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6/17/2015 State budget includes $350,000 appropriation for Polaris to boost Rhode Island manufacturing industry
STATE HOUSE – The state budget passed yesterday by the House of Representatives includes an appropriation of $350,000 proposed by Rep. Joy Hearn (D-Dist. 66, Barrington, East Providence) and Sen. Erin P. Lynch (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston) for the Polaris Manufacturing Extension Partnership, a business unit of the University of Rhode Island Research Foundation, that provides improvement solutions to more than 750 manufacturers in Rhode Island.

To help the nonprofit organization provide manufacturers with business improvement programs, Representative Hearn had introduced the proposed appropriation to develop programs that would help the industry become more competitive and innovative.

 “This appropriation will help Polaris to boost Rhode Island’s manufacturing industry by providing local companies with the tools they need to compete, expand and thrive in our state,” said Representative Hearn. “The funding will allow Polaris to assist small manufacturers in expanding their businesses. Small manufacturing business counts for 95 percent of Rhode Island manufacturers, and a large number of this segment is not served by Polaris due to lack of funding.”

The appropriation would match the funds Polaris is currently receiving on a yearly basis from the federal government. Rhode Island is one of only three states not to provide state funding to its manufacturing extension partnership.

“Polaris is an important part of manufacturing growth,” said Senator Lynch. “The program offers training in technology acceleration, innovation engineering, sustainability, facilities planning and other business improvement programs to help keep Rhode Island manufacturers viable. Helping to fund this program will greatly benefit manufacturing in this state.”

Several experts, including Christian Cowan, director of Polaris, David Dooley, the president of URI, Bill McCourt, president of the Rhode Island Manufacturers Association, along with several others, testified in front of the House and Senate finance committee about the impact Polaris has had and could have on Rhode Island manufacturers.

“Despite the last decade’s job losses, Rhode Island’s manufacturing sector continues to demonstrate a diversity and resiliency to support a manufacturing renaissance in the state,” said Laurie White, president of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce. White said the appropriation would “spur new business growth, encourage expansion of existing businesses, create jobs and attract private investment.”

According to the Chamber, manufacturing directly employs about 9 percent of the labor force in Rhode Island and witnessed what is hoped to be the beginning of a rebound in a 2013 increase of over 1,000 manufacturing jobs. This brings the manufacturing labor force to about 40,700 employees, with an average wage of over $51,000 and opportunities for career progression.

For more information, contact:
Daniel Trafford, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903