The Best for Rhode Island initiative was announced on November 20th to a group of 700 business and community leaders at the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting. Read the Providence Business News account of the evening here or below.

Providence Chamber celebrates past and future at annual meeting

PROVIDENCE – With 700 of Providence’s business leaders in attendance Monday evening at the R.I. Convention Center, the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce kicked off a year-long celebration of its 150th anniversary with an administrative transition and a major corporate announcement.

The big news came during a roundtable discussion at the end of the association’s annual meeting dinner, when Chamber President Laurie White sat with Gov. Gina M. Raimondo, Hasbro Inc. Chairman and CEO Brian Goldner and Virgin Pulse CEO David Osborne to talk about economic development, they city and state’s recent successes, and in the case of Osborne and Virgin Pulse, a new win.

In his remarks, Osborne fleshed out the company’s decision to move it global corporate headquarters from Framingham, Mass., to Providence. When the Virgin Group acquired local wellness program startup ShapeUp early in 2016, many, among them Raimondo, assumed that the significant workforce that had grown in Providence would soon be leaving for the Virgin Pulse headquarters in Massachusetts.

Thanks first to a sales job by ShapeUp founder and Brown University graduate Dr. Rajiv Kumar, Osborne and his team traveled down to Providence and met with economic development officials. The result, said Osborne: “I was blown away.”

Crediting the city’s hip vibe and the talent of its workforce, as well as the job creation program of the state, Osborne said Providence touched on all the needs of today’s young workforce, key among them the desire to work in an urban environment. “Corporate headquarters in the suburbs is such a ’90s thing,” Osborne said. Now the company is looking to employ 300 people in Providence by the beginning of the next decade, many of them who are moving down from the Framingham offices because they like Providence so much.

Goldner for his part extolled the virtues of having a headquarters in Rhode Island, a place that employees feel comfortable raising and taking care of their families while pushing the boundaries of branded play experiences at work.

He said that one of the keys to Hasbro’s recent success, with growth of both revenue and profit over the last few years, and as White pointed out, the highest market capitalization in its history, is developing a mindset that brings new ideas to market faster than ever before. And if they fail, that’s OK, because he said, “we all have each other’s backs.”

For Hasbro, Goldner said, it’s as much about finding new avenues for play, especially as the market changes so fast. “You have to do business in different modalities all the time,” he said.

During her time at the microphone, Raimondo emphasized the investments the state has been making in its workforce capabilities, infrastructure and business climate. “There is no silver bullet,” the governor said. “We just have to keep the pedal to the metal.”

Prior to the roundtable discussion, White oversaw the transition from immediate past chairman of the board of directors, William F. Hatfield, Rhode Island president of Bank of America, to the new chairman, Alden Anderson, senior vice president and partner of CB Richard Ellis – N. E. Partners LLP. Anderson will oversee the year’s worth of activities for the Chamber’s 150th anniversary celebration, including the creation of the “Best for Rhode Island” program, a partnership with Social Enterprise Greenhouse designed to:

  • Improve community impact
  • Strengthen the bottom line
  • Attract and retain employees
  • Build customer loyalty
  • Increase your visibility and earn statewide recognition

White said that already 75 companies have signed on and taken the Best for RI Challenge that is the beginning of participation.

And while most of the evening was focused on the future, White did note that the Chamber had accomplished many things during its history, including being the driving force behind the filling in of the Cove (where much of the current Capital Center is located), building the Biltmore Hotel and making sure that the state had its own major airport.