TALKING SHOP: Ely Beckman, left, principal founder of Reckoner Group, with Ethan Tucker, owner of Mobile Life Inc. Beckman and Tucker have been working together, meeting at Angelina’s Coffee Shop in Bristol.
With less than two months until the General Assembly begins its 2014 session on Jan. 7, many members of the state’s business community are eager to douse legislators with recommendations in hopes of cranking up the often-sluggish pace of change required to make the state more business-friendly.
One of the most-stubborn issues at the root of Rhode Island’s difficulty in attracting new business is developing a citizenry educated, trained and eager to fill positions in the rapidly changing global economy.
“Our biggest challenge at the moment is finding qualified employees,” said John N. Tomaz, vice president of Wardwell Braiding, a 102-year-old Central Falls company that’s evolved from manufacturing textiles to producing braided wire and cable for applications ranging from shielding cables for computer keyboards to communications cables for telephone lines.
“After a long period of advertising and recruiting, we couldn’t find anyone experienced to fill two positions – one for a designer of machine parts and one for a machine operator,” said Tomaz. “So we’ve taken two people from the company without experience in those jobs and we’re training them.”
Tomaz admits the training can take quite a bit of time, but it’s in line with the company’s priority on hiring in-state candidates.
The issue of how to develop a skilled workforce was one of the topics examined by more than 30 state legislators and 190 business leaders from a wide range of economic sectors – from banking to technology – at the 2013 Economic Summit at the Radisson Hotel in Warwick on Nov. 15, sponsored by the Rhode Island office of the Small Business Administration and the Rhode Island Small Business Development Center.