By Dale J. Venturini
For far too many years, Rhode Island has been listed on the bottom of any national economy, unemployment or business-friendly list. It seems that sadly, the Ocean State has created a reputation as being one of the most difficult states in which to find work, live or to start a business.
With an unemployment rate continuously hovering in the nation’s top three highest, the leaders of the state have their work cut out for them this year, and I know the economy and creation of jobs is at the top of everyone’s priority list.
With the election of our new governor, Gina Raimondo, I feel that we’re on the right track to wipe away our negative reputation and showcase Rhode Island as the wonderful, unique and special place that it truly is. Governor Raimondo has laid out a comprehensive jobs plan that hits right at the heart of our industry. Her plan offers a strategy for five areas and industries targeted to be instrumental in the state’s job revitalization program: Advanced Manufacturing, Workforce Development, Infrastructure, Hospitality & Tourism and Small-business Startups.
As the head of an organization that plays a significant role in workforce development and tourism, this is music to my ears. The RI Hospitality Association Education Foundation (RIHAEF) develops, supports, and promotes career growth opportunities within the hospitality industry through workforce development programs. The focus is providing education to youth, unemployed adults and incumbent employees to meet the growing demand.
Through the RIHAEF Training Academy, we train thousands of students each year, working to close the skills gap through a myriad of programs including: Skills Tasks & Results Training; First Impressions: Exceptional Customer Service; Lasting Impressions: The Core of Communication; Hospitality: the 3rd Language; Skills, Tasks and Results Training; and Manage First, to name a few. I look forward to working closely with Governor Raimondo to see how the RIHAEF training programs can help to support her vision of a well-trained workforce in Rhode Island.
The hospitality industry continues to be one of the few job creators each quarter. Even in the economic downturn, our industry was able to keep folks employed and businesses open by going back to the basics and supporting each other during this difficult time. While the economy has strengthened since then, the rising costs of food and labor have cut profit margins to the bone. However, our industry remains one of the true bright spots in Rhode Island’s economy, employing more than 65,000 people and remaining the third-highest revenue generator in the state.
Governor Raimondo’s plan seeks to support the hospitality and tourism industry through a four-pronged approach that if successful, will create more than 70,000 new jobs by the year 2020. Her plan aims to make Rhode Island a world-class culinary destination by promoting the restaurants, breweries, vineyards and thriving food industry; foster workforce development efforts that focus on tourism and hospitality industries; improve the state’s tourism infrastructure; and invest in a targeted marketing campaign to stimulate hospitality and tourism.
I am heartened and encouraged to see the key role that the Governor sees our industry playing in the renewed economic growth of our state. And, I am further reassured by the leadership in the Rhode Island House and Senate. In order to be truly successful in changing the course of Rhode Island, we all need to work together and in the best interests of the state. The hospitality industry is more than willing to be part of the solution.
A veteran of more than 25 years in the hospitality industry, Dale Venturini is considered by many to be the voice of the industry in the state of Rhode Island. She has been instrumental in improving the industry’s educational and training programs in the state, as well as enhancing the bottom line of the business she represents. Ms. Venturini splits her time between the office and the State House, a constant presence for her membership.