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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

RIMES changes name to Polaris MEP to highlight growth services for area manufacturers

Media Contact: Todd McLeish, 401-874-7892

KINGSTON, R.I. – May 6, 2014 -- The Rhode Island Manufacturing Extension Service, a long-time service provider to the state’s manufacturing community, has been renamed Polaris Manufacturing Extension Program, a business unit of the University of Rhode Island Research Foundation.

“This new name reflects our intent to guide Rhode Island’s manufacturing sector into an exciting, productive and profitable era through innovative programs and services,” said James Petell, URI associate vice president of research and economic development and executive director of the URI Research Foundation. “It was URI President David M. Dooley’s vision to create closer interactions between RIMES and the University’s faculty and students that resulted in it becoming a business unit of the URI Research Foundation.”

Polaris has maintained all of RIMES’ former staff, including director Harsha Prakash, and its advisory board has appointed a new chairman, David Marquis, president of Lincoln-based manufacturer ChemArt Co. The organization is now based at the offices of Commerce Rhode Island in Providence.

According to Petell, Polaris will continue to provide small and medium-sized manufacturers with the efficiency-oriented “lean manufacturing” programs for which it was best known, including production optimization, cost reduction, facility layout and quality management services. But it is hiring additional staff to offer a variety of growth-oriented services designed to help manufacturers access new markets and develop new products and processes. It will offer on-site training, one-on-one consulting, and public workshops, among other services.

“We want to help Rhode Island manufacturers position themselves for growth by providing the tools and assistance they need to reach new markets and compete on a global scale,” said Marquis. “With the URI alliance we can move manufacturing forward using new technology and design.”

Established in 1996, the organization operates under a contract with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which provides $750,000 in annual funding. The institute awarded the contract to operate the Rhode Island program to the URI Research Foundation in July 2013. It is one of 58 manufacturing extension programs located across the United States.

“Polaris will be able to leverage the faculty and student expertise at URI’s business and engineering programs to support the manufacturing community in the state,” said DeeDee Chatham, director of marketing and business development at the URI Research Foundation. “In addition, our collaboration with the University’s Business Engagement Center and the Small Business Development Center at URI enables us to provide even greater service to our clients.”

Polaris will continue to work closely with the Governor’s Workforce Board. As the workforce board’s manufacturing industry partner, Polaris, in collaboration with the Rhode Island Manufacturers’ Association, works to identify skills gaps and facilitates the development of solutions to identify and train a qualified manufacturing workforce. One such initiative is Workforce On-Ramps, a three-year pilot program of the U.S. Department of Labor to establish new workforce tools and processes through the NetworkRI system. Through this program, qualified career seekers interested in exploring opportunities in manufacturing are referred to career advisors for one-on-one career counseling and job placement.

Polaris will also play a key role working with educators and industry to coordinate training and education programs to propel students and adults along career pathways for the high-skill, high-wage manufacturing jobs of the future. Polaris, working in collaboration with the Workforce Strategy Center, has completed a detailed report on manufacturing skills gaps in Rhode Island. The report made several recommendations designed to ensure future alignment between education and manufacturing careers, including the establishment of a curriculum review committee and the creation of more internship and apprenticeship opportunities in manufacturing.

“We are determined to advance economic development in Rhode Island by accelerating innovations from URI and our national network of manufacturing and supply chain experts to support our state’s manufacturing industry,” concluded Petell.

To learn how Polaris can help improve your company’s operations or evaluate growth opportunities, visit Polaris or call 401-270-8896.