Employers join ‘Supply RI’; pledge to support local small businesses

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — One week following her State of the State address, nine employers have committed to join Gov. Raimondo’s “Supply R.I.” initiative that aims to connect local suppliers with the state’s largest employers.

Raimondo said her budget proposal includes $475,000 to support the new initiative, with the Commerce Corporation maintaining a database of local suppliers for employers and suppliers.

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy. When our biggest employers support local businesses, they know they’re getting a quality product and that their spending is going right back into our local economy,” Raimondo said. “Supply RI will strengthen every business – big and small – that participates. I’m grateful to the employers that have already made a commitment to participate and will work with business and civic leaders across the state to increase participation.”

During a Tuesday news conference, Raimondo announced a goal to increase the amount of local buying the state does by 10 percent over the next three years.

“This new initiative will introduce larger companies and institutions to smaller suppliers; and, through the strengthening of the local supply chain, it will assist in opening up opportunities for Rhode Island businesses and creating jobs for Rhode Islanders,” Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor said.

Among the employers joining the initiative are Amica, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, Brown University, Delta Dental, Gilbane Building Company, Infosys, Lifespan, Rhode Island School of Design and Roger Williams University.

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island President and CEO Kim Keck said the company currently spends $34 million annually on local products and services.

“Blue Cross is proud to be a leader in buying from Rhode Island businesses and we are honored to lend our support to the governor’s initiative,” she said. “When we invest locally the Rhode Island economy improves; a stronger economy is good for the health of all our communities.”

The governor’s office said research conducted for the Executive Office of Commerce found that if Rhode Island’s colleges, universities, and hospitals shifted 2 percent of their contracts to local companies, it would add more than $50 million to the state’s economy and create hundreds of jobs.

“Brown has served as an anchor institution in Rhode Island for more than 250 years and spending by the university to operate our campus totals in the hundreds of millions of dollars annually,” Brown University Vice President of Planning and Policy Russell Carey said. “We’re excited to extend our commitment to supporting the state’s economy and local business owners through Governor Raimondo’s Supply RI initiative. A coordinated effort to linking organizations and suppliers will only amplify the economic impact further.”

WATCH IN FULL: Governor Raimondo’s 2018 State of the State address »