Campaign tackles Rhode Island's image problem

It's a pep talk for Rhode Islanders, paid for by the Rhode Island Foundation and intended to reverse what's seen as a dismal assessment of the state's character.

"I think people have kind of adopted a very bad self-image of Rhode Island," said John Mathias of North Providence.

The movers and shakers invited to the kick-off of the campaign titled "It's All in Our Backyard" are pushing to give Rhode Island residents more positive talking points.

These people are already believers, like Bert Crenca, founder of a renowned public art organization.

"But we have people, young people migrating to this city getting recognition outside for all that we've done. We're a jaded group," said Crenca, of AS220, a community art center in downtown Providence.

Success stories are the focus of the campaign, and Hope Global in Cumberland is one of them.

The company's president, Cheryl Merchant, said she believes in positive thinking.

"We're constantly in contact with each other all the time, and if you can just start that momentum as you talk, if you're in a meeting talk about how we can make it better. Everybody's connected all the time. It's self-fulfilling," Merchant said.

And through the website and ads, backers want to hear more.

"What we really want are thousands and thousands of stories that we can tell to each other in Rhode Island," said Neil Steinberg of the Rhode Island Foundation.

Even the famous man in the street thinks that might help.

"Maybe if we start thinking better about ourselves it will translate into business and commerce," Mathias said.

Eventually, that's what the attitude adjustment is aimed at: creating a positive environment that will just be one more factor to help convince companies and entrepreneurs they'd like to be in Rhode Island.