Southern Manufacturing

Rhode Island Composites Alliance Receives Seed Funding

27 January 2015

The Rhode Island Composites Alliance (RICA), a newly formed partnership of companies and stakeholders focused on growing the composites industry in Rhode Island, US, has received $175,000 in funding from the Rhode Island Foundation and the van Beuren Charitable Foundation.

The announcement was made at a press conference organised by the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association (RIMTA) on “Launching into the Future: Growing Rhode Island’s Marine and Composites Industries,” which was held on the opening morning of the Providence Boat Show.

RICA explains that Rhode Island dignitaries—including Governor Gina Raimondo, Congressman David Cicilline, and Representative Kenneth Marshall, with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Senator Jack Reed joining by video—spoke in support of this new statewide initiative.

Governor Raimondo stressed the importance of rebuilding the state’s middle class and creating tens of thousands of family-supporting jobs. “We are going to create good jobs by focusing on industries where Rhode Island can be a leader, such as the marine and composites industry,” said Governor Gina Raimondo.

According to RICA, Rhode Island’s boat-building industry was an early pioneer in working with composite materials, and this method of building is now used for a wealth of applications including alternative energy, architecture, green technology, defence, construction, aerospace, underwater submersibles and transportation. The state has a high concentration of composites expertise, coupled with strong education and training capabilities, mould-building capacity, and a long tradition of innovation. There are 75 companies in Rhode Island involved in many aspects of composite building; 35 of these companies are concentrated in the East Bay area.

Rich O’Meara of Core Composites gave attendees at the press conference a statistical snapshot of this growing industry. According to figures from the American Composites Manufacturers Association (ACMA), this industry grew by 6.3% in 2014; the composites industry is projected to grow an average of 6.5% between now and 2020, according to the ACMA.

O’Meara also spoke about RICA’s mission to attract companies that need composites expertise and the importance of educating these types of companies about the capabilities resident in Rhode Island. “These companies need to know what we already have here in Rhode Island,” said O’Meara. “Funding from these two foundations will allow us to bring that kind of recognition to this area.”

RICA was formed in May 2014. It says that a month prior, the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association partnered with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s office and Roger Williams University to host a roundtable event titled “Beyond Boatbuilding: Expanding Rhode Island’s Composite Cluster.” That event drew a hundred thought leaders from government and industry; the end result was the clear need for a unified approach to exploring the capabilities of the state’s composites industry, its needs, and its ability to create jobs.

RICA currently has some 50 members, including composites companies and regional and national stakeholders. The funding from the Rhode Island Foundation and the van Beuren Charitable Foundation will allow RICA to begin their industry- and workforce-development initiatives.

The Rhode Island Marine Trades Association (RIMTA) is working with RICA members and stakeholders such as the IYRS School of Composites Technology to launch the organisation.  RICA programs and activities are projected to mirror the types of industry- and workforce-development initiatives RIMTA has already put in place for the Rhode Island marine trades.

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