Cleaning Our Act
The Narragansett Bay and its tributaries are centerpieces for Rhode Island tourism and development, and preserving them is important to public health, environmental protection and economic development.
That’s where Clean Bays comes in.
Clean Bays helps preserve the integrity of our waterways by removing trash and other debris, making our shorelines and waterways more attractive, healthy, and clean. Thanks to a NOAA grant of $194,800 this year, Clean Bays has embarked on a new chapter in its cleanup and I anxiously look forward to its completion.
These clean-up efforts are not without challenges – debris can consist of old boats or docks, half-buried and forgotten, heavy with age and silt. The debris can also be outright dangerous to the Bay’s ecosystem, such as commercial or industrial equipment leeching toxins into our waters. This difficult work makes the Narragansett Bay a safer and more beautiful place, particularly for those novice mariners – of all ages – who are just learning to sail. In turn, Clean Bays’ work helps the Ocean State live up to its reputation as a maritime haven for Rhode Islanders and others who come to enjoy our waters and beaches every year.
Spending quality time with the people we love is the best part of the holiday season, but I also love the opportunity to spoil the special people in my life. I enjoy the search for a meaningful gift, and relish the moment when it brings a smile to their faces.
Shopping locally and supporting small businesses makes a gift that much more meaningful.
Since 2010, the Small Business Saturday campaign has served as an important reminder that when you spend money at small, locally-owned businesses, those dollars are more likely to stay in the community. And in Rhode Island, where small businesses account for 96 percent of our state’s employers, the impact is significant. Small businesses are the main economic engine for economic growth and job creation, and when we shop small, we are investing in our state. This is a commitment we should make, not only all season long, but every day of the year.
The Small Business Administration has done a fantastic job promoting Small Business Saturday, and I was glad I could join them again this year to kick off the campaign locally. After a brief press conference in front of the new Post Office Café, the federal delegation, Lt. Governor Dan McKee and SBA officials embarked on a tour of small businesses on Main Street in East Greenwich. We stopped in to see the owners at Bone Appetit, The Green Door, Sports and More, Colonial Shoe Repair, Hair Plus and the Greenwich Odeum, and they all had great things to say about Small Business Saturday and its mission of encouraging consumers to shop and dine small. Going door to door, you could really see how these businesses add to the vitality of our streets, helping to promote a livable, walkable and sustainable community.
And best of all, I got a jumpstart on my Christmas shopping!
Governor Raimondo made job creation a hallmark of her campaign, and she is following through on those promises each day. Rhode Island is a more business-friendly place thanks to the Governor, and workforce development is a crucial component to these ongoing efforts. As co-chair of the Congressional Career and Technical Education Caucus, I know that a strong economy and a vibrant business climate are not possible without a skilled workforce ready to take on the jobs of today and tomorrow.
The Real Jobs RI grant program helps build this skilled workforce, and I was glad to show my support at the announcement of the most recent round of grant award winners.
The grants awarded through the program are being used in 10 sectors of the Rhode Island economy, helping hundreds of potential workers to learn the skills they need to succeed in their chosen career. From cybersecurity to manufacturing, health care to construction, all the major segments of our state’s economy will benefit from these grants. The success of this – or any – skills training program relies on the ability of the program to meet the needs of industry. Employers and educators need to be working as partners to ensure that the skills taught will lead to employment opportunities. Real Jobs RI has made this a priority, and I’m very excited to see how this is implemented.
Congratulations to the 26 businesses awarded Real Jobs RI implementation grants! I know you will put these funds to good use, and I hope your success becomes a model for other businesses and future training programs.
The 26 winners are: The Education Exchange, Inc.; Claflin Medical Equipment; MedMates; The Providence Plan; RI Builders Association; United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters, Local 51; West Elmwood Housing Development Corp.; Electric Boat; SENEDIA; DESIGNxRI; Independent Insurance Agents of RI; RI Bankers Association; UNAP RI Hospital Education Fund/Stepping Up; Saint Antoine Residence; Rhode Island College; RI Hospitality Association; Tech Collective; LaunchCode; Toray Plastics; H. Brickle & Son Inc.; Polaris MEP; RI Marine Trades Association; Man Up Inc.; Connecting for Children and Families; OIC of Rhode Island, Inc.; and Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce.
‘Choose’ to be Great
I’m proud of the great work being done in all of our schools in Rhode Island, and when it comes to East Greenwich High School, that work is not just in the classroom. Principal Michael Podraza and Vice Principal Tim Chace have dedicated a lot of time and energy into the culture of the school, and Choose2Matter is a perfect example of their work – and their success.
Started by a young teacher, the Choose2Matter movement is about showing young people that they matter; that each voice is important and has the power to be heard and to make change. The campaign empowers these young people to use their voices, individually and collectively, to solve problems and spark social change locally, nationally and even globally. The immediate challenge calls upon Choose2Matter participants to change the cultures of their schools so that students feel connected and engaged, and can recognize their own importance. For Michael and Tim, that message fits perfectly with a school culture of positivity and acceptance they have worked hard to foster.
During my visit to the Choose2Matter session, students were busy doing “heartbreak mapping,” a process through which they can identify causes they care about and then implement strategies to address them. To see young people so engaged in this kind of work is really uplifting. The challenges and opportunities we face today will be inherited by students in the future, and their involvement in solving problems now will better position us to achieve meaningful, sustainable solutions.
East Greenwich High School is doing some exciting things academically, but I’m just as excited to see this kind of work being done outside the classroom. The faculty and support staff at EGHS are focused on educating the student as a whole, and the insight and personal growth they achieve through Choose2Matter will benefit them in and out of school, and for many years to come.
Soaring to New Heights
For more than a decade, the Rhode Island Aviation Hall of Fame has inducted men and women who have worked tirelessly to advance our understanding of and prowess in our world’s airspace. When I think of those qualities, my friend, Arizona Congresswoman Martha McSally, immediately comes to mind. I was so excited that I had the chance to introduce her at the awards ceremony and to help induct such a worthy candidate into the Aviation Hall of Fame.
I have the distinct pleasure of working alongside Martha on the House Armed Services Committee, however, long before she came to Congress, I was privileged to know and work with her as one of my constituents. In fact, one of the first measures I passed in Congress grew out of our work together. When Martha served in Saudi Arabia, she had objected to a requirement that American servicewomen wear the abaya whenever they traveled off base. With her knowledge and advocacy, I was able to get a provision passed into law that says these female servicemembers no longer face such a requirement.
Right around that time, I also brought Martha as my guest to the State of the Union Address. I would like to believe the trip is what gave her the taste for serving in Congress, but knowing Martha, I am sure it was her deep drive to serve others.
A native of Warwick, Martha has truly redefined what it means to be a female aviator, and I believe it is her tenacity as a pilot that has led her to serve her constituents with such grace, perseverance, and enthusiasm. Her service to our country, both in uniform and in the House Chamber, is invaluable – few are more deserving of this award. Congratulations to Martha, and thank you to the Rhode Island Aviation Hall of Fame for your commitment to honoring the incredible men and women who serve.
Getting in the Spirit
There is nothing that gets you in the holiday spirit faster than doing something nice for others. When I stopped in to check on the progress of the CCAP Thanksgiving basket drive and the Operation Holiday Cheer campaign, I saw that a lot of Rhode Islanders were putting that holiday spirit into overdrive.
CCAP collects food every year for area families who need a little help for Thanksgiving. I’m proud that my office participates, and I loved the opportunity to drop off our donations at CCAP’s Cranston office. Mayor Allan Fung and Speaker Nick Mattiello were on hand, as well, and we got to speak with some of the children and families who benefit from the drive. They were smiling ear to ear, and so were all of the volunteers.
Over the border in Warwick, it was a similar scene at the National Guard Armory. Car after car were dropping off donations for the Operation Holiday Cheer campaign that sends care packages to troops serving overseas. These men and women, who protect our country, are away from home at a difficult time. They make this sacrifice without hesitation, even when it means they will be away from family, friends and traditions during the holidays. Sending our love and appreciation is the least we can do. Lt. Governor Dan McKee, and his team of volunteers, were inundated with donations, and had plans to return the following day to assemble all of the packages.
The holidays can be a difficult time for many families – for those who are without a loved one and for those who are struggling to make ends meet. It never ceases to amaze me, though, how generous Rhode Islanders can be. When push comes to shove, our state comes together and fills the need. It is inspiring to see, and it definitely put me in the right frame of mind as the holidays fast approach.
Happy holidays to you and yours!
A Ray of ‘Hope’
When Lisa Raiola was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer, she decided traditional treatment wasn’t enough. She changed her lifestyle, completely overhauling her diet, and regardless of what proved to be the winning combination, she beat the odds. Lisa was now healthy and invigorated, ready to share her holistic approach with others. She came up with the idea of starting her own business that would deliver healthy food to those facing health crises, and began shopping around for kitchen space.
The search brought her to 691 Main Street in Warren. Lisa was looking for a small space – this was a historic building and a former school, exponentially bigger than anything she could need. Still, it was a beautiful building and she saw the potential there. Lisa put her project aside for something bigger – something that could extend the reach of her own foodie aspirations and fill the nearly 18,000 square foot brick schoolhouse with new life.
That’s the story of how Hope & Main was born.
Now home to more than 50 burgeoning businesses, Hope & Main sees food businesses through the process from conception to profit. Member businesses have access to shared-use kitchens, commercial equipment, cold and dry storage and a demonstration kitchen. But the operation doesn’t stop at the first taste. Hope & Main also offers workshops, mentoring from established business owners, co-branding, promotions and more.
Hope & Main is a member of my Food First Advisory Committee, and I have visited or met with several other participating businesses, but I still had not had the opportunity to visit. I was already so excited about the work that this food incubator is doing for Rhode Island, and that excitement is overflowing now that I have had a chance to see the facility first hand. Businesses have everything they need there, and with 24/7 access to the building, it really meets the needs of entrepreneurs who are determined to bring their ideas to life. The costs for starting a food business, especially when you factor in industrial cooking equipment, are significant. Sharing the cost as a group makes it manageable.
If Hope & Main had existed before Lisa, it would have provided her an avenue through which to start and grow her food business. Now, thanks to Lisa, that opportunity is available to dozens more businesses and will be for many years to come. She took a chance, because she believed in the power of food as an element of health care and, now more than ever, as an economic driver for our state. I believe in the power of food, too, and I believe in Hope & Main as an engine that will make our food economy grow.
More Jobs at Quonset
Quonset is an anchor of the Rhode Island economy, and I never tire of making the trip there, especially when there is good news to celebrate. General Dynamics Electric Boat is a huge piece of the puzzle at Quonset, and the company continues to grow, this time adding a new facility to meet the demands of the Ohio Replacement program. When this facility comes to life, it will be the beating heart of our nation’s number one strategic priority – the recapitalization of our at-sea strategic deterrent force. That deterrent is the bedrock of our nation’s security, and it is used every day to deter and prevent major power conflict.
All that being born right in Rhode Island.
The automated frame and cylinder facility is the largest and most visible sign of the commitment of General Dynamics Electric Boat and the Navy to the people and the economy of Rhode Island, to the security of our nation, and to the security of the United Kingdom, with whom we cooperate so closely on this program.
Over the next decade, as the Ohio Replacement program gains momentum, and as we continue the incredible work already being done on the Virginia Class program and the Virginia Payload Module, Rhode Island will see remarkable growth in the number of residents employed by Electric Boat. This means thousands of highly-skilled jobs.
Congratulations to Quonset, Electric Boat and the Navy. I can’t wait to see this facility come alive.
As a lifelong resident of Warwick, I have always felt safe in my home knowing that we have top-notch public safety officials. To continue that level of excellence, they must have ready access to training facilities that allow them to hone their skills. As a senior member of the Homeland Security Committee, I know how important this is, and I place support for first responders as a top priority.
To assist ongoing efforts to improve public safety, I supported the Warwick Fire Department’s application for the Assistance to Firefighters grant (AFG) program. The department was successful in their pursuit of AFG funding and, as a result, was able to build a state-of-the-art mobile training facility that will benefit not only their own firefighters, but firefighters across the state.
The AFG program is very competitive, and it shows the strength of Warwick’s leadership that they have won significant awards this year and last. We must continue the fight to ensure the availability of federal funds to help supplement state and local jurisdictions, and I intend to keep up my end of that promise.
The new facility is absolutely gorgeous, and I was especially glad to see it named after a most-deserving public servant. The late Battalion Chief, Richard Erban, ran the department’s training program for many years, and his legacy lives on, not only in the program and in the department, but through his son, Jason Erban, who has followed in his father’s footsteps. Jason is also a Warwick firefighter, and it was touching to see him be a part of the dedication ceremony, along with his mother, Diane. Warwick firefighters have done an exceptional job of keeping our community safe across generations, and I will continue to sleep soundly knowing there are so many dedicated men and women looking out for me and my neighbors.
Helping Healthy Kids
The theme of this year’s RI Kids Count luncheon was children’s health coverage and the importance of providing quality coverage for children and families.
Is there anything more important or fundamental?
Children must be treasured and protected, and thanks to the work of so many tremendous advocates, Rhode Island is a national leader in this arena. Our state has nearly 97 percent of children with health insurance coverage, attributable in part to gains in the RIte Care program and implementation of the Affordable Care Act. For my part, I was honored to receive the Covering Kids Award, but the recognition truly belongs to all of the local, state and federal leaders who put kids first. I have been proud to join them in efforts to increase coverage, from bolstering Medicaid and CHIP to expanding access to uninsured families under the Affordable Care Act.
We are making incredible strides on behalf of our children, but the work is far from over. Health care coverage is improving, so the quality and accessibility of care must continue to follow. I look forward to building on current successes as we work even harder on behalf of our most valuable investment: our children.
Here in the Ocean State, we have a long and proud shipbuilding tradition. Funded by a $2.5 million Department of Labor grant, New England Institute of Technology is continuing our maritime legacy with the Shipbuilding/Advanced Manufacturing Institute (SAMI). This program offers advanced training to Rhode Islanders, with a particular focus on the unemployed, displaced adult workers, veterans and recent high school graduates. Exposure to marine and manufacturing workplaces allows trainees to learn about career options, and how they can gain the skills necessary to succeed in those fields. They learn both inside and outside the classroom from high-quality instructors as well as industry professionals.
Rhode Island’s shipbuilding industry is inextricably tied to our defense-industrial base, which added more than $3.75 billion to the Rhode Island economy in 2013 alone, supporting over 33,000 jobs statewide. The peerless Virginia Class submarines are currently being built right down the road at Electric Boat, and construction is already beginning for the Ohio Replacement boats that will provide our nation’s strategic deterrent for decades to come. Current plans are for thousands of additional jobs to be created at the Electric Boat shipyard over the coming years, helping to maintain this strong sector of our economy well into the future. As a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, I will continue to protect this vital confluence of the best interests of our national defense and our local economy.
Unfortunately, in recent years, shipyards have struggled to find qualified workers, even as Rhode Island suffered from some of the highest unemployment rates in the country. This skills gap is a persistent drag on our economy, and I am working with my colleagues in Rhode Island, and in Congress, to address this problem.
In October, I convened a field hearing of the Congressional Career and Technical Education Caucus in Rhode Island to discuss what can be done to increase apprenticeships and on-the-job training. Rhode Island’s education and business leaders were able to learn best practices from their German counterparts – long recognized as global leaders in this field. I’m very proud of the leadership that Electric Boat is showing here, and I look forward to working with other Rhode Island businesses to expand apprenticeship opportunities.
It is clear that a high school education will not provide enough critical training to thrive in the modern economy. That’s why I am so proud of what New England Tech has started here, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing graduates from SAMI contributing to Rhode Island for many years to come.
Voice of a Generation
I am very fortunate that, as a young man, my parents instilled in me the importance of education. I was doubly fortunate that my mother had a strong interest in politics. While knocking on doors was hardly my favorite pastime as a teenager, she exposed me to public service and the good that can come from being involved. At the time, it felt like my brothers and I were being dragged to rallies and phone banking sessions; but now, I appreciate that time and realize how much of an influence it had on my life. She explained to me then what I now know to be true – that if you want to be well represented in government, you must get involved and make your voice heard.
I love when constituents are engaged, and today there are so many ways to get involved. I hear from constituents on social media, by e-mail and phone, and at public events like Lunch with Langevin or my Town Hall meetings. The feedback that I get is crucial, and it helps influence my work in Washington. I am particularly excited when this feedback is coming from young people. They are the ones who will inherit the consequences – positive and negative – of our actions today, and getting involved early is a key indicator of lifelong civic engagement.
Young people also have a unique perspective on the issues, and it is important that I stay connected to their priorities. To better understand their viewpoints, I have assembled a Youth Advisory Committee, made up of high school and college students across the Second District. Our inaugural meeting, held at the Community College of Rhode Island’s Warwick campus, featured an animated debate on the Presidential race, and it was a wonderful opportunity to hear which candidates the students are supporting and why. Our discussion also touched upon immigration reform and reliability of the news media, but the hour flew by. If it is a sign of things to come, I know we have many lively conversations ahead of us.
Next Stop: Student Government
There are Job Corps chapters across the country, but Rhode Island continues to set itself apart. Out of 125 centers nationwide, Rhode Island is third in terms of job placement and graduation rates and the top rated center overall. Exeter Job Corps is not only a national leader, but an example for all other programs, and the students bring distinction to our state.
I’m proud to support Exeter Job Corps, and I’ve met with students on many occasions – from the classroom to the graduation stage. I was impressed once again with these young people when I stopped by to meet with their Student Government Association executive committee. The SGA helps to craft policies that support Job Corps students in their pursuit of a brighter future. Based on the SGA members’ experiences, there could be no one more qualified to help direct Job Corps. The students shared with me the ways in which Exeter Job Corps has changed their lives, and it was truly inspiring. Each of the students has faced an array of challenges, but the Job Corps community and participant camaraderie has lifted them to a better place, where they are motivated to work hard and, as we see year after year with the graduation and job placement success rates, that hard work continues to pay off.
Back to Business
Visiting businesses, and hearing about both their success and their challenges, is an exciting and rewarding part of my job. I love to build connections with business leaders, and let them know how my office can be of assistance. It’s also just a great opportunity to meet constituents and talk about the issues that are important to them. For Drs. George Pasquarello and Mathew Smith, what is most important to them is the wellbeing of their patients.
Since 2003, Drs. Pasquarello and Smith, and their team at East Greenwich Spine and Sport, have been committed to providing high-quality care to patients, with a specialization in the treatment of nervous and musculoskeletal systems. From acupuncture and massage to joint injections, their treatments aim to manage and ultimately lessen pain for patients, while reducing costs when possible. I know firsthand how important strong rehabilitative care can be for someone facing a major injury and it’s encouraging to see that East Greenwich Spine & Sport has a focus on personalized rehabilitation plans. They’re working to get people back on their feet, and I’m grateful that their team took the time to show me their operation.
I participated in seven events to honor veterans, and I would have loved to participate in seven more, because the importance of Veterans Day cannot be overstated. Veterans Day is an important reminder of the service and sacrifice of the men and women who protect this country, but our gratitude should be on display every day of the year.
At each of the events, I was pleased to see a strong focus on support services for veterans, especially in affordable, accessible housing. The topic came up at the Providence VA Medical Center celebration, at the Vets for Tomorrow ribbon cutting with Rhode Island Housing and the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless, at Operation Stand Down’s new Veterans Service Center opening, and at the annual Women’s Warrior luncheon. The well-being of veterans was likewise a priority for the supporters at the North Kingstown Veterans Day Parade, at the unveiling of the Veterans Honor Wall at Victoria Court in Cranston, and at the Charlestown Senior Center’s Veterans Day lunch.
Veteran homelessness is a serious problem in our state and in our country, and combating it must be a priority when we look at how to best care for the men and women who served with distinction. In honor of Veterans Day and to improve that care, I introduced the Veterans Homebuyer Accessibility Act. This bipartisan legislation would make it easier for veterans to purchase homes and for disabled veterans to make adaptive modifications to their homes. We must make the transition easier from military life to successful, independent lives, and that approach includes housing, health care, food, mental health services and more.
To our veterans and to all who continue to serve: thank you! Your needs are paramount, and there are many of us out here who are eager and willing to support you. Words aren’t enough to show our gratitude and support, but today and every day, know that your service and sacrifice are the foundation upon which this country is built.
Hurd Auto Mall
Located in Johnston, the Hurd Auto Mall is the largest General Motors Company in Southern New England – an exciting badge of honor for our state. Led by Chris Hurd, the business has been in operation for 80 years and has 110 employees. Together, these employees have provided service to more than 200,000 customers, and continue to both sell from their 800-car inventory and also service vehicles in their 35 technician bays.
That’s a significant-sized business for Rhode Island, but Chris has never lost the family atmosphere of this still-family-owned operation. As I toured the facility, I was impressed by the camaraderie of the staff, many of whom emphasized how much they enjoy their work. The technicians, in particular, were eager to talk about their jobs and the technical training that brought them to Hurd Auto Mall. As co-chair of the Career and Technical Education Caucus, I have found that too often, there remains a stigma surrounding technical education and careers. The staff at Hurd is a living example of why that stigma is outdated. They receive hands-on training that prepares them for careers that are, and continue to be, available, and they now benefit from well-paying jobs in an industry they love.
The automobile and auto sales industries are not without their challenges, however, and I appreciated Chris’s candor in discussing how tax policy and ongoing automobile recalls have affected his business. Keeping this line of communication open is so important if I am to effectively represent Chris, his team and his customers.
Diversity of Opinion
As a lifelong resident and longtime public servant in Rhode Island, I have seen my home become an increasingly diverse place. Our state, which was built on the principle of religious freedom – freedom to be yourself – has kept its independent spirit alive. We honor our differences and celebrate the cultures, beliefs and people who make this state such an interesting and welcoming place to live.
No one understands this, or appreciates it, more than the members of my newly-formed Diversity Committee. One of my eight advisory committees, this group is a small representation of the diversity we see every day in our workplaces, schools and neighborhoods. Members come from different religious and ethnic backgrounds and serve as advocates for gender and racial equality. They fight on behalf of people with disabilities and work toward a state where every voice is heard; where everyone has equal access to opportunities. It is an inspiring group of people, and their vision for our state is one that I share.
Recent headlines have reminded us, however, that equality is not a given, and there is still much work to be done to close the divides that separate haves from have nots. We must be vigilant in order to stop hate and discrimination in its tracks, and we can never become complacent when it comes to the humane and compassionate treatment of all people.
Promoting diversity, educating people about equality and establishing policies that protect all citizens is a process that must happen at every level, from school classrooms to state government to the halls of Congress. Discussing ways in which we can help facilitate those processes is a major priority of my Diversity Committee. These experts and advocates are a tremendous asset for me, sharing their experiences and thoughts on what they see as the biggest roadblocks.
At our first meeting, for example, we had an animated discussion on what needs to be done to diversify the workplace. These men and women, from their varied backgrounds, have seen the consequences of discrimination firsthand, and have also seen the great benefits that arise from a supportive, inclusive community. I so appreciate their feedback and I look forward to many more lively discussions. Immigration, the wage gap, improving accessibility – there is no shortage of topics we can and will discuss going forward, and I can’t wait to keep the conversation going.
Food, Glorious Food
When I embarked on my Food Week tour in February of 2014, it felt like Rhode Island’s food economy was on the brink of something great. This turned out to be true, and the industry continues to ride the wave. More and more consumers want to know where their food is coming from and how it is grown or prepared, and when those questions are answered, locally-sourced food consistently gets the highest marks. After Food Week came Food Week II, and then the formation of my Food First Advisory Committee – a group of Rhode Island food economy leaders from agriculture and aquaculture to culinary arts and tourism. Together, we are excited about the potential for growth in this sector and what it means for our economy overall and for our health and wellness.
My Food First Advisory met for the third and final time this year, and the momentum continues to build. There was plenty of good news to go around, from successful USDA grant applications to Walrus and Carpenter’s expansion into kelp farming. I was particularly excited to hear that the Rhode Island Hospitality Association has been very successful in training young people through their education programs. At Davies Career-Tech High School, for example, their most recent graduating class in the culinary arts and baking program had a 100% success rate of students going on to higher education. There is unfortunately a stigma sometimes surrounding technical education, but the students working with the Hospitality Association know firsthand that the skills they learned in that program are directly transferable to the workplace. They’re not just prepared for an exam – they’re prepared for a job.
The centerpiece of our final meeting of the year was a presentation by the Rhode Island Food Policy Council, a group of more than 20 food economy and non-profit stakeholders across industry who want to not only grow this sector, but also create a state with no food insecurity and no food waste. You must know where you are to know how far you have to go, and recognizing that, RIFPC underwent an analysis of food in Rhode Island. Their 2015 Food System Fact Sheets had some fascinating information, including the fact that there are 7,023 food businesses accounting for 65,605 jobs. That’s a huge number in a state the size of Rhode Island, and this information is helpful as we continue to try to brand Rhode Island as a culinary and food tourism destination – a Culinary Valley. When we meet in 2016, I hope we have even more exciting news to share and more food jobs to celebrate.
Making a Case for Veterans
There are more than four million veterans receiving disability benefits in America and, for too many of those veterans, it can unfortunately be a complicated and time-consuming process to navigate. If a claim receives an unfavorable decision, some veterans are ready to give up.
For the Roger Williams University School of Law and Chisholm Chisholm and Kilpatrick law firm, giving up isn’t an option.
Together, they have launched a Veterans Disability Appeals Field Clinic that will provide hope for veterans whose applications for disability benefits have been denied. Lawyers at CCK and law students at RWU will work together to represent military veterans, pursuing their administrative appeals in the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.
This is a win for the law students who will benefit from hands-on learning and have the opportunity to work side-by-side with experienced attorneys. It’s a win for the attorneys who are giving back to their community and providing a much-needed service. And it’s a win for our veterans, who deserve our unconditional support when they return home. My office works with veterans every day to help them navigate the VA and benefits process, and this clinic will provide another layer of protection to ensure our veterans are taken care of.
Diving Right In
With a view of sparkling Narragansett Bay as our backdrop, I was proud to join my colleagues in the delegation, as well as the Rhode Island Department of Health, the Environmental Protection Agency, Save the Bay and other partners, in announcing $400,000 in EPA grants for coastal health. Half of the award will go to the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Program to develop faster methods of testing beaches for bacterial contamination and thereby notifying the public sooner. The other half of the award will be used to share data on pH, temperature, streamflow and oxygen deficiencies – information that will establish baselines for future research on climate change. Both are exciting projects, and I look forward to seeing these funds put into action.
Our waterways and coastal areas are essential to the prosperity of the Ocean State. They’re the reason so many people love living here, and why so many more come to visit our state every year. These EPA funds will protect this asset, and will empower Rhode Islanders to better our environment and how it impacts our lives.
Salute to Felix
As a senior member of the House Armed Services and Homeland Security Committees, I spend a great deal of my time focused on national security issues. The well-being of our service members and the care we provide for veterans is an important component of that work, so veterans are always on my mind.
This has been especially true of late; no more so than when I had the privilege of meeting an incredible World War II veteran named Felix Pelletier. Felix has impressed so many people with his generosity – myself included – and my visit with him has resonated with me as we prepare to honor all our veterans. Felix served our country with distinction, surviving the Invasion of Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge. His service could have ended on those battlefields, but Felix has never forgotten his fellow troops who continue to face danger every day to protect our freedom.
Since 2004, the 90-year-old Felix has sewn more than 75,000 neck coolers and ditty bags for active-duty military, including a handwritten note, linking generations of soldiers in solidarity. I was so proud to submit a statement of recognition for Felix into the Congressional Record, and I presented him with this statement at a celebration at the Villa at Saint Antoine, where he lives. The room was filled with Saint Antoine staff, Felix’s loving family and a group of about a dozen fellow veterans who also live at Saint Antoine. Felix’s daughters were beaming with pride, and I can understand why. He really is a selfless man, and not one to call attention to himself. His family was kind enough to share some of the thank you letters he has received over the years, however, including a note about a neck cooler being used as a makeshift tourniquet and saving the life of a soldier.
Felix served his country as a solider, and he continues to serve as a volunteer and as a veteran who cares about his fellow service members. For Felix, sewing these items gives him a sense of purpose. For those of us who are lucky enough to know him, he is an inspiration.
Touring the Arts
Have you ever noticed a steel park bench or artistic fencing around public parks, and wondered where it comes from? Much of the state’s metal artwork is created in Providence at the Steel Yard, a steel fabrication facility and community-based, non-profit teaching facility and workspace for training steel workers. I’ve long been impressed by their work, and I was so proud to join National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chairwoman, Jane Chu, for a tour alongside Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Senator Jack Reed, and Congressman David Cicilline. We have so many fantastic arts organizations and talented artists in our state, and I’m grateful that the Chairwoman took the time to see what Rhode Island has to offer.
With every corner we turned, metal turned into masterpieces. Metal clouds were made for community play sets to be used as back drops; metal sheets and wiring were crafted into custom bike racks for the city; and steel pumpkins and spiders surrounded the entrance to the Steel Yard in preparation for Halloween.
This facility truly is a catalyst in the creative revitalization of the industrial valley district of Providence. One of the most exciting aspects is that students and young adults are assisting in the movement. The Steel Yard trains Rhode Islanders in welding, metal crafting and many other skills, while allowing trainees to express themselves through their metalworking projects. The training has assisted some apprentices in securing jobs in Rhode Island businesses, such as General Dynamics Electric Boat. It is amazing to see the arts as a path to job placement. The Steel Yard just completed an expansion as well, adding soft skills to their “Weld to Work” program so that participants are better prepared for careers. The students we met certainly were impressive, showing off their art and explaining the different functions in the community to our large tour group.
Later in the day, at a 50th anniversary reception for the NEA hosted by the Newport Art Museum, it was clear that The Steel Yard and Rhode Island artists had made an impression on Chairwoman Chu. She knows the educational value and restorative community impact of the arts, and she wants to see art thriving in all its forms across the country. Rhode Island has a phenomenal foundation to build upon, and I know that we will have even more good news and beautiful artwork to share with the Chairwoman when she returns.
Cybersecurity is a policy area that I work on constantly in Congress. In my capacity as a senior member of both the House Armed Services and Homeland Security Committees, as well as the co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus, I have fought hard to bring light to the incredible challenges we face in cyberspace and to encourage my colleagues in government to hear my call to action. That has not always been easy, and it is a frustration of mine that we remain so vulnerable to cyber crime and attack.
Despite these frustrations, it is a comfort to know that my home state is carrying the torch in a big way. Governor Gina Raimondo has shown a deep concern and commitment to strengthening our state’s cybersecurity, and the Rhode Island Cyber Commission – led by my friend Scott DePasquale – is paving the way forward. The Commission’s recent report, released at an event at the Pell Center at Salve Regina University, is a spot-on analysis of and prescription for cybersecurity in the state. The recommendations start with getting the state’s information security in order, because information sharing with private partners can only happen after government demonstrates its own adherence to best practices and risk-based decision making. Paired with the existing experience of the State Police’s Cyber Disruption Team, the resources of the National Guard, academia and other state agencies, the Commission is on the cusp of developing and implementing a strong cybersecurity strategy.
I have long had a vision of Rhode Island as a cybersecurity center of excellence, and that will require serious action on the Commission’s recommendations. We will need to build our capacity for developing talent in-state, and redouble our efforts to attract skilled cyber practitioners to Rhode Island. The same goes for cybersecurity companies looking to grow or relocate to Rhode Island. There is still much work to be done, but I know it is possible, and I look forward to seeing the next steps of the Commission and its partners.
It is always a beautiful day on Block Island.
I have found that simple statement to be true in my many visits to the Island, and this time around was no different. It was an unseasonably warm fall day and the sun was shining, and not surprisingly, the people of Block Island were equally warm and inviting. The Island is just an extraordinary place, and I am proud to have it as part of the Second Congressional District.
The students at the Block Island School made me feel especially proud, as they asked questions on everything from infrastructure and cybersecurity to foreign policy and the Electoral College. I met with all of the students from grades eight through twelve, and they truly covered all their bases. They clearly did their homework on me and my positions. I was so impressed by their well-thought-out questions, and I can’t wait to make it back to the school to visit with this group again. They have a unique school experience, as the school graduates only a small group of students each year, but the benefit of individual classroom attention and an uncommonly close community is on display when you speak with Block Island students.
After a quick tour of the building, which houses all Island instruction, I headed next door to the Block Island Medical Center for an update on the health care needs of the community. It was my first opportunity to personally meet the new doctor, Dr. Mark Clark, who was appointed over the summer. Dr. Clark has an incredibly impressive resume, having worked in emergency medicine in New York City for many years, most recently serving as Residency Director of the Emergency Medicine Residency Program at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Medical Center in New York. As the sole medical facility on the Island, the Block Island Medical Center is so important to the community, and I am confident that Dr. Clark will expertly tackle whatever comes his way.
I wrapped up my day with visits to Town Hall and the Island Free Library, and it was yet another chance to hear about the challenges and opportunities that are specific to Block Island, as well as the concerns residents share with their mainland counterparts. I’m so grateful to Town Manager Nancy Dodge and her staff for their service, and as I said to them, I hope they will consider me and my office a resource. I’m just a ferry ride away, and it is important to me that Block Island residents know how much I value their town and their well-being.
Rhode Island to Connecticut to Illinois
It is always an exciting day when we can welcome the First Lady to New England, but that honor is especially thrilling when we can join her in celebrating our men and women in uniform and the hardworking men and women of our defense industry who develop capabilities to keep our country safe.
First Lady Michelle Obama was in Rhode Island when we laid the keel on the USS Illinois in June of 2014, and she returned to our area for the official christening with our neighbors in Groton, Connecticut. The USS Illinois is an incredible vessel that will serve our military well, and I am so proud to represent many of the General Dynamics Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls employees who made her voyage possible. These workers truly produce the finest submarines in the world – submarines that are absolutely essential to our national security.
The name Illinois has a proud Navy history. The battleship Illinois sailed with the Great White Fleet, rendered aid to victims of a terrible earthquake, and served in the Atlantic during World War I. I know that the people of Illinois are justifiably proud that the USS Illinois is flying the American flag once again, and I’m proud of the work by the submarine industrial base in Rhode Island, Connecticut and across the country that put her on the high seas.
To First Lady Michelle Obama, thank you for your sponsorship of the USS Illinois; to the men and women who built her, thank you for your craftsmanship and commitment; and to the brave members of our Navy, thank you so much for your service. I wish the USS Illinois a long and distinguished service to our nation.
A Community to Be Proud of
I went “Back to School RI” this fall for a tour of all of the colleges in my district. The initiative continued at the Community College of Rhode Island, and it was great to be back at the Knight Campus in Warwick.
CCRI continues to connect education with workforce demands and close our skills gap in Rhode Island. During my visit, I had the opportunity to meet with President Ray De Pasquale and his leadership team and interact with students and faculty members across campus. I was extremely impressed to see all of the work being done to enhance program curriculum, redesign innovative learning spaces and implement advanced manufacturing technologies.
Tour highlights included the recently constructed Student Government office space; the Engineering and Technology Department’s state-of-the-art manufacturing lab; the Art Department’s newly renovated art studios; and the Library’s Learning Resource Center.
As co-chair of the Career and Technical Education Caucus, I believe that bridging the disconnect between classroom and careers will empower young people to pursue jobs with high-growth potential that are available right now in our state. I am so proud that CCRI is leading the way in providing students with the education and experience necessary to successfully enter today’s workforce. This fall, New England’s largest community college welcomed 16,500 students to pursue their studies at its four campuses, and I am excited to see what the newest class learns and achieves with the help of CCRI.
Fly Like an Eagle
For over 100 years, Eagle Scouts have gone on to become leaders in government, industry, science, and the armed forces. Several of my colleagues in Congress are Eagle Scouts, as is a Supreme Court Justice, several astronauts, and many of the senior generals and admirals throughout the military. Eagle Scouts have founded Fortune 500 companies, created products that we use every day, and led in countless other ways.
At the Gathering of Eagles celebration for Rhode Island Eagle Scouts, I couldn’t help but wonder what this generation will set out to accomplish.
As a former Boy Scout myself, it was an honor to recognize those who have given so much to Scouting and to their communities. The young men who have earned the rank of Eagle Scout have achieved a high honor in the Boy Scouts community, and that rank is indicative of their exceptional leadership, commitment, and service to others. The skills honed on the path to Eagle will continue to serve Scouts well, and I have no doubt that those skills will be put to good use in serving our state now and in the future.
Manufacturing on the Rise
Rhode Island has a long and proud manufacturing history, but as the global economy changes, so has our state economy. Manufacturing today in Rhode Island does not look the same as the factories where our fathers and grandfathers worked. It is an industry in transition, and in order to meet its changing needs, we need to make sure that students are given the proper foundation for a career in 21st century manufacturing. Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza knows this to be true, and I was so pleased to join him for a National Manufacturing Day celebration at a local manufacturing company, Ferguson Perforating.
As co-chair of the bipartisan Career and Technical Education Caucus in Congress, I am committed to ensuring that we develop – both in Rhode Island and across the nation – a workforce with the skills necessary to succeed in the modern economy. For example, I have re-introduced the bipartisan Counseling for Career Choice Act, which would authorize grants to help school districts design and implement comprehensive counseling programs. In addition, it would help train counselors to provide students with current workforce information that can improve postsecondary opportunities.
While not every job requires a college education, every student benefits from CTE.
No matter what a student’s ultimate path may be, workplace exploration and skills development are vital. The earlier students consider their career goals, the more effort they can put towards success in their chosen field.
Beyond the legislative process, the most important thing we can do is shift the culture surrounding Career and Technical Education. Every student, no matter his or her career goals, should participate in some form of career education. Not only will this help students decide if their chosen career path is the right one, but it will make for a more seamless transition to full-time employment when they enter the world of work.
We need to change the conversation about what it truly means to be “career- and college-ready” – and ensure it includes investing in career training programs at the secondary and postsecondary levels. All students need to be challenged to achieve not just their academic goals, but their career goals as well.
A Day in the Park
Joseph Hassett, Sr., committed his life to public service – in the Marine Corps, on the Providence City Council and as a coach, his desire to help others could be seen and felt in everything he did. That selflessness is what he became known for, and the City of Providence is better off because of Joe’s generous contributions.
Serving on the City Council in our capital city can be a stressful and time-consuming task, but for Joe, it was just in his nature to give back. And representing his constituents wasn’t enough, though he did it with pride. Joe was always looking for new ways to help out, especially if it meant working with young people and setting them on a path to success.
He served as the Director of Recreation for Providence for a decade, and directed the Providence Junior Police Camp. He ran Providence CYO North and was a St. Patrick’s Alumni Association Hall of Famer. Joe’s coaching career at St. Patrick’s School and Our Lady of Providence is legendary, and goes far beyond the court. He was always willing to listen to his players, and I have heard many stories from Rhode Islanders who considered him a trusted mentor.
This resumé tells us what a warm and giving heart Joe had, and the Joseph P. Hassett, Sr., Memorial Park is a fitting tribute for a man who never stopped fighting to better his community. Located on the corner of Candace and Orms Streets, the park is a reminder of all that Joe did to serve the community and support young people on their path to success. Joe was a tireless advocate for youth sports and recreational opportunities for young people, and his efforts live on. They live on in the memories of those whose lives he touched; they live on through his children; they live on in a city inspired by his service; and they live on in a park where a new generation will run and play and enjoy the outdoors in his name.
Learning from Each Other
As co-chair of the Congressional Career and Technical Education Caucus, bridging the gap between classroom learning and real-world achievement has been a longtime priority for me. What is taught in the classroom must correspond with the trends we are seeing in industry if we want our young people to pursue rewarding careers with high growth potential. The success of students and, ultimately, our economy depends on it.
As I’ve looked, not only around the country but also around the world, for best practices and promising models of on-the-job training and apprenticeships, I’ve seen that in Europe, the German and Swiss education models place a high emphasis on these employer-educator partnerships. In fact, two-thirds of Swiss students and 60 percent of Germans are finding their careers through an apprenticeship. Those are exciting numbers, and when I learned more about this success, I knew I had to bring my findings back to Rhode Island.
In cooperation with the German Marshall Fund, I convened a CTE Caucus field hearing so that Rhode Island leaders could engage in a meaningful dialogue directly with the experts in building apprenticeship programs. Rhode Island is perfectly poised to take advantage of these partnerships. Recent changes to the governance of Career and Technical Education are opening the doors of opportunity for both students and businesses, and I want to make sure that we are learning as much as we can about programs that work. While both educators and businesses will need to make accommodations, I have no doubt that we can find a method that works for us.
Our 22 roundtable guests represented education, government, industry and policy, and the discussion was dynamic. We have so much to learn from each other – from our friends overseas as well as our friends across the table from Rhode Island who are informed by different careers and experiences. If we keep the dialogue going, stay open-minded to new ideas and welcome feedback from those who have charted this course before us, I am confident that we can make Rhode Island a premiere destination for hands-on learning.
Celebrating Lebanese Culture
Parishioners of the St. George Maronite Church in Cranston spent months organizing the second annual Lebanese Festival, and their work paid off. The three-day event is an incredible display of Lebanese culture and entertainment, representing the heritage of so many Rhode Islanders. And for Rhode Islanders both with and without Lebanese roots, the festival menu is a highlight. Church volunteers do an exceptional job bringing the flavors of Lebanon to Cranston, and I hope to return every year to get a taste of what this vibrant culture is all about. Thank you to all of the volunteers who make the Lebanese Festival possible, and especially to my friends Philippe Maatouk and Tony Simon, who serves on the planning committee with his wife, Amal, for showing me around!
For a quarter century, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation has been investing in our communities and our neighborhoods. And as LISC celebrates its 25th anniversary, they are showing no signs of slowing down. Rather, they celebrate this milestone with a $25 million initiative. Through grants, low-interest loans and other investments, the Invest in Rhode Island plan will help to make Rhode Island a more thriving, vibrant place for all of our residents to call home.
Since its founding in 1991, LISC Rhode Island has invested $300 million in dozens of communities across the state. From Westerly to Foster, Providence to Charlestown, LISC has provided opportunities to thousands of Rhode Island families. They have built 7,500 affordable homes, and developed more than 2 million square feet of commercial, child care, educational and community space.
By investing in affordable housing, commercial districts, good jobs, safe streets and education for low-income families, LISC will continue to help our community to leverage this investment and make real improvements to our quality of life. By allowing local groups to access national infrastructure, LISC is a wonderful example of what we can achieve by working together.
Rhode Island is measurably better thanks to LISC, and I am confident that this $25 million initiative will build on previous successes and expand opportunity to even more Rhode Islanders.
Work of ‘Arts’
Nationally, the arts contribute $698 billion to our economy every year and support 4.7 million full-time jobs. These are significant contributions to the economic security of our country, and the impact is felt locally, as well. Rhode Island visual arts sales accounted for more than $18 million last year alone, and arts and culture industries are truly the centerpiece of tourism in the Ocean State. Theaters, art galleries, museums, live music venues and cultural landmarks – together, these destinations celebrate Rhode Island history and heritage, and help to chart a course for the future. The arts are part of our past, present and future, and the benchmarks they signify must be recognized, honored and preserved.
The members of my Arts and Culture Advisory Committee know this more than anyone, and I love getting them together for a lively discussion of industry trends, industry needs and how we can leverage our strengths in this area to help improve Rhode Island’s overall economy. Henri Matisse said that “creativity takes courage,” and my committee has an abundance of both. I am inspired by their passion, vision and courage to lead, and those attributes will make for not only beautiful art, but also a brighter future for Rhode Island.
Bridge to the Future
For decades, George Redman advocated for the expansion of bike pathways, connecting Rhode Islanders with their community and connecting communities to each other. George accomplished so much over the course of his career, and that legacy is now amplified with the creation of the George R. Redman Linear Park, which crosses the Washington Bridge and links downtown Providence with the East Bay Bike Path.
Finally, though George sadly didn’t live to see it, Rhode Island is more interconnected than ever.
With this improved artery on the historic Washington Bridge, Rhode Islanders can enjoy the view of the city and the river in a leisurely way, as they travel between the East Bay and the city of Providence. By including all of the necessary support structures – bike racks, rest areas, attractive lighting and planters – these improvements will make this park a crown jewel as we continue to upgrade and redevelop the highways of our state.
George’s entire lifetime was devoted to public service – from his service in the U.S. Navy, as a leader in the Boy Scouts, and as a member of the Rhode Island Constitutional Convention, to his work advocating for parks, the preservation of the Narragansett Bay, and his support for livable communities throughout Rhode Island. We have built on his legacy – both here and in other parts of our state – to create more than 60 miles of dedicated, off-road bike paths, where Rhode Islanders can enjoy the sights and sounds of their state away from busy traffic.
These improvements make for more accessible, livable communities that are inviting for residents and businesses alike. By establishing a clear right-of-way on this improved bikeway and walking path, we have created an inviting means by which tourists and residents can fully enjoy Providence.
I know one thing for sure: George would have loved it.
September Saturday Marathon
September is one of the best times in Rhode Island, with summer’s warmth lingering, the excitement of kids returning to school, the start of fall and the holidays on the horizon. It’s a busy time and my schedule fills up quickly with great events that I wouldn’t miss.
Lunch with Langevin was a great way to officially start the day. I always love getting down to the southern tip of my district in Westerly, and the downtown area has so many interesting businesses. PizzaPlace is just one of them, and it was the perfect setting for my fifth Lunch with Langevin. The food was delicious and the conversation was stimulating, with questions ranging from veterans’ benefits and Social Security to education and economic development. We covered the gamut, and once again I was so appreciative that people took time out of their weekend to meet with me.
From Westerly, I headed up to Cumberland for an event, and an organization, for which I have so much respect. Operation Stand Down does so much to help our veterans, fighting homelessness in the community; Stand Down Weekend is the pinnacle of this noble work. For three days, doctors, mental health counselors, employers and countless others volunteer their services to help get veterans back on a path to being healthy and independent with access to safe, affordable housing, clothing and food. It was a beautiful afternoon and a time when Rhode Island can really show its appreciation for the men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country. Thank you to Operation Stand Down and all the volunteers for your generosity – it means so much to me and I know it means the world to our veterans.
It’s hard to leave Stand Down Weekend, because there are so many veterans and volunteers to meet, but I was so happy to stop in at the annual Rally4Recovery event. Addiction and substance abuse are serious issues in this state, and unfortunately, opioid overdoses are on the rise significantly. It is going to take a concerted effort of stakeholders to reverse those trends, and many of them – mental health counselors, physicians, law enforcement and those who have successfully entered recovery – were on hand for the Rally. Watching the crowds grow each year has made me more confident than ever that we can work to end the stigma of mental health and substance-abuse disorders and provide the services necessary to help those who need treatment.
Switching gears (and adding a tie), I spent the evening with two organizations that do tremendous advocacy work for their respective communities.
The MS Dream Center has fought hard – and successfully – for increased accessibility in Rhode Island and for support for people with multiple sclerosis. I was proud to support them at their Wine and Dine Extravaganza at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet; and it was a great chance to meet some of the people with MS who have been helped by the organization. MS is a disease that impacts entire families, and seeing the support from patients and families together was really inspiring. It’s all possible thanks to Don and Marie Perna and the entire Perna family, and I’m so thankful that they included me in this special occasion.
Last but not least, I had the honor of speaking at the 25th anniversary event in honor of the Rhode Island chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Nationally, MADD has been raising awareness and fighting against impaired driving for 35 years. Drunk driving has been cut in half since MADD’s founding, and the organization continues to make strides in reducing the incidence of impaired driving in Rhode Island and nationwide. They engage students at an age when they can learn the consequences of these dangerous, life-threatening decisions. Teaching those lessons early creates a multiplier effect in which programs touch the lives of so many more young people, helping them make the right decisions now and in the future.
But each of these events had one thing in common, and that’s the dedication of Rhode Islanders who generously donate their time and talents to give back to the community. It’s the people of Rhode Island who make our state so great, and that Saturday was a wonderful reminder of how fortunate I am to live here.
Rhode Island’s ‘Global’ Impact
FM Global is a large employer in Rhode Island and an international leader in the insurance industry. The Johnston headquarters is set on a beautiful campus and features an energy-efficient facility, but just a half-hour drive away, FM Global is doing the hands-on research that informs its business every day.
The FM Global Research campus, located in West Glocester, is set on 1,600 acres and is a comprehensive site for property loss prevention scientific research and product testing. In these labs, engineers conduct research tests with fire, natural hazards and electrical hazards, testing probabilities of loss and the efficacy of different interventions. Also on site, they certify loss prevention products and design custom tests for other companies looking to assess risk.
Since they have employees literally playing with fire, FM Global emphasizes safety procedures and, despite the dangerous nature of its research, the company had no accidents on campus last year. That’s good news for the more than 140 full-time employees working on site, so it’s no surprise that the company has a low employee turnover rate. Across its global footprint, FM Global employs 1,800 engineers in 120 countries.
In addition to employee safety, FM Global has demonstrated a commitment to caring for the surrounding area and minimizing its environmental impact. All water used, particularly in fire mitigation, is cleaned and recycled, and waste is disposed of legally, off site.
It was fascinating to see loss prevention research in action. I’ve long been familiar with FM Global, and have visited their headquarters several times, but this was my first visit to the research campus and it gave me a new perspective on the work being done in our backyard. There was a time when FM Global considered moving its headquarters from Rhode Island, and I am so pleased they didn’t. FM Global is an environmentally-friendly, safety-focused, socially-responsible company that continues to give back to our community and provide stable, well-paying jobs. We’re lucky to have them, and I, for one, am very grateful for their commitment to Rhode Island.
Fighting Fire with Funding
Warwick is in the midst of several significant construction projects, as public infrastructure is improved and businesses expand. With a growing city, however, come growing concerns for public safety. Fortunately, the Warwick Fire Department, led by Chief Edmund Armstrong, recently applied for and was granted a $949,000 Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) to assist with new training for heights, confined spaces, trench, machinery and structure collapse rescue scenarios. These are high risk situations, and the training provided for by the AFG program will ensure the department is ready and able to protect Rhode Islanders in this growing city.
The AFG program is very competitive, and it’s a testament to the strength of Warwick’s leadership that Station 8 has won significant AFG awards both this year and last. When Warwick firefighters aren’t out saving lives and protecting property, they are writing grants to improve equipment, expand training, and better prepare for emergency situations. The Department’s primary grant writer, Lt. Jason Erban, took lead on the project, displaying his passion for and dedication to the community in his writing. Lt. Erban’s hard work has paid off, not just for the Department, but for the entire City of Warwick.
I was fortunate to have the chance to congratulate the Station 8 team on this grant and hear about their plans to continue to strengthen the skills of Rhode Island firefighters. And after the Warwick Fire Department masters these new rescue skills, they plan on sharing their training with other Rhode Island firefighters.
We are privileged here in Rhode Island to have a supportive community that is always working towards improving the safety of our great state. I am excited to see this grant funding turned into action, and I look forward to its positive impact on Warwick and the entire Rhode Island community.
Preserving Our Heritage
Rhode Island has a vibrant Native American culture, and to fully understand our state’s history, you must also understand and appreciate the vital role that Native Americans played in shaping what would become the Ocean State as we know it.
At the Tomaquag Museum, preserving that history and educating Rhode Islanders is the primary goal. Located in Exeter, the museum is truly a hidden gem in our state, with more than 20,000 artifacts highlighting the contributions of Native Americans in Rhode Island and across New England. Tomaquag also offers workshops on traditional art forms, presentations and lectures, and events that bring the food, music and lifestyle of indigenous cultures to life.
It was a pleasure to see the Tomaquag collection up close, and my visit could not have come at a better time, as the museum had just been awarded a $30,000 grant from the USDA’s Rural Business Development Grant program. The funds will be used, in part, to support museum staff with collections care, management, curation and to increase public access. I am particularly excited by the focus on increasing access, because too few Rhode Islanders are aware of the Tomaquag Museum. It is a tremendous resource for those who want to research and learn more about our state’s rich Native American culture, and I hope the national spotlight will inspire more families to visit and enjoy the museum.
Security in the Water
As the co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus, I have made strengthening cybersecurity and fostering growth in this industry one of my top priorities. As a Rhode Islander, I have also prioritized efforts that preserve and enhance our state’s maritime economy.
At the Moran Shipping Agency, these two industries collide.
In 1937, the family-owned Moran Shipping started as an independent steamship agency. Today, housed in a beautiful, historic 13,000-square foot building in Providence, its services have expanded to make Moran a leading provider in maritime services and the largest independent steamship agency in North America. For commercial, military and government clients, Moran provides full-vessel agency attendance, ship husbandry services, government compliance solutions, port vendor management services and an internationally-recognized Maritime Management Information System. The business is well-situated, given Rhode Island’s vast coastline and proximity to other major ports in the northeast. The Moran family has likewise found the Ocean State to be an ideal location because of the abundance of young talent graduating from area colleges with an interest in and understanding of maritime and port security services.
While Moran has developed a strong reputation in maritime security, their menu of services continues to evolve, and increasingly reflects a changing security landscape that includes cyberspace. Executive Vice President Jason Kelly recognizes the growing need for robust cybersecurity, and the business works closely with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to ensure that their security solutions meet all necessary regulations in this arena.
Cyberspace is relatively new territory for Moran Shipping, but they are quickly becoming a strong resource for area businesses in need of a range of security solutions. Moran is committed to protecting ports in Rhode Island and across the country, representing clients in all 361 ports in the United States. The need is definitely there, and I’m glad a family-owned business with a commitment to Rhode Island is filling that demand.
Town Hall, Part II
I just wanted to make a quick note of appreciation for all the people who turned out for my second Town Hall meeting, this one held at the beautiful Johnston Senior Center. I saw some new faces, but also several people who attended my last Town Hall; it is great to have constituents who are so engaged.
We all have different experiences and perspectives, but I believe hearing each other’s stories and understanding another person’s point of view is so important. It makes us all better informed, more understanding and more compassionate. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate people taking time out of their busy schedules to spend time with me, sharing their concerns and asking thoughtful questions. Let’s keep the conversation going!