Seeing Success Stories in our Backyard

Congressman Jim Langevin is now a big believer in the Rhode Island Foundation’s “It’s All In Our Backyard” public education initiative after touring three businesses that are featured in the campaign that puts a spotlight on the people, businesses and organizations that are thriving here.

“I know how great our state is and the stories I heard reaffirmed my passion and commitment for my home state,” Langevin says. “I encourage all Rhode Islanders to take a look at the ‘It’s All In Our Backyard’ website to learn more about the forward-looking technologies, academic advancements and creative endeavors that are happening all around us. There is good news in the Rhode Island economy. Now we need to empower those thriving businesses and gain best practices from them that will help small and growing enterprises to follow suit.”

The Foundation has compiled facts about the Rhode Island economy that dismiss the oft-cited cynicism that many Rhode Islanders feel. Between 2000 and 2010, the health care industry added more than 10,600 jobs. Rhode Island farms have more than doubled their farm-to-table sales since 2002. Rhode Island is a top 10 state in leading energy efficiency innovation and programs. These bright spots are not few and far between – they are all around us, and the Rhode Island Foundation’s campaign continues to enlighten residents to that fact.

“The state has a self-esteem problem. This will change the way Rhode Islanders talk about their state. There are plenty of successes to feel good about right here in our own backyard – global industry and cutting-edge innovation, thriving entrepreneurship, world-class universities and a vibrant arts and culture scene,” says Neil Steinberg, the Foundation’s president and CEO.

The Foundation is encouraging Rhode Islanders to share their own success stories on the campaign’s blog at and on Twitter using the hashtag #ourbackyardri.

The tour began at Armando & Sons Meat Market in Providence. Oswald Schwartz and owner Armando Nieves led them on a tour. Between the new Elmwood Avenue location and their location in Pawtucket, the company has grown to nearly 100 employees.

“This is an old-fashioned butcher shop. Armando has been extremely fortunate in the state of Rhode Island to have his business grow exponentially pretty much every year,” says Schwartz. Their success is due to catering to their diverse customer base. “Many of our employees speak other languages. We have employees that speak French because we have customers from West Africa; other employees speak Italian, other employees speak Portuguese. We have a young lady who speaks Kriolu. We basically have somebody from every part of the world working for us.”

At Fielding Manufacturing, owner Steve Fielding showed off some of the 3D Petri dishes he makes for Brown University scientist Jeff Morgan. The Petri dishes enable labs and hospitals to grow cells that are more human-like for research and transplantation. The Cranston manufacturer’s ability to custom-make the devices — made of bright green plastic and about the size of a Kennedy half dollar – enable him to compete with overseas companies.

Langevin ended his Backyard tour at a Warwick company that also is succeeding in the global market. FarSounder Vice President Matt Zimmerman told the Congressman about the company’s long-range sonar system and underwater detection devices for government, private or commercial use.

Zimmerman says FarSounder’s sonar products have the potential to revolutionize shipping. “Some nautical maps date from the voyages of Captain Cook in the 18th century. Now the Arctic ice cap is melting, new routes are opening up. We’ve had a number of customers take our products through the Northwest Passage.”



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