GPCC, Commerce host The Garage 2017, focusing on innovation

PROVIDENCE – The Garage 2017, a community-wide discussion taking place Tuesday, May 16, will focus on “Innovating for Rhode Island’s Future” according to a Monday release from the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, a co-host of the event with R.I. Commerce Corp.

Laurie White, president of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, said in light of the success of Commerce’s Innovation Voucher program, Garage 2017 will look at the steps made toward strengthening Providence’s “innovation ecosystem” – including mentors, financing, support services, workforce support available to entrepreneurs – over the past four to five years.

“The ecosystem here, for a very long time, was narrow and very immature … compared to Cambridge where the startup ecosystem is very well established with a lot of adventure capital, seed capital and university support,” she said.

White believes there has been “tremendous growth” recently in those supports.

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Garage 2017, said White, is different because it looks at innovation opportunities across multiple sectors whereas previous years’ events detailed the challenges and successes in one particular industry.

Last year’s event focused on the future of visualizing information, thanks to an “Inspired Conversation Series” hosted by Jamestown-based Epic Decade.

In 2015, the Garage event highlighted the Ocean State’s burgeoning food companies.

A 2014 mini-Garage event compared Rhode Island’s economic growth ranking to neighboring states and featured brainstorming sessions as to what the state could do better.

The original Garage event was held in May 2013 and focused on consumer products, health and wellness, food-science innovation and life sciences and medical technology.

This year, representatives from the Providence-based Social Enterprise Greenhouse, Founders League, the proposed Providence-based Cambridge Innovation Center as well as MassChallenge out of Boston will meet with local innovators, entrepreneurs and members of the business community to discuss challenges and opportunities for the city.

White said she hopes local entrepreneurs and business community members leave Tuesday’s event with a better understanding of the resources available to entrepreneurs and more aware of the city’s “strong mentorship community of seasoned entrepreneurs.”

In addition, the R.I. Business Plan Competition will announce the 2017 winners at the Tuesday event.

The competition’s 2016 Entrepreneur Track winners were East Providence-based Response Technologies’ Ed Bard, from Cumberland, and Dave Pettey of Westport.

The pair were awarded $32,100 in consulting and professional services as well as $35,000 in cash.

Emily Gowdey-Backus is a staff writer for PBN.