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The upside of hope in Rhode Island

Nine individuals who are bullish and optimistic amid the state's current tough times
By IAN DONNIS  |  January 29, 2009

smiley
Photo by Richard McCaffrey

Matt Grigsby
Age:
25
Where he's from: Schenectady, New York
Moved to RI: Transferred to Rhode Island School of Design.
Level of hope and optimism for the state's future, on a scale of 1 to 10: 8 "I think we're all in it together."
Reasons to be cheerful: "Rhode Island is small, so I'd like to think that Rhode Island can change [for the better] very quickly."
Matt Grigsby basically thought he was going to take a job in Boston — and he almost took one in Taiwan — after graduating from RISD in 2005. Ultimately, though, he found the more desirable qualities for his active social and professional life right in Providence.

In contrast to larger cities, he says, it's easier to reach out to other members of the extended community, offering the chance to do something different. In Grigsby's case, this meant launching an industrial design business, and an ensuing design for earphones was offered through the Apple store.

Discovered an absence of materials for industrial designers, Grigsby and fellow RISD alum Joe Gebbia used that as an opportunity in 2007 to establish Ecolect (ecolect.net), which helps designers, architects, and builders to find "eco-material alternatives." The timing was fortuitous. Thanks to a boom in demand for sustainable materials, the company has fared well since then, attracting attention in a variety of publications.

Offering the largest online database of eco-friendly design materials, Ecolect's Web site has more than 2500 registered users, and the company, with 10 employees, operates offices in Providence, San Francisco, and Chicago. For his part, Grisby, who chairs the local chapter of the Industrial Designers Society of America, couldn't be happier to be in Rhode Island, relishing the creative ferment and close-knit West Side community.


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