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By PBN Staff
SMITHFIELD - Using data mined from more than a thousand manufacturers from across the state, leaders of the Rhode Island Manufacturing Renaissance Project will unveil its findings on Wednesday, along with the state’s first comprehensive database of manufacturers in the state.
Contained in the database will be information on what manufacturing companies are producing, which companies have expertise in a certain area and how local companies can become suppliers or buyers for other Rhode Island companies.
Raymond W. Fogarty, executive director of the John H. Chafee Center for International Business at Bryant University, said the Rhode Island Manufacturing 1000 survey will serve as a first-of-its-kind, one-stop access point to help companies gather information and connect across a sector business leaders say is critical for economic vitality in the state.
“We’re going to break it down. When people ask, ‘Can you show me just the manufacturing in Providence?’ the answer is yes. If someone wants to see just a sector of marine services, we can do that,” Fogarty told Providence Business News. “Before this, the answer was, ‘Absolutely not.’”
According to Fogarty, the first phase of the MFG 1000 survey involved gathering information in March from 1,200 of the state’s manufacturers with 20 or more employees. In June 2014 the project is scheduled expand to include information from hundreds more manufacturers with less than 20 employees.
“We’re going to be much better at marketing what the manufacturers are and who they are,” said Fogarty. “It’s going to be a database that’s going to open a lot of eyes to manufacturing.”
The project is funded through a $60,000 grant from the Rhode Island Foundation and is a joint effort between the Rhode Island Manufacturers Association, Bryant’s Chafee Center for International Business, the R.I. Economic Development Corporation and the Rhode Island Manufacturing Extension Services.
Survey results showed that 52 percent of participating companies had made investments of less than $250,000 in the past year, while 13 percent had made an investment that eclipsed $1 million. Funding appears to be a critical need, as 30 percent of respondents said they were in need of additional financial resources to fund capital improvements, research and development, inventory and expansion costs.
Personnel data contained in the survey is encouraging, according to A. Ray Thomas, associate director of the Chafee Center for International Business.
The survey found that 56 percent of respondents had expanded their operations in the past three years, and that 80 percent of employees plan to add employees in the next three years. A vast majority of businesses the jobs will be entry level production and machine operation, according to the survey.
“We’re not that far off in terms of numbers when it comes to creating and multiplying jobs,” Thomas told PBN, adding that the data projects the state’s work force will balloon by thousands, a prospect that would provide a needed boost to a state unemployment rate that remains at 8.8 percent.
According to the report, 87 percent of companies surveyed reported less than $25 million in annual revenue, a percentage that is expected to increase once smaller companies are included in the database.
“That gets to the point that this is such a small business state,” said Thomas. “When you are looking at the data you see these small companies don’t have a lobbying effort. They don’t have this big solid group that’s going to sway legislation and so forth. Because we are so small we really need to make sure that our laws and regulations and policies are for small business growth.”
Thomas suggested a three-fold approach to building on information in the report: improve the business climate for existing business; attract entrepreneurs and encourage companies to bring their operations to Rhode Island or expand in Rhode Island.
The release of the information coincided with Bryant’s World Trade Day, the largest global trade event of its kind in the region that focuses on learning how to access international market.
“The theme of the World Trade Day is Made in the USA,” said Fogarty. “Globalization starts right here.”