BRISTOL, R.I. – Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressmen David Cicilline and Jim Langevin today announced a $125,000 federal grant to develop a composites industry cluster that will support job creation and economic growth in Rhode Island. The grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) was awarded to the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association (RIMTA) and the town of Bristol to develop a strategic plan to maximize the competitiveness of the local composites industry, with a focus on Bristol and surrounding communities in the East Bay.
“This federal grant is another positive step toward growing this innovative manufacturing sector in Rhode Island. It will help the state’s composites industry coordinate economic development initiatives and create more good-paying jobs here at home,” said Senator Reed.
“Rhode Island-made composites are well-suited to meet the need for light, durable materials in infrastructure, aerospace, defense, and wind energy,” said Senator Whitehouse, who has brought several EDA officials to Rhode Island in recent years for meetings with composites stakeholders. “Our local composites industry has all the elements to keep growing and hiring more Rhode Islanders in the years ahead. This federal grant will harness those components into a strategic plan for expanding advanced manufacturing in the East Bay.”
The East Bay is home to more than 45 composites companies with a broad range of expertise in manufacturing, design, and engineering. These companies are supported by nearby educational institutions like IYRS, which deliver industry-specific curriculum and training in composites, as well as research and development.
“Rhode Island was once a hub for manufacturing, and reviving this critical sector is becoming more of a reality with the help of EDA grants like this one,” Congressman Langevin said. “The creation of a Composites Innovation Cluster would add to the state’s growing manufacturing base, and funding from this grant will enable the Town of Bristol and the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association to develop a strategic plan to expand the composites industry and further economic growth.”
“The composites industry in Rhode Island’s East Bay is leading the nation in the development of this cutting-edge technology, and this award provides an incredible opportunity to continue to grow and put more Rhode Islanders to work,” said Congressman Cicilline, who advocated directly to the Economic Development Administration on behalf of this grant application. “I applaud the Economic Development Administration for recognizing the potential of the composites industry in our state. This investment will make a real difference in the lives of working men and women who will find good-paying jobs in composites, and I am committed to doing everything I can to promote this exciting industry.”
The federal grant was matched by funding from the Rhode Island Foundation and $25,000 from the Real Jobs Rhode Island program.
“As Rhode Islanders, manufacturing is in our blood,” Governor Gina Raimondo said. “We are the birthplace of the industrial revolution, and our workers’ determination and grit is as strong as ever today. That’s why we created the Real Jobs RI program: to retrain Rhode Islanders with in-demand skills that will help them get jobs available now. Thanks to our incredible congressional delegation, this grant will build on our already strong composites industry in the East Bay to employ more Rhode Islanders in the jobs of tomorrow.”
“This funding commitment is a great testament to the impressive growth of the composites industry – born from our rich history of boat building here in Rhode Island,” said Jessica David, Vice President of Strategy & Community Investments at the Rhode Island Foundation. “As the state’s only community foundation we’ve been proud to invest in this work, and to play a part in building on an area of strength in the Rhode Island economy.”
The planning process will bring together the public and private sectors to examine the area’s resources, including infrastructure, workforce development programs, and manufacturing expertise, to develop an economic development roadmap for local composites manufacturing.
“We are excited to partner with the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association and the Composites Alliance of Rhode Island in support of local business owners and entrepreneurs through this US EDA project to develop a composites innovation cluster,” said Steven Contente, Bristol Town Administrator. “The Town of Bristol has a long history of innovative, leading edge manufacturing, and that spirit is still evident today. We look forward to providing assistance through this project to ensure a healthy environment for the composites industry to grow and thrive.”
“Partnership is the key to building a strong foundation for economic growth. The Composites Alliance is proud to work with this public-private partnership to position Rhode Island’s composites industry as a world-wide leader,” said Wendy Mackie, CEO of RIMTA and the Rhode Island Composites Alliance.