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As supporters have opined with every news story documenting the steady decline in manufacturing jobs in Rhode Island and other Northeast states in recent years, the industry is far from dead locally.
The future, in fact, has a chance to be more about growth than survival for an industry that is still the sixth-largest employer in the state, with approximately 40,000 workers.
The state and its partners are seeking $95 million in federal funding that would lead to an advanced industry design center in Rhode Island and a cybersecurity center at the University of Rhode Island that would be part of a multistate Digital Manufacturing & Design Institute.
“We think [manufacturing] has tremendous growth potential, but it is going to look different than it has,” Marcel A. Valois, executive director of the R.I. Economic Development Corporation, told PBN in a story on Page 5.
One key difference will be the need to collaborate, both within the state and regionally. The industry design center could be a place where companies work with local universities on advanced equipment to test new prototypes.
The cybersecurity center at URI would be one of 11 centers of excellence in eight states, along with a central hub in Cambridge, Mass.
Such a regional cluster would not only serve existing manufacturers but offer the potential for spinoffs – and help reverse the decline of a still-proud industry. •