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Rhode Island business news: June 2022

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

July 8, 2022

Reed announces another $12m to support affordable housing development

US Senator Jack Reed announced Friday a new $12 million federal grant for Rhode Island Housing to finance the development, construction, and preservation of affordable housing. These funds will help attract additional private and public investment to develop and finance affordable housing projects, according to Reed’s office.

Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, helped create the Capital Magnet Fund in 2008, which was designed to support community development financial institutions and non-profit housing developers that increase investment in affordable housing and economic development activities or community service facilities, like daycare centers or other workforce development centers.

This new grant through the Capital Magnet Fund from the Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund build on the $16.6 million that Rhode Island Housing received in years prior through the Fund.

“Rhode Islanders need homes they can afford, and every dollar of financing received goes a long way to ensuring families have a roof over their heads, individuals working in the construction and allied fields remain employed, neighborhoods are revitalized, and our state is made stronger,” said Carol Ventura, executive director of RIHousing. “We are very grateful to Senator Reed for his leadership and commitment to providing solutions to the challenges we are facing.”

Rhode Island Housing was one of 59 organizations across the country to be selected by the Treasury. A total of $336.4 million through the program was administered.

“We must continue working together to expand affordable and sustainable housing opportunities,” said Reed in a statement. “In this challenging housing market, it is essential that we build more affordable housing and this federal funding will help attract essential housing investments.”

The Capital Magnet Fund requires recipients, such as Rhode Island Housing, to leverage at least $10 of housing and economic development investments for every $1 of federal funds.

July 7, 2022

McKee signs offshore wind-power procurement bill

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Gov. Dan McKee on Wednesday signed legislation into law that requires the state’s dominant electric utility to get 600 to 1,000 megawatts of offshore wind power for the state’s electric grid.Rhode Island Energy will have to issue the procurement by Oct. 15 this year under the legislation, which was sponsored by state Sen. Dawn Euer, D-Newport and Rep. Arthur Handy, D-Cranston.

”Adding offshore wind clean energy capacity is essential for meeting our new 100 percent renewable energy by 2033 goal and our Act on Climate emissions reductions target,” McKee said in a news release touting the new law, which he signed at Quonset Point.

The electricity from this procurement could power about 340,000 homes a year, McKee’s office said. It would meet about 30 percent of the state’s 2030 energy demand.

There are several offshore wind power projects in the development pipeline off Rhode Island, which was the home to the nation’s first demonstration project, the Block Island wind farm.

The legislation would allow the Public Utilities Commission to decide whether Rhode Island Energy will receive a payment of up to 1 percent of the contract amount under the deal. — BRIAN AMARAL

June 28, 2022

92 percent of Bally’s Twin River Casino workers vote to strike

SMITHFIELD, R.I. — More than 92 percent of workers at Bally’s Twin River Casino voted in favor of authorizing a strike late Tuesday6/28 night. If the union and the casino do not reach an agreement when they meet Wednesday, 6/29 the workers could go on strike as soon as their contract expires on Friday, the union said in a press release.7/1

The workers, who began bargaining with the casino on June 24, are demanding that the company increase staffing, offer more full-time schedules, and increase wages to match the rising costs of living.

New leadership at Leadership R.I. after executive director takes position at Gallup in Washington DC

Mike Ritz, the executive director of Leadership Rhode Island (or LRI), has accepted a new position at Gallup, a global analytics firm in Washington, DC. There, he will lead the company’s strategic effort as the executive director of a new government leadership institute.

Michelle Carr, LRI’s deputy director, will take over as Ritz’s place.

“I can confidently depart knowing Michelle Carr, our Deputy Director, is more than ready to take over. We have worked in tandem for almost eight years, growing and evolving LRI. She is the perfect person to lift this organization to new heights,” said Ritz.

East Providence workforce training program receives $350k federal investment

Congressman David N. Cicilline announced a $350,000 federal investment that will support a new workforce and professional development program for approximately 530 low-to-moderate income East Providence adults.

Program participants will enroll in certification coursework through Roger Williams University, which will be geared towards improving employment opportunities by “cultivating industry-specific, computer, and leadership skills.”

Cicilline’s office said he secured this funding in the omnibus spending bill for Fiscal Year 2022. The program is one of 10 community project funding requests that he made to the Appropriations Committee. All ten of the Congressman’s recommended projects were funded.

June 27, 2022

Liz Tanner selected to take over Rhode Island Commerce Corp.

Governor Dan McKee Monday selected Elizabeth Tanner as Rhode Island’s next Secretary of Commerce.

Tanner previously served as the director of the department of business regulation since 2017. In that role, she led the state’s third-largest agency revenue source in regulating financial services, the Fire Marshal’s Office and State Building Office, commercial licensing, gaming, cannabis and liquor while balancing a $25 million budget and more than 160 employees.

Before joining the department, she was the executive vice president of client services at Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, where she provided small businesses with counseling, resources and incentive products to enhance a customer-centric government.

“Liz knows the ins-and-outs of small business and she has proven she will do what it takes to make Rhode Island a better place to live and work,” said McKee in a statement. “When faced with challenges, Liz has always come out on top. She advocates for policy that is efficient and outside-the-box and I know she will get the job done to continue Rhode Island’s growing momentum.”

Tanner graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a Bachelor’s in political science. She earned her Juris Doctor from Western New England University School of Law, and an Executive Education Certificate in Strategic Management of Regulatory and Enforcement Agencies from Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

“It is an honor to step into a role that allows me to continue my passion in promoting the state’s economic and workforce development,” said Tanner. “[McKee and I] share the same commitment to helping small businesses grow in the Ocean State, especially as we continue our economic recovery, and I look forward to putting my skills to work as commerce secretary.”

Beth Dwyer will serve as Interim director of business regulation during the search for a permanent director.

June 22, 2022

Treasurer Magaziner secures reform at Pinterest, Inc. following allegations of gender, racial discrimination

Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner Wednesday announced the resolution of a lawsuit against Pinterest, Inc., which was brought by Magaziner on behalf of the Employees’ Retirement Service of Rhode Island and other company shareholders, according to his office. Magaziner alleged that officers and directors breached fiduciary duties “by permitting executives to foster a culture of gender and race discrimination.”

The settlement required Pinterest to pledge $50 million to enforce and fund a set of workplace and board-level reforms that are designed to protect employees from discriminatory treatment. The company will also have to “promote” diversity, equity, and inclusion. These reforms will substantially increase the value of the company for its investors and help ensure future growth, the treasurer said, in addition to improving the workplace for employees.

Magaziner said this settlement is the first of its kind to embrace diversity goals around a company’s product.

“We pushed for these sweeping reforms to support Pinterest’s employees with a fair and safe workplace, and to strengthen the company’s brand and performance by ensuring that the values of inclusiveness are made central to Pinterest’s identity,” said Magaziner in a statement. “This holistic approach will fundamentally support and positively impact Pinterest’s workplace culture in the years to come.”

Women & Infants Hospital raises $385k for labor and delivery room

A gala for Women & Infants Hospital raised more than $385,000 by more than 250 people earlier this month. The proceeds of the event will support the hospital’s campaign to “Deliver Our Future” and the hospital’s new labor and delivery center.

Women and Infants Hospital, which delivers approximately 80 percent of the babies born in Rhode Island, told the Globe in early March that it was looking to rebuild its labor and delivery unit. But Care New England, the state’s second largest health system that also owns the hospital, has had to find ways to fund it.

All together, the improvements are going to cost about $28 million, which will be a fully philanthropic effort — meaning Care New England won’t be putting up any capital.

The hospital’s current labor room was built in 1986. “It only has three labor rooms with windows, most with shared bathrooms and the rooms are smaller than current code standards,” hospital CEO and president Shannon Sullivan said previously.

June 21, 2022

URI, HopeHealth partner on new nursing fellowship

The University of Rhode Island and HopeHealth have partnered to support aspiring nurses in palliative care. The two organizations were selected to pilot the Susan D. Flynn Palliative Care Nursing Fellowship, which launched its inaugural summer session earlier this month.

Palliative care has grown rapidly in the US, from a presence in only 7 percent of hospitals in 2001 to more than 72 percent of hospitals today.

The 2022 Flynn Palliative Care Nursing Fellowship has been awarded to two rising seniors in the nursing program at the university. Over the course of six weeks, they will spend time alongside HopeHealth’s veteran nurses on clinical rotations in a number of settings, which include the inpatient HopeHealth Hulitar Hospice Center in Providence and home care with a HopeHealth visiting nurse.

The Susan D. Flynn Oncology Nursing Development Program was founded by Fred Flynn, inspired by the end-of-life care that his late wife, Susan, received after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The program’s oncology fellowship, which was formed in 2014, has produced more than 230 oncology nursing fellows from more than 10 hospitals. This new palliative nursing fellowship is the program’s latest expansion.

It’s the program’s first partnership with either HopeHealth and URI.

June 20, 2022

Seven Stars Bakery agrees to recognize union for full, part-time employees

Seven Stars Bakery has agreed to recognize a union representing employees at all five of its locations. UFCW Local 328 will represent full- and part-time employees at all of the cafés locations; three in Providence, one in East Providence, and one in Cranston.

UFCW announced earlier this month that employees at the bakery’s Providence locations had filed a request for voluntary recognition. On June 17, workers in East Providence joined them.

The union sent a letter to the owners, Tracy and Bill Daugherty, saying that employees wanted to work with management to rebuild the cafés “high standards and rich culture while ensuring a more equitable and fair workplace for all.”

Seven Stars employees earning recognition comes just as many Starbucks Coffee locations across the US are unionizing. In Rhode Island, Starbucks workers in Warwick ate waiting for the results on their union vote.

June 16, 2022

Hasbro signals future direction in letter to shareholders

In a letter to shareholders Thursday, June 16, Pawtucket R.I.-based Hasbro acknowledged, “we have important work ahead of us.”

The letter affirms Hasbro board support for Chris Cocks, who became CEO in February, and a long-term strategy of “focusing on fewer, bigger opportunities” in order to “drive meaningful change.”

The letter cites Cocks’ emphasis on centering the consumer, and “a spotlight on games, multi-generational play and entertainment, and creating direct relationships with our fans.” Cocks had served as president and head of Hasbro’s digital gaming division and Wizards of the Coast before becoming CEO.

Earlier this month, Hasbro emerged victorious in a proxy battle against one of its biggest shareholders, Alta Fox Capital Management.

“We will incorporate the feedback we have received over this past proxy season,” Thursday’s shareholders letter states.

Cocks and his team plan to outline a “path ahead” on October 4, Hasbro’s “investor day,” the letter states.

With reports from The Globe’s Jon Chesto and Alexa Gagosz.

June 13, 2022

R.I. Congressional delegation doubles down on mental health services, gun legislation at Providence Chamber meeting

The Rhode Island Congressional delegation, all Democrats, doubled down on the importance of training and attracting more mental health service workers across the US at the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce annual Congressional Breakfast Monday.

Senator Jack Reed said 988, a mental health crisis hotline, will go live in mid-July, which will be easy-to-use and remember, similarly to the 911 emergency number. As of now, that number is a regular, seven-digit number.

“You shouldn’t have to remember a seven-digit number,” said Reed to a crowd of nearly 500 people in the business community at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Warwick.

But even prior to that hotline launching this year, the delegation said one of the country’s biggest weaknesses is not having enough mental health workers.

“These people are being paid way below their value. And wages have been suppressed for decades,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.

Reed told Meghan Hughes, who is chair of the Chamber, but also president of the Community College of Rhode Island, that it is critical that community colleges, like the one she leads, starts training more mental health workers.

The COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated the mental health crisis in the US, which more people than ever are seeking help for due to isolation, inequities, and recent events such as school shootings, said Congressman David Cicilline.

He said one solution is to make sure all K-12 schools have guidance counselors and boost mental health services in community centers.

Cicilline, who has received multiple threatening, homophobic and racist voicemails after his comments during a gun debate went viral, said he wanted to make clear that gun violence was not only caused by those who suffer from mental health issues.

“The vast majority of people who suffer from mental health are peaceful... They are usually the victims [in mass shootings]. The problem is guns,” he said.

Cicilline said the US has a “gun violence epidemic,” that has to be addressed with legislation.

“This is peculiarly an American problem,” he said.

June 8, 2022

Hangar 420 is bringing Willie’s Reserve cannabis products for recreational use to R.I.

Hangar 420, a cannabis producer and distributor owned by Ocean State Controlled Botanicals (OSBC), announced Wednesday that it has entered into a commercial packaging, licensing and distribution agreement with Long Play Inc., a Colorado Corporation and licensors of renowned cannabis brand “Willie’s Reserve.”

The Willie’s Reserve branded products packaged and distributed by Hangar, which is based out of Warwick, will include what they described as “top-shelf” flower, pre-rolls, and vape cartridges.

Willie’s Reserve was founded by singer-songwriter and cannabis pioneer Willie Nelson in 2015, and since, the brand has become recognized for its collaboration with enthusiasts. Hangar 420s 18,000-square-foot facility announced it formal opening in June 2021.

AstroNova posts $31m revenue for Q1

WEST WARWICK, R.I. (AP) — AstroNova Inc. (ALOT) on Wednesday reported fiscal first-quarter net income of $425,000.

On a per-share basis, the West Warwick, Rhode Island-based company said it had net income of 6 cents.

The printer and electronic instrument maker posted revenue of $31 million in the period.

AstroNova shares have dropped nearly 4 percent since the beginning of the year. The stock has fallen 15 percent in the last 12 months.

June 6, 2022

R.I. Gas prices up 23 cents

Rhode Island’s average gas price is up 23 cents from last week ($4.71), averaging $4.94 per gallon. Today’s price is 66 cents higher than a month ago ($4.28), and $1.98 higher than June 6, 2021 ($2.96). Rhode Island’s average gas price is 8 cents higher than the national average.

The cost of a barrel of oil is nearing $120, nearly double from last August, as increased oil demand outpaces the tight global supply. Meanwhile, domestic gasoline demand rose last week in the wake of a robust Memorial Day weekend of travel. As a result, the national average for a gallon of gas surged 25 cents in one week to hit $4.86.

AAA Northeast’s June 6 survey of fuel prices found the current national average to be 25 cents higher than last week ($4.61), averaging $4.86 a gallon. Today’s national average price is 59 cents higher than a month ago ($4.27), and $1.81 higher than this day last year ($3.05).

Providence College has record number of students offered Fulbright Cultural Ambassadorships

Providence College announced Monday that five recent alumni have been offered Fulbright U.S. cultural ambassadorships for the 2022-2023 year, which is the highest number of Fulbright awards in the college’s history. Of those who graduated this spring, Evan Diliberto, a history major, will teach in the Slovak Republic and Grace Maffucci, a Spanish and music double major, will teach in Mexico. Of those who graduated in 2021, Elisabeth Sudbey, a multilingual teacher with AmeriCorps in Salem, Mass. who majored in global studies, will teach in South Korea and Sara Conway, a marketing assistant at Scholastic who majored in history, will teach in Taiwan.

Jesus Maldonado, who earned their political science bachelor’s in 2018 and a graduate degree in education in 2021, will teach in Columbia.

The Fulbright US Students program awards fellowships to graduating college seniors, graduate students, and young professionals and artists to study, conduct research, or teach abroad. During their time abroad, they will meet, work, live with and learn from the people of the host country, sharing daily experiences.

R.I. to receive $2m in federal AmeriCorps funding for child development, housing programs

Rhode Island’s congressional delegation on Monday announced that the state will receive more than $2 million in American Rescue Plan funding and State and National AmeriCorps grants to support child development and stable housing access.

The $2,068,124 in funding will support an estimated 85 AmeriCorps members, who will work in collaboration with NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley, the Providence After School Alliance (PASA), SAGA Innovations tutoring programs, and ServeRI. The funds will be used to increase the AmeriCorps minimum living allowance and to stabilize and expand AmeriCorps programs in the Ocean State.

“This federal funding will allow AmeriCorps volunteers to do good in the community and support young people who have been most impacted by the challenges of the pandemic. It’s a smart investment in helping young learners succeed and helping communities recover,” said Senator Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, who was the lead author of the America’s Call to Improve Opportunities Now (ACTION) for National Service Act.

In a statement, Reed said the AFTION bill would “enhance access to national and community service opportunities, lower student debt, create a more engaged citizenry, and address national priorities in education, infrastructure, health care, disaster relief, and poverty.”

Three grants totaling $1,285,044 will support organizations operating in the Providence area and in Woonsocket. SAGA Innovations, Inc. will receive $814,998, Woonsocket Neighborhood Development Corporation’s Accessing Home Program will receive $323,814, and Providence After School Alliance is expecting about $146,232.

June 1, 2022

Brown University receives $25m gift for need-blind international admission

In its largest gift for international financial aid in university history, alumni Aysha and Omar Shoman donated $25 million to Brown to help the school expand its ability to educate students from all socioeconomic groups across the globe.

The boost is dedicated to international students and will also advance Brown toward becoming the sixth school in the US to implement need-blind undergraduate admissions for international students.

“I am routinely inspired by the drive, intellectual curiosity and accomplishments of our international students, and the world and our nation desperately need the contributions they can make,” university president Christina H. Paxson said in a statement. “We want to be able to admit exceptional international students to Brown, regardless of their financial resources, and the generosity of Aysha and Omar Shoman will enable us to do that for many students for generations to come.”

The university said it would work aggressively to grow its financial aid budget with the goal of becoming “fully need-blind for international students for the graduating Class of 2029.”

May 31, 2022

Former URI provost establishes endowed fund for honors program

The University of Rhode Island announced Tuesday that Donald H. DeHayes, recently retired provost and vice president for academic affairs, made a gift to create an endowed fund that will expand the university’s Honors Program.

The Donald H. DeHayes Provost Honors Excellence Endowment will award a $1,000 prize annually for an honors program student who has completed the program with the highest level of achievement, according to a news release.

Lynne Derbyshire, director of the Honors Program, said students will be selected after the university receives academic achievement, “creativity and impact of honors projects, and the student potential for future contributions to society.”

May 26, 2022

Gary E. Furtado, the CEO and president of Navigant Credit Union, the state’s largest credit union, is stepping down and retiring after more than four decades with the company.

The credit union, which is based out of Smithfield, Rhode Island, has already begun a national search for Furtado’s replacement.

More Rhode Island business news.

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