Updated September 4 at 4:04pm

Signs of improvement in economy?

‘I only have myself to promote myself and it is really hard to get your name out there.’

What do a Johnston photographer, a Westerly brewery and a Providence Ethiopian restaurant all have in common? Each was among the 6,846 new companies that braved Rhode Island’s rocky economy and went into business last year.

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THE BIG PICTURE

Signs of improvement in economy?

‘I only have myself to promote myself and it is really hard to get your name out there.’

Posted:

What do a Johnston photographer, a Westerly brewery and a Providence Ethiopian restaurant all have in common? Each was among the 6,846 new companies that braved Rhode Island’s rocky economy and went into business last year.

For the first time since pre-recession 2007, the number of new companies formed in Rhode Island grew in 2011 compared with the year before, according to a summary of filings from the secretary of state’s office.

“My husband has had this idea in his head for the last 20 years about starting a brewery; it’s just always been something he wanted to do,” said Jennifer Brinton, who started Grey Sail Brewing Co. in Westerly along with her husband, Alan. “On our 10th anniversary we said: ‘Let’s get back to thinking about the brewery.’ Last year we did it.”

From establishing a brand identity to bankrolling equipment purchases with personal savings, Grey Sail and the thousands of other new Ocean State startups face formidable challenges to just making it through to their first anniversary.

But while unemployment remains high and the economy sluggish, new business owners may take some comfort in the number of fellow Rhode Islanders who were thinking along the same lines, that working for themselves may be the best option.

But as with most economic indicators last year, the results weren’t all good.

The 68-company, or 1 percent, rise in startups came along with a 444-company, or 7 percent, increase in businesses that decided to close up shop.

Still, after the carnage of 2008, when a 9 percent decline in startups was accompanied by a 23 percent increase in closings, the figures seem to point toward some progress.

Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis, who’s been watching the number of businesses that file required papers with his office since 2005, said the latest figures “show we have seen some improvement from 2007-2008. While we have seen some increase in the number of new businesses and, regretfully, those that closed, both are an improvement from 2008.”

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