Losing out on the first round of the U.S. Commerce Department’s “manufacturing communities” grants was a blow to state efforts to build greater support for Rhode Island’s manufacturers.
State officials and members of the business community had been optimistic that the Ocean State would be able to make it to the second round of funding after garnering a $100,000 grant in the fall to plan an advanced industry design center. That was to be the path to winning a $25 million federal grant to build the center.
But Rhode Island was not among the dozen sites that made the cut, leaving the state and its educational partners to go it alone, which, thankfully, they have done.
The R.I. Commerce Corporation is moving ahead with analysis to see just how highly the state’s manufacturers would value such a center (i.e., how much would they pay to access resources they could not afford at their own operations).
The idea is to provide design help to manufacturers looking to bring new products to market as well as redesign existing product lines. But the center also will be a central contact point for worker training and resources to re-engineer processes. It is exactly the kind of collaborative approach that Rhode Island needs to take in order to compete with larger markets.
Commerce RI has said that it will apply when the next round of the federal grants comes open for bidding, and that is a good sign. But more importantly, the state is not waiting for Washington for help. The resources are here to make a difference. All that is needed is the will. •