Updated March 28 at 2:28pm
economic development

Merlo, fast-growing companies to headline Chamber event


PROVIDENCE – CVS Caremark Corp. President and CEO Larry Merlo has agreed to be the keynote speaker for the opening session of The Garage, the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce’s May 14 event at the R.I. Convention Center designed to take the place of the more than two-decade old Business Expo (whose name recently had morphed into RIBX).

Merlo is expected to “discuss dramatic changes in the health care environment and what this will mean for employers, community leaders and health care consumers in Rhode Island,” according to a statement supplied by CVS. In addition, the company said that Merlo will use the podium at the Economic Outlook Luncheon at the May event to explain “how Caremark is helping people on their path to better health by addressing the quality, cost and access challenges to health care in our country.”

The Garage is a break from the traditional business exposition, which has exhibitors aligned in aisles and speakers expounding on specific topics. Instead, the Chamber is looking to model the event on a new economy meet-up, in which companies and individuals with similar interests interact more informally and make connections that can lead to collaborations and often, completely new ideas. And binding the event together is a focus on celebrating, facilitating and inspiring rapid growth in Providence-area enterprises.

The format has been tweaked, with a tentative schedule having attendees moving from the luncheon to a “storytelling showcase,” at which companies at various stages will give quick summations of their successes – why did they found their companies, what challenges have they overcome, and when did they know they had turned the corner to rapid growth?

Directly from that showcase, attendees will have the opportunity to attend four panel discussions, two on consumer products populated by some of the region’s hottest brands, one including health and wellness-focused enterprises and the last driven by companies in the life sciences and med tech space. Panelists will talk about growth as they have experienced it, either from starting a new business or transforming a mature one, interacting with one another as well as with the audience.

All while the panel discussions are taking place, attendees will be able to connect with one another in the open area outside the sessions, populated by sponsors and companies interested in supporting growth in the region.

Following the panels’ conclusion, the Rhode Island Business Competition will have its annual awards presentation, which includes an introduction of the winners and a chance for the Providence community to welcome them into the fold (last year’s technology category winner, Siren Marine, moved from Connecticut to Rhode Island after the win).

Following the business plan event, there will be a networking reception to cap the event, and, the Chamber hopes, help cement the relationships begun at The Garage. In fact, the Chamber is looking to have more similar events in the future, as opposed to a single business expo per year, as a way to dig deeper into the region’s different industry segments and help more companies grow going forward.


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