RI competes for high-tech hub designation

Rhode Island's leaders are hoping to capitalize on two homegrown strengths: a historical connection to manufacturing and a tradition of cutting edge design.

Swissline Precision Manufacturing Inc. in Cumberland creates medical devices with computer-run machines.

The company is doing fine because it has the latest equipment and operators who are trained to run it. It's high-tech manufacturing that will continue to be accomplished domestically, as long as companies continue to invest.

President Obama said in his State of the Union address Tuesday night that he wants the federal government to invest in hubs of manufacturing excellence. Seventy million dollars has already been poured into North Carolina to assist manufacturers there.

Rhode Island is also combining forces to try to earn selection as another hub.

"Our application is really focusing on design and manufacturing, and we have a unique capability in design and if you look at industrial design and all other professions of design, they reside here through Rhode Island School of Design and other colleges and universities," said John Riendeau of the Rhode Island Commerce Corp.

Universities and colleges, entrepreneurs and manufacturers are already at the table for meetings to create a Rhode Island Center for Design and Manufacturing with high hopes.

"We know we have extraordinary design capability, innovative capability right here in the city of Providence. We also know we have inordinate amount of expertise and capabilities in our traditional manufacturing communities," said Bill McCourt of the Rhode Island Manufacturers Association. "What we're looking for is the concept of bringing both of these together, and I think with that, we're talking about a very, very successful partnership."

The federal government is expected to announce in the next few months, or weeks, where the next high-tech manufacturing hubs will be located.