Numerous organizations urge approval of Question 4 to benefit URI’s College of Engineering, and affiliated innovation campuses

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KINGSTON, R.I. – November 4, 2016 – Health care groups, Chambers of Commerce, and organizations around the state are lining up to urge Rhode Islanders to “Vote yes on Question 4.”

If approved by Rhode Island voters on Nov. 8, the Question 4 bond referendum would provide $45.5 million for improvements to and expansion of the University of Rhode Island’s College of Engineering facilities and for development of a URI Affiliated Innovation Campus Program.

Approval of Question 4 has been endorsed by the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, the Hospital Association of Rhode Island, Lifespan, The Providence Journal, Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce, Providence Business News, The Providence Foundation, Rhode Island American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), Rhode Island Builders Association, Rhode Island Building and Construction Trades. Rhode Island Commodores, the East Greenwich Chamber of Commerce and the Rhode Island Medical Society.

In an opinion piece in The Providence Journal, Laurie White, president of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, urged voters to approve Question 4.

“We often talk about the best strategies to keep students who study locally from leaving our state when they graduate,” White wrote. “To be sure, Rhode Island has some of the finest academic institutions in the world. Yet for a long time, we have witnessed the exodus of many of our top brains due to a shortage of high wage, high skill jobs.”

But White added that the trend is changing, due in large part to Rhode Islanders’ support of major facilities expansions and new construction at the state’s public university and colleges. She noted that when she was a student at URI Bliss Hall was the “grand” gateway to the College of Engineering. But modern engineering teaching and research require something very different than what was envisioned in 1928 when Bliss was built.

“Bricks and mortar matters and here’s why,” White said. “Top faculty recruits want to teach in state-of-the-art building. State-of-the-art buildings draw top faculty recruits. Top faculty recruits draw the best students. The best students draw top employers. Top employers generate jobs for local students. So it is a virtuous circle.”

“We are strongly encouraged by endorsements from so many leading Rhode Island firms and agencies,” URI President David M. Dooley said. “Such support is a testament to URI’s role in helping build a vibrant economy in Rhode Island. These endorsements also illustrate the impact of URI’s College of Engineering on a variety of industries and businesses, including its research and education in the areas of biomedical science and health care, road and bridge design and construction, product development in the detection of explosives and the effects of explosions on the structural integrity of buildings and marine vessels. We are deeply grateful for this support.”

Raymond M. Wright, dean of the College of Engineering, said such support is an indicator of the respect Rhode Island businesses have for the College and for the value it brings to those companies.

“We believe it is critical to the strength of our state and to its flagship research university to have strong relationships between Rhode Island industry and our faculty and staff,” Wright said. “From developing smart textiles for those with Parkinson’s disease, to customizing toy electric cars for children with disabilities, the College is committed to making the state better, stronger and healthier.”

Now more than ever, the business community is seeking greater numbers of engineers because engineering is at the heart of just about every process relied upon by contemporary society—whether it is curing disease, improving the planet or designing the next supercomputer, according to White.

“The Greater Providence chamber of Commerce has consistently championed spending proposals that help URI and our other public institutions of higher education prepare students to think critically and achieve professional success. In that spirit, we are urging Rhode Islanders to ‘Vote Yes on 4.’ And on the way to the voting booth, share this message with all of the youngsters you know: ‘Become an engineer. The job of your dreams awaits. Your work will change the world’,” White said.

The Providence Journal also endorsed a “yes” vote on 4, and stated in its editorial that: “While these measures involve spending, they should be viewed as sound investments in Rhode Island’s economy. “We have long argued that the state has done taxpayers no favors by scrimping on public higher education.

“Engineering and innovation go hand in hand, and Rhode Island is not alone among states seeking to invest in these areas. Indeed, Rhode Island would be hard-pressed to find an area more worthy of investment.”

Providence Business News also offered its endorsement in an editorial. It said: The future health of the state depends on building a more robust economy, and nothing is more robust than constant innovation. This ballot initiative proposes using $45.5 million to finish the upgrades to the University of Rhode Island’s engineering college as well as creating an innovation center connected to URI. Vote Yes.”