10.17.16

Whitehouse, URI Business Engagement Center Convene RI Textile Innovation Network

Newly-formed trade group will promote textile industry growth, collaboration

Pawtucket, RI – Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and the University of Rhode Island Business Engagement Center today convened the inaugural meeting of the Rhode Island Textile Innovation Network, a trade group formed with support from Whitehouse and the University of Rhode Island Business Engagement Center to guide growth of the state’s textile industry in the twenty-first century.

“Drawing on Rhode Island’s long history as a textile powerhouse, we already have many of the elements in place to lead the way on the next frontier of textile manufacturing,” said Whitehouse, who has voted in Congress to fund manufacturing institutes promoting textile innovation.  “I’m excited to see the Rhode Island Textile Innovation Network take shape in support of that goal. Local businesses and world-class universities are coming to the table to look for opportunities to grow the industry, and create good-paying manufacturing jobs for Rhode Islanders.”

The Rhode Island Textile Innovation Network is in part a result of Whitehouse’s efforts to foster collaboration between textile industry leaders, and capitalize on Rhode Island’s abundance of manufacturing expertise and infrastructure.  Whitehouse has met with textiles industry representatives on more than a dozen occasions over the past five years.

“Manufacturing is on the rise in our state, and the textile industry is an important component in this resurgence, especially thanks to the talent pool available through our colleges and universities,” said Congressman Jim Langevin.  “Cultivating strong relationships between employers and institutions of higher learning will further enhance our manufacturing sector, and I applaud Senator Whitehouse for his leadership in supporting growth in Rhode Island’s textile industry.”

“The Rhode Island Textiles Innovation Network is an innovative business partnership to help Rhode Island stay at the forefront of advanced textile manufacturing,” said Congressman David Cicilline.  “It is critical that all levels of government – federal, state and local – work together to support this effort and to help strengthen the textile industry in Rhode Island.”

The Rhode Island Textile Innovation Network’s inaugural meeting included executives from 14 local manufacturers, faculty from the textiles and engineering programs at the University of Rhode Island, and representatives of the Rhode Island School of Design.  Participating companies included Hope Global, Cooley Group, Toray Plastics America, Polaris MEP, American Cord & Webbing Company, Brickle Group, Colonial Mills, Darlington Fabrics, Dartex Coatings, Kenyon Industries, Nautilus Defense, Propel LLC, Trans-Tex LLC, and Innovative Sourcing Group.

“The URI Business Engagement Center was created to forge partnerships between the University of Rhode Island and industry.  We were pleased to help convene this inaugural meeting of the Rhode Island Textile Innovation Network and we look forward to facilitating access for its members to URI faculty, research opportunities, and students to support the needs of this important industry.  Textiles have a rich tradition both in Rhode Island and at URI and we are excited to support the work of this group in any way we can,” said Katharine Hazard Flynn Executive director of the URI Business Engagement Center.

Meeting participants discussed potential opportunities in textile manufacturing, including smart textiles that incorporate technology.  The event was held at the headquarters of Cooley Group in Pawtucket, RI.  Cooley Group opened its doors in 1926 as a manufacturer of cotton awnings, and has evolved over the last century into a maker of engineered membranes, building products, and commercial graphics.

“Sometimes past is prologue, and the strengths Rhode Island has long had in the textile industry will help drive our economy into the future,” said Stefan Pryor, Secretary of Commerce. “The textile industry in Rhode Island represents an important way forward for our state’s economy – building upon a very strong set of existing businesses with a remarkable record of success, drawing upon academic institutions at the cutting edge of this field, and involving a state government eager to partner with industry and now armed with some of the most competitive economic development tools in the country.”

Samuel Slater founded the nation’s first textile mill on the banks of the Blackstone River in the late 18th century, which sparked a booming textile and manufacturing industry in Rhode Island.  Manufacturing remains a significant industry in the state, employing more than 40,000 people in Rhode Island in 2015, according to the National Association of Manufacturers.  

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