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Some of you may not know about my obsession with food. I'm really into cooking because I'm really into eating. And fresh ingredients are the best ingredients. Hence I'm buyer of, among other local RI foodstuffs, Rhody Fresh dairy products.
It's a smart brand. A good-sounding brand. A brand that makes you say, "Yeah, I want that." But, unless you can back up the brand with a consistent product that fulfills expectations, it works exactly once.
So I had a minor a-ha moment reaching into the dairy case to get a half gallon of 2% while thinking about an innovation-related project I'm working on.
Rhody Smart - a tagline for the RI knowledge / innovation community. It's got a nice ring, if I do say so myself. But it comes with some major problems that would have to be addressed to make it "real".
First of these is getting people from the rest of the country not to laugh when you say it.
Disappointingly bland explanation of what that means and my Top 5 Rhody Smart game-changers after the jump -->
Let's face the facts. That anybody in the 'big states' even has an opinion of RI is a step in the right direction. At least we have some kind of identity in the broader market. Maybe it's not the one we want. Maybe it's not even accurate. But it is what it is.
As they say: I don't care what you write about me in the paper. Just spell my name right.
These days, the top RI memes are:
- Almost Michigan in unemployment
- Unfriendly towards business
- Government corruption
- That wacky lady in Cranston in the bunny suit
The broader market for the most part does not know much about, oh, let's call it 'our' Rhode Island. Progressive, creative, dynamic, entrepreneurial. You know the drill.
But 'the underground' knows that story, and knows it well. Do other cities have a homegrown recruiting campaign? I've even heard about a meet-up / support group for NYC transplants. (Take that, Declining Population Studies!)
The fact is that perception generally lags behind reality, and, when reality is focused in the underground, you've got a ways to go to change perception in the broader market.
Rhody Smart: The Top 5
It's one thing to be an underground sensation known for hip, progressive, creative people doing hip, progressive, creative things (and we still have a ways to go there). It's something altogether different to be known far and wide as a place where smart people go to do smart things with other smart people.
You've got to start somewhere, and it's not like we don't have plenty of smart things going on. So here's my Top 5 Inaugural Rhody Smart game-changers.
#5 - The Supercluster
The Supercluster is Providence's unique conglomeration of creative, technical, entrepreneurial and social / sustainable workers. There's quite a heavy dose of self-employment in the Supercluster, so it might not move the needle on any existing government indicators. Still, this is the cultural core of the greater Providence region. Perhaps this should be #1, because this is what's resonating so strongly with like-minded people coast to coast.
#4 - RI.gov
RI.gov has impressed me in general and in particular. I feel the quality of this piece of infrastucture has gone largely unnoticed locally. High usability, enterprise scale websites deliver massive efficiency improvements, and this has important implications for both quality of life and economic development.
#3 - GCPVD
Just like Providence has a homegrown recruiting program, it also has a homegrown, non-profit to advocate for world-class urban design standards. Greater City: Providence did not start because the founders had too much free time and disposable income. This is a working-man's new urbanism non-profit. Their exceptional work is having a positive impact on crucial projects like the new I-Way and the return of two-way traffic on Empire Street.
#2 - I-Way / Knowledge District
The original "no-brainer" - crumbling, foolishly-sited, ugly and dangerous highway replaced with modern, rational, fully engineered highway. BTW, downtown expands about 30%. And, BTW, you get almost 20 acres of prime urban land for fresh, modern, efficient, green buidlings. Hey, and let's put the wikkit smaat bio-science research kids down there. That'd be awesome.
#1 - Betaspring
Two of the region's most effective, self-appointed recruiter-ambassadors start a company that makes companies. Governor's Workforce Board wisely sees the value in that. Even if this never produces that massive, breakthrough company, it will certainly produce more modest successes. That is exists and receives substantial public support is a super-awesome message to send to those like-minded people coast to coast.
You know...the future.