PROVIDENCE – Gov. Daniel J. McKee and R.I. Commerce Secretary Elizabeth M. Tanner reported boosted relations with the Dominican Republic as a result of their economic trade mission to the Caribbean nation this week.
On Aug. 21-23, McKee and Tanner led a delegation of six Rhode Island-based businesses representing a wide variety of industries to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Their purpose was to explore business development and tourism opportunities with direct flights now available from Rhode Island T.F. Green International Airport to the Dominican Republic’s Santiago de los Caballeros Cibao International Airport via SKYhigh Dominicana airline.
The businesses that participated in the mission included Biointraface Inc., EGN Consulting, Mainelli Tool & Die Inc., Kassumay LLC, North East Knitting Inc., and Verity Design. During the mission representatives from these companies attended several networking meetings with businesses in the Dominican Republic.
These discussions proved successful. The participating Rhode Island companies received six potential orders from distributors in the Dominican Republic so far with the potential for more to come, according to a joint statement McKee and Tanner sent to Providence Business News.
“Our relationship is stronger because of this trade mission,” McKee and Tanner wrote. “We are encouraged by the relationships forged and look forward to future discussions about businesses aiming to expand operations here and considering Rhode Island as a potential place for trade partnership and other opportunities.”
The trip, McKee’s first economic mission since becoming governor, was supported by the John H. Chafee Center for International Business at Bryant University, the state district office of the U.S. Small Business Administration and the R.I. Commerce Corp.
Edinaldo Tebaldi, interim director of the Chafee Center, also attended the trip and expressed enthusiasm about Rhode Island’s future relationship with the Dominican Republic.
“Through discussions and several meetings we were able to establish a strong foundation and continue nurturing relationships that offered exciting opportunities for businesses to engage both ways,” Tebaldi said. “The work we’re doing is very important for identifying and expanding on existing markets and I am very proud of what we here at the Chafee Center and our partners accomplished.”
McKee and Tanner emphasized the importance of the state’s close cultural ties to the nation with Rhode Island being home to the highest percentage of Dominicans in the U.S. The nation is also among Rhode Island’s top three export partners with $200 million of products including precious stones, metals and pharmaceuticals flowing from the state to the Dominican Republic annually.
Jim Verity, founder of the Providence-based event and design company Verity Design, embarked on the trip and said he attended many meetings related to the tourism and hospitality industry. Verity said he came away from the mission with a deeper understanding of how businesses operate in the Dominican Republic.
Overall, Verity was impressed with the companies he met with and hopes to take part in more trade missions in the future.
“These meetings really helped open up opportunities for me and I hope to attend more trips like this,” Verity said. “It was great to build connections and get referrals … for example, if I want to host an international event I would need shipping services, now I have more contacts to turn to.”
The businesses that attended the mission also received grant funding for export activities from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s State Trade Expansion Program.
Tebaldi also noted that his office has been working to identify strategic markets for Rhode Island to explore with the goal of organizing at least one trade mission per year. He said there are currently plans for two more trade missions in 2024: One to Canada in the spring and another to Ireland and the United Kingdom in either the summer or fall.
Updated to clarify that Rhode Island has the highest percentage of Dominicans in its population among all U.S. states.