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Rhode Island business news: February 2022

The "Superman Building," center, stands in downtown Providence, R.I., on March 27, 2013.Steven Senne/Associated Press

Feb. 24, 2022

City of Providence will offer direct assistance with Rent Relief R.I. program to residents

Mayor Jorge O. Elorza joined Rhode Island Housing Thursday to announce a new partnership to support city residents in applying for rental and utility assistance funds through the agency’s federally-funded Rent Relief R.I. program.

Through the Rhode Island Housing grant, the city hired two staff members who specialize in the Rent Relief R.I. application process. They will be stationed at the Mayor’s Center for City Services and will coordinate efforts to promote the program as well as provide direct assistance to Providence constituents that call 3-1-1 or visit City Hall.

“COVID-19 has created financial hardships for many families in Providence, and that can lead to trouble paying rent or maintaining housing,” said Elorza. “We’re committed to reducing barriers to accessing the Rent Relief R.I. program, and my office is looking forward to providing direct support to those who need help submitting their application.”


Feb. 23, 2022

R.I. Commerce, URI looking for proposals to build life sciences innovation campus

Rhode Island Commerce and the University of Rhode Island issued a request for proposal, or RFP, for local and out-of-state developers to create Innovation Campuses to that would be dedicated to the state’s biotechnology and life sciences industries.

The RFP, which was posted Monday, said the state is looking to create a shared laboratory site that can advance biotech innovation and small-scale manufacturing, conduct early demonstrations, conduct translational research, and develop commercialization programming. The RFP is part of BioConnect’s New England’s application to the US EDA’s Build Back Regional Challenge, which was selected as a finalist. Their application focuses on the I-195 Innovation & Design District as one possibility.

House of Hope to distribute gas cards to Rhode Islanders living in their cars

The New England Convenience Store & Energy Markets Association donated 120 gas cards to House of Hope Community Development Corporation, which will distribute the cards to Rhode Islanders living in their cars to provide mobility and heat for the rest of the winter.


“Upon being made aware of this dire reality, it quickly became apparent NECSEMA was in a unique position to help,” said Jonathan Shaer, Executive Director of the New England Convenience Store & Energy Marketers Association. “Staying warm in winter is something many of us take for granted and this is one way to help those in need.”

Since March 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of people living on the streets has increased by nearly 52 percent.

Feb. 22, 2022

Bally’s hires law firm, financial advisor to consider takeover offer

Lincoln, Rhode Island-based Bally’s Corporation announced Tuesday that the special committee it formed earlier this month will consider a $38 per share takeover proposal made by Standard General, a hedge fund. Bally’s hired Macquarie Capital as its financial advisor and Potter Anderson & Corroon LLP as its legal counsel to help its evaluation on the proposal, as well as any potential strategic alternatives.

A Bally’s statement did not say if there are potential buyers bidding on the company, but described the offer as “preliminary” and “non-binding.

Standard General, the hedge fund that is Bally’s largest shareholder, publicly announced an offer in late January for the gaming company, which it valued at over $2 billion.

CVS Pharmacy develops innovative line of home health care products

CVS Pharmacy, the retail division of Woonsocket-based CVS Health, announced the launch of six new innovative home health care products as an extension of the company’s product line.

These bathroom safety and mobility products were developed in collaboration with Michael Graves Design, pioneers of the Design for All movement, which leverages the “power of design to improve people’s everyday lives.”


The products include comfort grip canes and easy-fold travel walkers to convertible shower chairs and 3-in-1 comfort commodes. Most of the products are now available on CVS.com and are expected to hit more than 6,000 retail stores sometime through March.

“There will be more than 70 million Americans ages 65 and older by 2030, along with millions of caregivers and other customers who need these types of products because of illness or while recuperating from an accident,” said Brenda Lord, Vice President, Store Brands, CVS Health. “By filling an unmet need for functional, but beautifully designed products, we aim to help improve the everyday lives of those who rely on these tools and who are seeking a more premium and customized market offering.”

Hasbro toys announces commitment to cut emissions

Hasbro, a global toy company based in Rhode Island, announced Tuesday the company has joined the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) to commit to further reducing its environmental footprint to support a lower carbon economy.

The commitment includes industry-leading initiatives like converting its entire packaging line to plastic-free designs by the end of 2022, and the Hasbro Toy Recycling program where consumers can recycle their used toys and games in 12 countries around the world.

Hasbro will set both near-term (2030) and long-term (2050) Science-Based Targets (SBTs) this year that will be validated by the SBTi.

“As a global leader in play and entertainment for fans of all ages, Hasbro understands the critical importance of operating sustainably to protect our planet for future generations,” said Chris Cocks, incoming CEO of Hasbro, in a statement Tuesday. “Committing to SBTs is another step for Hasbro to make a positive difference for our planet and fans around the world. Our hope is others across the industry join us in this effort.”


Rhode Island’s seafood industry getting $371,000 in aid

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island’s seafood industry is getting a nearly $400,000 boost from the federal government to help it weather and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The roughly $371,000 from the Seafood Processors Pandemic Response and Safety Block Grant Program provides relief for local seafood processors and processing facilities, the state’s congressional delegation said in a joint statement this week.

The federal funds can be used for a variety of purposes, including workplace and worker safety measures; transition to online sales; housing for workers so they can maintain social distancing or to allow for quarantining; and covering the costs associated with vaccinations, testing, treatment and paid leave.

“The Ocean State’s seafood industry was hit hard early in the pandemic and continues to deal with lingering challenges,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said. “This federal funding will provide additional support to help hardworking local fishermen keep delivering some of the world’s best seafood for Rhode Islanders to enjoy.”

Feb. 21, 2022

Senator Reed looks to refill the Restaurant Revitalization Fund

U.S. Senator Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, joined local restaurant owners and the hospitality industry and called for Congress to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF). Reed helped create the program, which delivered about $28.7 billion in federal funding last spring under the American Rescue Plan. Funds were dispersed to restaurants that had struggled with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Reed is expected to join Dale Venturini, the CEO and president of the Rhode Island Hospitality Association, on Tuesday morning in Cranston to discuss efforts to refill the fund.

According to statistics from the U.S. Small Business Administration, more than 278,000 eligible applications were submitted to the program, totaling more than $72.2 billion in fund requests.

Only 23 percent of eligible restaurants in Rhode Island received RRF assistance, according to Reed’s office.

Feb. 20, 2022

Senate president seeks commitment to renewable energy

Democratic Senate President Dominick Ruggerio introduced legislation this week. The Senate approved his similar legislation last year, but it stalled in the House.

Former Gov. Gina Raimondo signed an executive order in 2020 setting a goal for the electric grid to operate with 100% renewable energy by 2030. Ruggerio’s bill would write that goal into law, accelerate current plans and outline the path forward.

“Rhode Islanders are already feeling the effects of climate change and the risks facing our communities will grow increasingly dire in the years ahead,” Ruggerio said. “This legislation sets out a bold but achievable goal.”

Current state law requires annual 1.5 percentage point increases in the amount of electricity required to be generated from renewable sources through 2035. Ruggerio wants increases of 4 percent in 2022, 5 percent in 2023, 6 percent in 2024, 11 percent in 2025, 2026 and 2027, and 11.5 percent in 2028, 2029 and 2030, achieving a 100 percent Renewable Energy Standard in 2030.

A 2021 state report found the 2030 goal is possible, but would require the ongoing construction of renewable energy projects as transportation and heating transition to electric power. — Associated Press

Feb. 14, 2022

Hasbro toys partners with online therapy provider for schools, clinicians

Hasbro, the Providence-based toy company, partnered with PresenceLearning, the leading provider of online therapy solutions for schools and clinicians, to bring beloved childhood characters and games to the therapy platform. Speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, and behavioral and mental health professionals will be able to use PresenceLearning’s adaptations of Potato Head, Candy Land, and Clue Jr. with students during online therapy sessions.

“Our partnership with Hasbro is part of a broader initiative to offer a next-generation therapy platform that helps providers deliver fun, engaging and effective therapy sessions,” said Kate Eberle Walker, CEO of PresenceLearning, in a statement. “When children carry over content experiences from their therapy sessions into their play at home, it helps them to make connections and practice skills that can support their progress.”

The first Hasbro game to be developed will allow clinicians to engage students with a 2D version of Potato Head.

Feb. 11, 2022

Prospect Medical Holdings sells Conn.-based hospitals to Yale

Yale New Haven Health announced plans this week to acquire two health networks, including three hospitals, from California-based for-profit hospital operator Prospect Medical Holdings. Under the agreement’s terms, which were signed Thursday, Yale New Haven would purchase Rockville General Hospital in Vernon, Waterbury Hospital, and Manchester Memorial Hospital, along with the facilities’ real estate assets, outpatient services, and physician clinic operations.

On Friday, Christiana Care Health System and Prospect announced it had signed a Letter of Intent for ChristianaCare to acquire Crozer Health from Prospect in Delaware. Under the LOI, ChristianaCare will purchase the assets and operations associated with Crozer-Chester Medical Center in Upland, Penn.; Delaware County Memorial Hospital in Drexel Hill, Penn.; Springfield Hospital in Springfield, Penn.; and Taylor Hospital in Ridley Park, Penn.

Prospect also owns Rhode Island-based Our Lady of Fatima Hospital in North Providence and Roger Williams Medical Center in Providence. It’s unclear if Prospect plans on selling its Rhode Island properties. Spokesmen Otis Brown and Bill Fischer could not be immediately reached for comment.

Feb. 10, 2022

Utilidata gets $26.75 million in new capital

Utilidata, an energy software company based in Providence, has secured $26.75 million in new capital.

The round was led by Louis Bacon’s Moore Strategic Ventures, with participation from the Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund and NVIDIA, plus existing investors Keyframe Capital, Braemar Energy Ventures, and MUUS Asset Management.

Utilidata deploys software that optimizes the electric distribution grid for major utilities, including National Grid and American Electric Power. The company is now bringing an advanced software platform to devices at the edge of the system. This platform uses data and machine learning to enhance grid resiliency, integrate distributed energy resources such as solar, storage, and electric vehicles, and speed up the transition to a decarbonized grid.

“Utilidata’s innovative approach to grid intelligence has the potential to radically transform the electric distribution system by giving the world’s innovators the tools needed to develop and implement cutting edge software for the grid,” said James McIntyre, senior managing director of Moore Strategic Ventures.

Feb. 9, 2022

COVID-19 vaccines, prescriptions fuel strong quarter at CVS

COVID-19 vaccines and the return of customers to stores to pick up prescriptions helped push CVS Health well past fourth-quarter earnings expectations.

But the drugstore chain and pharmacy benefit manager did not raise the 2022 forecast it laid out in December, and shares slid in early-morning trading Wednesday.

Profit at the Woonsocket, Rhode Island, company jumped 33 percent to nearly $1.3 billion in the final quarter of 2021.

CVS Health said its biggest revenue generator, the pharmacy benefit management business, processed more pharmacy claims due partly to COVID-19 vaccinations and an increase in new prescriptions compared to the final quarter of 2020.

The pharmacy benefit management business runs prescription drug plans for large employers and other big clients. CVS Health also saw the number of prescriptions filled in another key part of is business — drugstores — jump more than 11 percent in the final quarter of 2021.

The company also administered more than 20 million COVID-19 vaccines and more than 8 million tests for the virus in the quarter.

CVS Health operates one of the nation’s largest drugstore chains with nearly 10,000 retail locations. It also sells health insurance through its Aetna operation that provides coverage for more than 23 million people, and that segment saw revenue jump 8 percent as it added more customers with government-funded Medicare Advantage or Medicaid coverage. It also spent less on COVID-19 testing and treatment.

The company also booked a charge of about $1.4 billion in the quarter tied to a plan announced in November to close several hundred stores over the next few years. The company said it was adjusting for population shifts and customer needs.

Overall, CVS Health Corp. posted adjusted earnings of $1.98 per share in the final quarter of 2021, as total revenue grew 10 percent to $76.6 billion. — Associated Press

Feb. 8, 2022

What Cheer Flower Farm wins Nonprofit Innovation Lab competition, earning $50k in seed funding

What Cheer Flower Farm clinched the Nonprofit Innovation Lab Monday night, securing $50,000 in seed funding. What Cheer brings comfort to those in difficult situations by donating all of the flowers it grows, and recently expanded its mission to serve children. The idea, according to its founders, was to reach kids in stressful circumstances and alleviate their anxiety through creating, using fresh flowers and educational programs.

The Nonprofit Innovation Lab is a joint program through the United Way of Rhode Island and the Social Enterprise Greenhouse, and was designed to help organizations to accelerate their ability to implement ideas that create social impact. — Alexa Gagosz

Feb. 4, 2022

Hasbro taps new leadership for Wizards of the Coast

Hasbro toys appointed Cynthia W. Williams as the president of its Wizards of the Coast and digital gaming division and Tim Fields as the senior vice president and general manager of digital gaming this week. Both will begin their new roles Feb. 21.

Williams joins Hasbro from Microsoft, where she recently served as general manager and vice president of the gaming ecosystem commercial team. There, she was responsible for the expansion of Xbox Gaming. Prior to joining Microsoft, she worked at Amazon for more than a decade.

The news comes after Chris Cocks, who formerly led the digital gaming division and Wizards of the Coast, was appointed Hasbro’s chief executive officer.

“Joining the team whose passion and imagination created such iconic games as Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons is a dream come true,” said Williams. — Alexa Gagosz

Feb. 3, 2022

The owners of Providence’s ‘Superman’ building could be close to making a deal with state officials

It’s been nine years since Bank of America moved out of the 26-story skyscraper known as the “Superman” building, leaving the state’s tallest building vacant. But sources confirmed to the Globe Thursday that the state and the building’s owner, High Rock Development, could be “weeks away” from a deal. — Alexa Gagosz

In a new report, the Climate Jobs Rhode Island coalition and Cornell University researchers say Rhode Island is now facing three crises involving the climate, the pandemic, and inequality.

And the state could address all three crises at once by transitioning to a clean energy economy, according to the report, which calls for creating 1,300 megawatts of offshore wind energy, “decarbonizing” all K-12 schools by 2030, building 35,000 affordable “net zero” housing units by 2035, and modernizing the state’s electrical grid, among other things. — Edward Fitzpatrick

Fueled by high demand and intensified by out-of-state buyers, Rhode Island’s housing market continued to break records in 2021. Realtors transacted nearly $7.9 billion in residential sales, according to the Rhode Island Association of Realtors. This is compared to 2020′s sales, which increased 22 percent from $6.5 billion.

Sales of single-family homes fell slightly, by 1.3 percent compared to 2020 as the median sales price of those homes rose by 14.3 percent, but sales of condominiums and multifamily homes made up the difference. — Alexa Gagosz

Feb. 2, 2022

After a four-month public debate over a proposed development project at the foot of the Providence River pedestrian bridge began, Boston-based firm Urbanica was given the green light to begin their project.

Urbanica originally proposed a plan that would include a 136,000-square foot building with 194 apartments and 90 parking spaces on a 1.1 acre-site that used to be the Route 195 highway land on the east bank of the river. — Alexa Gagosz

Rhode Island Suburban Newspapers, which is the same group that publishes local newspapers like the Pawtucket Times, The Westerly Sun, The Call of Woonsocket, and The Kent County Daily Times, just added another publication to its roster.

The Block Island Times, previously owned by CCC Media, was purchased with its related publications on Monday. The terms of the sale were not disclosed.

The Times was founded in 1970 by publisher Dan Rattiner and editor Margaret Cabell Self. It had been bought by CCC Media, which is based in Connecticut, in 2016. The Block Island Times publishes four summer editions in addition to its magazines, such as Block Island Weddings and the Block Island Dining Guide. — Alexa Gagosz

Allegiant Air to fly between Warwick, R.I., and Nashville

Allegiant Air will start flying nonstop from Warwick to Nashville in the spring. The route begins April 21, with an introductory fare as low as $49 on a 186-seat Airbus 320. The route brings Rhode Island T.F. Green International Airport’s nonstop count to 26. The flight will operate twice a week, on Thursdays and Sundays. — Brian Amaral

La Salle Academy appoints new leader

After more than 20 years at La Salle Academy, a co-educational, Catholic college preparatory school in Providence, principal Donald Kavanagh will be stepping down. Timothy Welsh will assume the role as principal on July 1, according to school Brother Dennis Malloy.

Welsh, who is alumnus from the class of 1993 and the former vice president of advancement and development for the academy, was selected after a six-month search process. But for the last nine years, he served as the headmaster of The Cambridge Matignon School, a co-education Catholic school, serving students of the Greater Boston area. — Alexa Gagosz

State opens application pool for $12m in funding for developers to build affordable housing

Governor Dan McKee and state leaders Wednesday announced the availability of grant funding to support affordable housing projects. The funds, which came from the federal American Rescue Plan, was put into the governor’s Rhode Island Rebounds down payment proposal, which uses 10 percent of the state’s $1.13 billion allocation.

About $12 million in funding is available through a competitive funding round. McKee said nonprofits, for-profit developers, municipalities, and public housing authorities can apply. Applicants will have to demonstrate that they are ready to begin redevelopment.

A maximum of $1 million will be awarded to selected projects and at least a 30-year deed restriction enforcing affordability and income requirements will be recorded on all properties, according to the governor’s office. — Alexa Gagosz

Feb. 1, 2022

Downtown Providence office vacancy at its highest

The vacancy rate for commercial space in downtown Providence has reached 15.85 percent in the last quarter, making it the highest vacancy rate for the area since the fourth quarter of 2015, when it reached 16.9 percent, according to market figures by CBRE Inc.

To compare, the area’s office space had a 12.2 percent vacancy rate at the end of 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. — Alexa Gagosz

Digital health startup that helps those struggling with mental health, substance use expanding to R.I.

Boston-based Marigold Health, an anonymous social network where people with mental health and substance-use conditions can help support each other, is expanding to Rhode Island.

The company announced Tuesday that it received $6 million in seed funding led by KdT Ventures and Felicis Ventures. It’s all-virtual program specializes in using peers, trained individuals in recovery from substance abuse or a mental health condition, to help support others on a similar path.

In Rhode Island, Marigold will be offered to patients at Wood River Health Services starting in March. Alison Croke, Wood River’s CEO, said she believes the most effective primary care is integrated with behavioral health.

Matt Walsh, a Marigold spokesman, said more than 75 percent of its current members are on public health insurance. — Alexa Gagosz

McKee to expand use of National Guard to support hospitals with staffing

Governor Dan McKee announced Tuesday that he plans on expanding the use of the Rhode Island National Guard to support nine hospitals amid the staffing crisis.

Approximately 30 members of the Guard will be sent to state-run Eleanor Slater, Our Lady of Fatima, Kent, Landmark Medical Center, Newport, Roger Williams Medical Center, Rhode Island, South County, and Women and Infants Hospitals.

Alexa Gagosz can be reached at alexa.gagosz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.