Steinberg exhorts chamber members to turn ideas into action

Rhode Island Foundation President and CEO Neil D. Steinberg headlined the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce annual dinner Tuesday by challenging attendees to take the initiative for improving the state’s economy. More

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economic development

Steinberg exhorts chamber members to turn ideas into action

COURTESY RHODE ISLAND FOUNDATION
AT THE ANNUAL DINNER of the North Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce, Rhode Island Foundation President and CEO Neil D. Steinberg outlined three key goals for the state's public and private leaders to work toward improving Rhode Island's workforce. Above, a photo of Steinberg speaking at at "Make it Happen" event in September.
Posted 2/13/14

LINCOLN – Rhode Island Foundation President and CEO Neil D. Steinberg headlined the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce annual dinner Tuesday by challenging attendees to take the initiative for improving the state’s economy, revealing that one of his favorite phrases is the Nike slogan, “Just do it.”

Steinberg was the keynote speaker at the chamber’s 23rd annual dinner, attended by more than 400 people at Twin River, the most, according to Chamber President and CEO John C. Gregory, since 2006.

In addition to highlighting the organization’s goals and achievements over the past year, as well as a making a call to increase workforce training to better match the thousands of people out of work with the 15,000 jobs available in the state, Gregory closed his remarks and introduced Steinberg with this quote from Winston Churchill: “Some see private enterprise as a predatory target to be shot, others as a cow to be milked, but few are those who see it as a sturdy horse pulling the wagon.

Steinberg’s speech focused on economic development. Why had the foundation added this theme to its traditional philanthropic mission? Because, he said, during difficult times, needs go up at the same time resources to help those in need go down. He said that in a state with one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, the lack of action to attack the issue was unacceptable.

The result has been a year and a half of the foundation convening, supporting and challenging first the business community alone, then the business community and public officials, to generate ideas and actions that can have an impact on the state’s business climate, starting with 2012’s “Make It Happen Rhode Island” campaign. In concert with the R.I. Commerce Corporation, the Rhode Island Foundation followed up on that campaign with the recently concluded second series of the initiative, which is now being incorporated into the mandated economic development plan being developed for the state.

The former Brown University and Fleet Bank executive ended his speech by naming three goals for the state’s public- and private-sector leadership:

  • “We need to work like crazy,” so the jobless rate is never higher than the national average.

  • The median household income should never be less than that of Connecticut and Massachusetts.

  • The gaps in educational achievement among income and ethnic groups need to be eliminated.

Steinberg then held up the Greenhouse Compact – the 1984 plan for moving the state forward that did not result in any changes – and said “the biggest thing we missed” was that the state didn’t do anything.

In addition to Steinberg’s speech and Gregory’s report on the chamber, the organization welcomed its new board of directors chair, accountant Peter L. Chatellier, and presented two awards.

The Barbara C. Burlingame Distinguished Public Service Award went to Pawtucket Mayor Donald R. Grebien, and the Ben G. Mondor Award was given to Thomas V. Ward, founder and publisher of The Valley Breeze newspaper.

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