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Rhode Island business news: April 2022

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

April 27, 2022

Four sites to participate in statewide $40m Rhode Island Ready program

Four Rhode Island industrial sites were approved for enrollment in the Rhode Island Ready program by the Quonset Development Corporation’s board of directors. The program is a statewide industrial site readiness initiative that’s backed by $40 million, which was approved by voters.

Rhode Island Ready provides pre-permitted, pre-engineered sites to new or expanding businesses at Quonset Business Park in North Kingstown, which are “shovel ready” within 90 days of signing a lease.

The sites are located in Johnston, Cranston, West Warwick, and at Quonset. The Rhode Island Ready program, based on Quonset’s successful “Site Readiness” program, will create an inventory of pre-permitted properties ready for industrial development and job creation throughout the state. These four enrolled sites will have access to technical assistance with engineering, permitting, and other pre-development approvals.

“It is exciting to see approval for the first four sites in this program,” said Governor Dan McKee. “The RI Ready initiative is building momentum, and in the very near future, we will see new or expanded businesses at those sites.”

Rhode Island Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor, who chairs the QDC board, said this is the “first step in preparing up to 45 acres of industrial land for private development.”

Over the last 10 years, the program has led to the creation of more than 3,500 jobs and $664 million in private investment across 14 developed sites and 36 companies.

Crossroads R.I. taps Textron executive as new board chair

Julie Duffy, an executive at Providence-based Textron Inc., was appointed chair of the Crossroads Rhode Island’s board of trustees Tuesday night during the organization’s annual meeting.

Duffy is an executive vice president at the $11.7 billion industrial conglomerate, leading the company’s global human resources function and oversees the company’s communications. Before stepping into her current role in 2017, she led the company’s in-house litigation team. She was also a commissioner for the Rhode Island Judicial Nominating Commission from 2015 through 2021.

She first joined Crossroads’ board in 2015. Duffy succeeds U.S. District Chief Judge Jack McConnell, who led the board for more than a decade. He told the Globe this week that he plans on staying on as a member.

“Crossroads is unique in many ways, executing its mission and measuring impact by outcomes rather than output,” said Duffy in a statement Wednesday. “Crossroads’ board and leadership team will remain focused on creating better outcomes for every individual and every family we serve.”

Duffy received her her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and went to law school at Boston University.

April 20, 2022

Sen. Whitehouse secures $450k to launch new electronic records to improve patient care

U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, announced Thursday that he secured approximately $450,000 to help the Rhode Island Quality Institute launch a new program aimed at improving patient care. The program will expand the availability of data from electronic health records in more health care settings.

The. Congressionally Directed Spending request was included in the bill that President Biden signed into law last month.

“Everyone wins when electronic health records are easily accessible to different providers. Patients get better, more efficient care and there is less waste in the system,” said Whitehouse, who founded the Rhode Island Quality Institute while he was serving as the state’s attorney general. “The Rhode Island Quality Institute has made a real difference in health care over the past two decades, and I’m pleased to deliver federal funds so that its services can reach more patients.”

The Rhode Island Quality Institute operates CurrentCare, the state’s health information exchange. The exchange is designed to support access to medical data for better care coordination, reduce medical errors and waste, advance quality measurement, and engage patients and families in care decisions.

April 19, 2022

North Restaurant, Big King are both closing

Two of Providence’s most beloved restaurants are closing.

Owner and chef James Mark wrote a long post on Instagram to announce the news that he would be closing both north and Big King restaurants this summer.

“I missed my daughter’s fifth birthday two weeks ago,” wrote Mark. “It’s just another day but one I’ll never get back.”

“I just need some time. A break. But a big one,” Mark writes. “I’ll be closing both of my restaurants this summer. End of June or early July, there’s some negotiations still in the works that will [impact] that. I won’t be cooking anywhere else for a bit. I’ll be leaning into some work in sake but that’s a post for another time.”

Mark said he started north with just $35,000 about 10 years ago. North is located on Fountain Street and Big King is on Luongo Square.

“We hustled, and we cared, we were crafty, we made our own luck, and we made it,” he said.

April 18, 2022

Textron purchases European electric-powered aircraft manufacturer

Textron, a Providence-based manufacturing conglomerate, announced Monday that it has closed on its acquisition of Pipistrel, a European electric-powered aircraft manufacturer, for $235 million.

Pipistrel, which is based in Slovenia and Italy, offers a family of gliders and light aircraft with both electric and combustion engines. The company has delivered more than 2,500 light aircraft worldwide since its founding in 1989.

“Pipistrel has already achieved what many other companies only aspire to – certifying and delivering highly regarded electric aircraft to customers around the world,” said Textron chairman and CEO Scott Donnelly. “We are excited to accelerate Pipistrel’s development and to welcome its talented people into our organization, where we will pool expertise to make Textron a world leader in sustainable aircraft for a wide range of missions.”

Pipistrel will remain a distinct aviation brand within Textron. Ivo Boscarol, Pipistrel’s founder and CEO, will remain a minority shareholder with an approximately 10 percent interest for a two-year period.

“With Pipistrel, we have the opportunity to take an already great aircraft manufacturer and make it greater still,” said Textron eAviation CEO Rob Scholl. “We look forward to working with its remarkable team and helping the business achieve its full potential.”

April 15, 2022

Nabsys raises $25m for genome mapping

Providence-based Nabsys, an industry-leader in electronic whole-genome mapping, announced it had closed on $25 million in funding with its partner, Hitachi High-Tech Corporation. The funding will be used to complete development and commercialization of the second-generation of its High-Definition Mapping platform. The company said it would also increase its headcount in R&D, manufacturing, and global commercial operations.

“Our first-generation HDM instruments have been in customers’ hands for over a year now and have been very well-received,” said Dr. Barrett Bready, the company’s founder and CEO. “We are excited to capitalize on the highly scalable nature of our high-speed, single-molecule, electronic detection to increase throughput and expand the application space.”

BlockFi, a cryptocurrency lender, to pay nearly $1m to RI in settlement

New Jersey-based BlockFi Lending LLC was ordered to pay nearly $1 million to Rhode Island for promising high-return investments on unregistered cryptocurrency loans. The payment was part of a $100 million settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the North American Securities Administrators Association after the SEC brought charges against the financial services company in February. The SEC said in its filings that BlockFi had violated state and federal investment laws when it sold cryptocurrency-backed loans to more than 400,000 retail investors nationwide, including more than 1,500 Rhode Island residents.

“This is the first case of its kind with respect to crypto lending platforms,” SEC Chair Gary Gensler said. “[This settlement] further demonstrates the Commission’s willingness to work with crypto platforms to determine how they can come into compliance with those laws.”

April 14, 2022

R.I. jobs report shows unemployment rate has fallen below national average

Rhode Island’s unemployment rate was 3.4 percent in March, which was below the national average of 3.6 percent, according to data released in the monthly jobs report by the state’s Department of Labor and Training on Thursday.

“Today’s jobs report is good news and continues to show that Rhode Island has momentum coming out of the pandemic,” said Governor Dan McKee. “For the first time in over a year, the state’s unemployment rate is below the national average, but more importantly, it is now below pre-pandemic levels.

The number of unemployed Rhode Island residents who were available for and actively seeking employment was 19,600, down 2,700 from February. The number of unemployed Rhode Islanders decreased by 14,400 over the last year. Since April 2020, the height of pandemic-related shutdowns, the number of unemployed residents is down 80,700. The economy has recovered about 85 percent of the jobs lost during the pandemic, according to the state.

“Since day one of my Administration, we have been laser-focused on getting shots in arms, keeping kids in school and supporting small businesses so they could weather the pandemic,” said McKee. “That strategy is paying off, but we can’t take our foot off the gas. That’s why I’ve proposed a budget that bolsters our economic recovery, makes it easier to do business in Rhode Island and also invests in our state’s future.”

April 11, 2022

R.I. attorney general announces $17m in settlements with major oil, gas companies

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Neronha’s office announced that he resolved a lawsuit against three of the largest refiners of gasoline where the companies will be forced to pay $15 million. The state filed a lawsuit in September 2016 alleging that Shell, Sunoco, and CITGO caused pollution in the state’s soil and groundwater with the gasoline additive methyl tertiary-butyl ether (also known as MTBE).

The funds generated from the settlement will be dedicated to emergency response and ongoing MTBE contamination remediation efforts by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.

Remaining gas refinery defendants in the lawsuit include British Petroleum (BP), Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Valero, and Irving. Litigation against these companies remains ongoing.

In addition to the settlement with Shell, Sunoco, and CITGO, Neronha also announced separate settlements with four other entities for a combined amount of $2,130,000. Those companies include Hess, Total Petrochemicals & Refining USA, Marathon, and Conoco.

“MBTE contamination of public water supplies poses a significant public health and safety risk, one which oil and gas companies knew about well before the public did,” said Neronha. “The work to remediate contaminated water supplies continues, and the funds recovered to date, including today, will be exclusively dedicated to doing that work. In the meantime, this office remains strongly committed to ensuring that the remaining oil and gas defendants are held responsible for the damage they have caused to the people of Rhode Island and the environment.”

April 8, 2022

Providence College raises record $2.85m on ‘Friars Give’ day

Providence College raised a record $2.859 million for fundraising initiative “Friars Give” day from approximately 2,954 donors, which was $700,000 more than what the Dominican Friar college raised last year. An anonymous donor gave a $1 matching gift to the college this year after the first million was raised.

College officials said the funds raised from Friars Give will be largely used for scholarships.

April 7, 2022

Finalists named to develop new state labs in Innovation District

The Rhode Island Department of Health could soon have a new research laboratory located at Parcel 25 of the I-195 Redevelopment District. The state Commerce department issued a request for proposals Nov. 1, 2021, looking for organizations to develop and build the lab for the department. On Thursday, the state released the names of the four finalists, which include Wexford Science & Technology; Related Beal LLC, Boston Andes Capital LLC; Ancora, GRE; and Pebb Capital.

The four finalists will have to provide additional information to the state by May 5 before a developer is named sometime this summer.

April 4, 2022

Rhode Island Suburban Newspapers purchases two Conn.-based publications

The Chronicle in Willimantic and The New Britain Herald/Bristol Press are now owned by Rhode Island Suburban Newspapers. The small newspaper chain, which recently acquired the Block Island Times, purchased the two publications from Central Connecticut Communications Monday for an undisclosed amount.

Rhode Island Suburban Newspapers was founded in 2007 and operates The Westerly Sun, The Call of Woonsocket, The Kent County Daily Times, Independent and Southern Rhode Island Newspapers, and The Times of Pawtucket.

R.I. receives $15m to make homes more energy efficient

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Low-income and older Rhode Island residents are getting nearly $15 million in federal funding to help them save money by making their homes more energy efficient.

The Rhode Island Department of Human Services will use the funding to partner with community action agencies throughout the state to provide weatherization services to eligible households, according to a statement this week from U.S. Sen. Jack Reed.

Weatherization assistance includes air sealing, attic and wall insulation, heating system upgrades, energy audits, and window and roof repair and replacement.

The program also helps with installing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

“Keeping your house warm in the winter isn’t easy or cheap in Rhode Island — especially with rising fuel prices,” Reed said in a statement. “That’s why these federal funds are so important.”

The program also creates jobs for energy experts and contractors, he said.

Every dollar invested by the Weatherization Assistance Program generates $4.50 in combined energy savings and non-energy benefits such as job creation, according to the U.S Department of Energy.

401Gives Day raises nearly $3.12 million

Rhode Islanders raised more than $3.1 million for 507 different organizations for the 401Gives Day, an annual push to donate to various nonprofits on April 1. The fundraising kicked off at 6 a.m. on April 1, and 401Gives saw sizable growth in every category in its third year. Since its debut, 401Gives, which is powered by the United Way of Rhode Island, has now raised more than $6.6 million for Rhode Island nonprofits.

This year’s top fundraiser was Foster Forward, garnering more than $209,500. Lisa Guillette, the executive director of Foster Forward, said she’s planning to use the funds to purchase another multi-unit home for young people aging out of foster care.

More Rhode Island business news.

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