Rhode Island’s manufacturers, particularly small ones, can’t always afford consulting services when designing new products or re-engineering old ones. But, for a fee, they may be able to access such services through a proposed state center for design and manufacturing.
The idea is integral to a business plan Marcel A. Valois, the executive director of the R.I. Commerce Corporation, is developing that will include “sensitivity analysis” to see if the state’s manufacturers are willing to pay for such services, and if so, how much. He expects to complete the business plan by September, and the sensitivity analysis will be just one piece.
Valois learned in June that Rhode Island was not designated as one of 12 “manufacturing communities” in the country that, by virtue of the designation, could be given preference for $1.3 billion in federal assistance through the U.S. Economic Development Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
The EDA’s program is called the Investing In Manufacturing Communities Partnership.
However, plans to develop this state center for design and manufacturing surfaced well before Valois applied for the designation in April. Valois will reapply for the designation again in a new competitive round when the EDA provides details, though that step is not what is driving the effort today, Valois said.
The business plan is alluded to in the state’s action plan to become more competitive economically by focusing, in part, on “Fueling the Manufacturing Renaissance.”
“We are working toward developing a center for design and manufacturing and we will continue to work on this business plan,” he said in multiple interviews with Providence Business News. “If it’s done properly, we’ll be able to go to EDA and look for funding, whether or not we’re a designated manufacturing community. We are eligible today for those programs.
“So with the business plan in hand, we feel we can apply for funding,” he said.
The EDA could not be reached to elaborate on why Rhode Island was not selected, but information on its website indicates another round of designations can be applied for in the coming year.
Federal funds could become available to build such a center, but the cost of operating it would have to be self-sustaining, Valois said.
economic development¸ U.S. Economic Development Administration,
Investing In Manufacturing Communities Partnership,
R.I. Commerce Corporation,
Rhode Island Manufacturers Association,
executive director of the Rhode Island Manufacturers Association; Ray Fogarty,
director of the Chafee Center for International Business at Bryant University; Harsha Prakash,
center director of the Polaris Manufacturing Extension Partnership; and Katharine Hazard Flynn,
executive director of the Business Engagement Center at the University of Rhode Island,