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  • Why RI: It’s Where Innovation is a Birthright and Everybody Knows Your Name

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    My organization, Claflin Company, has a 200-year-rich history in Rhode Island. Established as the Joseph Balch Company in Providence in 1817, it evolved to J.B. & Son until 1873, when George L. and Arthur W. Claflin acquired it and dubbed it the George L. Claflin Company. The family grew it to become one of the leading apothecaries and retail druggists in all of New England. But that was just the beginning.
    Why has Claflin Company, a business that started out as a single shop, stood the test of time, enduring to become one of the medical distribution industry’s leading independent firms? To me, it comes down to that one word that realtors seem to be so fond of: location. The fact that this company has its roots in Rhode Island and continues to call Rhode Island home is key to its ability to last—contracting and rethinking during lean years (e.g., the Great Depression) and innovating and growing when the time was right.
    A Rhode Islander born and bred, I’ve always known this state to have a unique vibe. First of all, I’ve come to realize that innovation and thinking outside the box are our birthright. That was certainly the case when, in 1986, our then president and CEO, Ted Almon, came up with the revolutionary idea of applying just-in-time inventory management techniques to the hospital marketplace. And, not surprisingly, it was another Rhode Island institution—Women and Infants Hospital—that was the first healthcare provider to adopt the new concept. It was a Rhode Island-born revelation that had an impact far beyond the state: It redefined supply chain management across the industry.
    For a business focusing on medical supply distribution, Rhode Island is ideally situated. It is a densely populated area with access to many healthcare providers within relatively short distances. Being between Boston and New York provides Rhode Island with all the advantages of a diverse population, bringing skills and culture that enriches us all. And it’s home to outstanding universities that are always willing to collaborate with businesses on intern programs and curricula.
    For anyone who lives in Rhode Island, you know I’m speaking the truth when I say the quality of life here can’t be beat. I’ve traveled all over the world, and one of the most important things I’ve brought back from those journeys is an even greater appreciation of Rhode Island’s natural resources and beauty. We have it all here: Natural beauty, the bay, beaches, open land, parks, bike paths, temperate weather, a diverse population. I also love the appreciation of the arts that’s evident with so many creative and cultural offerings, as well as the emphasis on history, architecture and education. And you can’t talk about what’s great about Rhode Island without mentioning the restaurants.
    Along with the quality of life comes the amazing sense of community that abounds in Rhode Island. At any gathering anywhere in the state, it would be unusual not to know someone—or their relative, friend, neighbor, coworker, etc. That is an attribute that I really love, and I’ve also found it inspiring to me as leader of this company. I’ve been at Claflin since 1978, soon after I graduated from the University of Rhode Island. In my time here, I’ve really appreciated and enjoyed the sense of collaboration and friendship we lean on to solve problems and innovate improvements.

    Being a Rhode Islander and feeling such a connection with our community has helped me foster a culture of giving back to our community. It builds pride in what we do and helps to connect us with our healthcare provider customers who provide quality healthcare to our families and the community. Just last year, to celebrate our 200th anniversary, we sponsored 200 Acts of Kindness. There were too many success stories to list, but our Claflin friends and colleagues worked to benefit MS sufferers, veterans, active soldiers, needy children, the elderly, animal shelters—and so much more. Because of all the amazing efforts of so many amazing people, we were very grateful to be recognized as Rhode Island’s outstanding philanthropic organization by the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

    The Claflin Company’s history of supporting the local healthcare industry precedes my tenure as its leader. But with our recent initiatives to extend our philanthropic reach to embrace children in need in our community, local families living in homeless shelters and soldiers overseas serving our country, I am confident that the Claflin Company will continue to be a community partner in Rhode Island and other neighborhoods where we operate for years to come.
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