• R.I.’s Growth Potential is Rooted in Ocean-Based Technology and Manufacturing

    Focusing on ocean-based innovation is imperative as we steer our state toward the future

    Rhode Island stands at a crossroads, poised on the brink of a significant economic opportunity that could transform our state. As technology-based economic development continues to shape regions worldwide, we find ourselves uniquely positioned to accelerate growth, particularly in the realm of ocean-based innovation. Yet, despite our advantageous geographic setting and historical prowess in innovation, we risk missing out on this golden opportunity.

    Why am I so fixated on the blue economy? It’s simple. It necessitates the creation of tangible goods, fostering a multiplier effect in manufacturing jobs where nine jobs are created for every manufacturing position. According to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration study, the blue economy contributes over $373 billion to the US economy annually, with projections indicating a steady increase. As we steer our state toward the future, focusing on technology is imperative. Leveraging Rhode Island’s natural geography, with its intricate bathymetry, sets us apart and provides a canvas for sustainable economic growth.

    But the blue economy is still not a ubiquitous term. In Rhode Island, we define it as the sustainable utilization of our ocean and water assets to create a resilient economy and good paying jobs. This entails harnessing technology to not only create employment opportunities, but also to address pressing issues like climate change, sea-level rise, and national security. Offshore wind certainly plays a pivotal role, but the blue economy extends far beyond the visible blades above the water’s surface. Imagine if we possessed the same depth of knowledge about Narragansett Bay beneath its surface as we do about the air above it. The Economic Development Administration has recognized the opportunity in two designations with Grow Blue and the Ocean Tech Hub.

    The projected growth figures for the blue economy are staggering. The global blue economy is expected to double its value to $3 trillion by 2030, according to the World Bank. With an estimated $20 billion in annual regional GDP and the potential to add 54,000 jobs over the next decade, the economic allure is undeniable. Furthermore, innovation and adaptation are in Rhode Island’s DNA. From pioneering the industrial revolution to becoming a hub for creative metal processing and technical sailing, our state has consistently embraced technological advancement to shape our communities.

    However, realizing our blue economy potential hinges on our ability to connect with traditionally underserved communities. It’s disheartening that there are children in Newport who have never experienced the ocean firsthand. This stark reality underscores the urgent need to bridge the gap and provide equal access and opportunities for all Rhode Islanders, regardless of their ZIP code.

    As someone deeply invested in Rhode Island’s future, I am committed to championing manufacturing and technology-based innovation as a catalyst for progress. Our state’s success hinges on our ability to harness the power of technology to drive economic growth, protect our environment, and empower our communities. Let’s embrace and invest in our Blue Future and ensure that Rhode Island remains at the forefront of innovation for generations to come.

    Christian Cowan is the Executive Director of Polaris MEP and 401 Tech Bridge, a nonprofit that stewards manufacturing and technology based economic development for the region. 

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