The list of projects hatched by The Rhode Island Foundation’s Make It Happen event last September is now so long it resembles one of the illustrated brainstorming sheets the 330 attendees to the event helped fill.
At Nail Communications in Providence, the ad agency is working with the foundation and Downtown Improvement District on a marketing campaign to fill vacant Class B office space.
At Blount Boats Inc. in Warren, seven people have new shipyard jobs after completing a training program custom-made for the company by the New England Institute of Technology as part of the Make It Happen-supported Shipbuilding Marine Advanced Manufacturing Institute.
And on the state’s highways, billboards celebrating Rhode Island business success stories have begun appearing as part of The Rhode Island Foundation’s own “It’s All In Our Backyard” advertising campaign to bolster the local self-image.
Befitting an event that promised to engage as many of the state’s key economic players as possible, the foundation has followed through with an “all of the above” strategy to spurring growth.
Unlike more traditional economic-development plans, the Make It Happen initiatives have spanned industries, methods, strategies and objectives to connect people and get them working together.
“I think now the dialogue has changed to focus on economic and business development,” said foundation President and CEO Neil D. Steinberg about what’s changed in the last 11 months. “While the statistics may not have changed yet, it is more of a topic that is getting a lot more attention. I think we engaged groups that weren’t as engaged before, opened dialogues between groups that didn’t work together and inspired more action.”
So does that mean there’s going to be another Make It Happen this year to build on these new projects?
With the anniversary approaching, Steinberg said foundation leaders are debating whether to do a follow-up and, if so, what it will be.
“I don’t think we are going to do the same thing again, but we are looking at what would be most effective to go forward and take rhetoric to action,” Steinberg said.