Rhode Island proudly lays claim to being the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution. More than 230 years ago, Samuel Slater built the nation’s first water-powered textile mill in Pawtucket, thereby launching an era of rapid change in how we make things. Over time, Rhode Island’s economy, like much of America’s, was built on the strength of our manufacturing industry. And today, our state is home to companies ranging from our defense contractors on Aquidneck Island to our textile manufacturers in Woonsocket, medical devices and biotech firms in Providence and carbon-fiber manufacturers in Bristol and Newport.
Despite setbacks and challenges, there remains great potential for economic growth in the so-called “advanced manufacturing” sector. The question now is, how do we harness its power?
The New England Council and Deloitte Consulting set out to produce a roadmap for those invested in manufacturing to do just that. The new report, Advanced to Advantageous: The Case for New England’s Manufacturing Revolution, assesses where we are and where we are going as a region, and lays out a blueprint for continued success in advanced manufacturing.
Advanced to Advantageous lays out a six-step plan for Rhode Island and New England. Each recommendation emphasizes the critical importance of collaboration – between industry partners, higher education institutions, state government and individual states themselves.
First, we need a fully connected, comprehensive educational pathway that encourages a lifetime of learning – and credit for that learning at every step of the way. Similarly, we must expand industry partnerships and apprenticeships, something Rhode Island excels at with the Governor’s Workforce Board employer partnership initiatives.
Furthermore, we need to build a better brand for manufacturing. The fact of the matter is, by-and-large today’s manufacturing is not that of the 1950s and 1960s. It is better viewed as a “maker revolution,” boasting high pay, a safe working environment, critical thinking and advanced technologies and designs.
Rhode Island and all of New England would benefit immensely from hosting one of the advanced manufacturing centers under President Barack Obama’s National Networking for Manufacturing Innovation.
By following these six steps, we can help bring about a true manufacturing revolution, because there is tremendous potential for job creation in the advanced manufacturing sector here in Rhode Island and throughout New England. •
David Cicilline is a Democrat representing Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District. James T. Brett is president and CEO of the New England Council.