PBN programs’ success punctuates good year

INSTITUTIONAL EXCELLENCE: Denice Spero, research professor and co-director of URI’s iCubed, was recognized as the Industry Leader in the Technical Services category of the 2011 Business Women awards program. / PBN FILE PHOTO/FRANK MULLIN
INSTITUTIONAL EXCELLENCE: Denice Spero, research professor and co-director of URI’s iCubed, was recognized as the Industry Leader in the Technical Services category of the 2011 Business Women awards program. / PBN FILE PHOTO/FRANK MULLIN

For the first time, in this 2012 Book of Lists, Providence Business News tallied the organizations that won honors throughout the year in PBN recognition programs – Best Places To Work, Business Excellence Awards, Business Women, CFO Awards, Innovation Awards and 40 Under Forty – and decided to feature those that had garnered the most wins. The result is the first PBN Publisher’s Cup.

In 2011, three organizations stood out among the 111 that registered wins: jewelry designer and manufacturer Alex and Ani Inc., law firm Partridge Snow & Hahn LLP, and the University of Rhode Island.
Alex and Ani is a homegrown fairy tale of success, earning recognition at both the Business Excellence Awards – for Excellence at a Mid-Size Company – and a spot on PBN’s Best Places To Work list.
The words “family,” support” and “Rhode Island” resonate throughout the company’s awards write-ups.
The first step to success, founder Carolyn Rafaelian will tell you is to foster “a vibe of unity” by creating a place “where we all have the same vision and are working for the same goal.”
Rafaelian incorporated Alex and Ani Inc. in 2004 and has grown its business into eight company stores in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York and Florida, as well as a global network of retail partners.
“It is essential that we cultivate our employee strengths and allow them to flourish,” she said.
The company provides its employees with seminars, the latest technology, life coaches, executive training, and creates “a culture that allows employees to be creative in generating new positions and opportunities for growth,” PBN said in its Business Excellence Awards write-up.
Forming part of the family business is Carolyn’s niece, Rachel L. Rafaelian who – at the tender age of 25 is the head designer of the Vintage Sixty-Six line and senior buyer for the company’s retail locations – earned a spot on PBN’s 40 Under Forty list. Rachel’s organization of a night of shopping at the Newport store in which all proceeds were directed to a chosen charity led to similar events being held at another five locations.
And beyond its charity involvements, the company’s dedication to remaining a “Made-in-USA” company is a job security many manufacturing employees don’t have.
“We are extremely proud of being an American company. The only thing we want to do in China is sell them something that’s been made in the USA,” said CEO Giovanni Feroce. The company earned 11th place in the small-companies’ category of PBN’s Best Places To Work. &#8226

Caring for its employees is a theme that earned Partridge Snow & Hahn LLC sixth place for medium-sized companies on the Best Places To Work list.
“We take a personal interest in the well-being of employees. … Particularly the past two years during the recession, we are proud to have been there to support the members of our firm,” said David M. Gilden, managing partner.
The care starts with employee health, with an on-site fitness center, stress management clinics and routine clinical screenings, and ranges as far as leadership training.
Its Women AdVocates for Enterprise, working to help women advance professionally both within the firm and well as in the marketplace, was established in 2007.
Chair of the WAVE initiative since December is Lauren F. Verni, who has distinguished herself as senior associate focusing on bankruptcy, real estate and intellectual property law and related issues. Additionally, she gives seminars to other lawyers on creditors’ rights and bankruptcy and was also name a “rising star” in the Bankruptcy and Creditor/Debtor practice area by Rhode Island Super Lawyers. It is no surprise, then, that she was named to the 40 Under Forty list in 2011.
A pillar in the firm is Thomas C. Eagan, who was recognized in PBN’s initial CFO Awards program. Eagan has been balancing the firm’s books for the last 21 years as well as ensuring that workers going through personal crises are taken care of.
“Although he is fiscally conservative, he has always been generous in his suggestions for support of members of the firm and their families,” said Gilden. The firm’s response to serious illness, and a death of a partner, has included arranging support and counseling services, providing meals at home, continuation of wages and providing flexible work schedules.
“Everyone has a role in a corporate culture,” Eagan said. “We’ve built a culture that fosters mutual support, creativity and teamwork, and we strive to have open communication among all members of the firm.” &#8226

The University of Rhode Island left its mark on PBN’s Business Women and Innovation awards, thanks to three researchers – Haibo He, Jennifer McCann and Denice Spero – who are making waves locally and beyond.
He, 35-year-old professor at the College of Engineering, has been talking about intelligent robots to the likes of FedEx, the U.S. Army, Deepwater Wind and the National Science Foundation. He envisions the day when a computer system, in a matter of milliseconds, can analyze traffic along a busy roadway, predict the future traffic based on real-time events and past data, and then adjust traffic-control devices accordingly, among other feats.
“It’s all about intelligent decision-making,” said the Rising Star Innovator in the 2011 Innovation Awards program.
McCann’s work is also about intelligent decision-making, although in her case it has to do with managing the Ocean State’s largest natural resource, the ocean.
A researcher at the URI Graduate School of Oceanography, McCann led a squad of researchers to guide a nearly $10 million study of ocean uses known as the ocean Special Area Management Plan, or SAMP, a project designed to equp public officials with the information to make marine regulatory decisions, including how to go about building offshore wind energy facilities.
Meanwhile, Denice Spero, research professor and co-director of the univeristy’s Institute for Immunology and Informatics, sees the future from a smaller perspectives, in microscopic nature of vaccines.
“Vaccines are incredible, because they stop diseases before they occur and save millions of live per year. It was not too long ago that people were dying from small pox, polio or measles – in the U.S. today you never hear about these diseases,” she said. Spero was recognized as the Industry Leader in the Technical Services category of the 2011 Business Women awards program. &#8226

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