Last week, Rhode Island Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressmen David Cicilline and Jim Langevin announced a $125,000 federal grant to develop a composites industry cluster that is expected to support job creation and economic growth in Rhode Island.

The grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), a bureau of the U.S. Department of Commerce, was awarded to the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association (RIMTA) and the town of Bristol, R.I., to develop a strategic plan to maximize the competitiveness of the local composites industry, with a focus on Bristol and surrounding communities in the East Bay region of the state. The federal grant was matched by funding from the Rhode Island Foundation and $25,000 from the Real Jobs Rhode Island program.

“The creation of a Composites Innovation Cluster would add to the state’s growing manufacturing base, and funding from this grant will enable the Town of Bristol and the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association to develop a strategic plan to expand the composites industry and further economic growth,” said Rep. Langevin.

The East Bay is home to more than 45 composites companies with a broad range of expertise in manufacturing, design, and engineering.  These companies are supported by nearby educational institutions like IYRS, which deliver industry-specific curriculum and training in composites, as well as research and development.

“Rhode Island-made composites are well-suited to meet the need for light, durable materials in infrastructure, aerospace, defense, and wind energy,” said Senator Whitehouse, who has brought several EDA officials to Rhode Island in recent years for meetings with composites stakeholders.  “Our local composites industry has all the elements to keep growing and hiring more Rhode Islanders in the years ahead.  This federal grant will harness those components into a strategic plan for expanding advanced manufacturing in the East Bay.”

Sen. Whitehouse has been a strong advocate for the composites industry for years. Last year, he wrote a provision for the Water Resources Development Act directing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to study the performance of composites and other innovative materials in water resources projects. The American Composites Manufacturers Association (ACMA) worked with members of both chambers to ensure the inclusion of that language was included in the final version of the legislation.