI initiative.

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