EAST PROVIDENCE — Thriving city business Gripnail Fastening Systems was once again the site of a tour by a prospective elected official as Republican gubernatorial aspirant Ken Block visited the Dexter Road facility Tuesday afternoon, June 10.
Mr. Block, the Barrington resident, is vying with Cranston Mayor Allan Fung for the GOP nomination. Tuesday he, like U.S. Rep. David Cicilline and Democratic candidate for governor Gina Raimondo have done in the last year, took in the Rumford manufacturing plant and discussed business with Gripnail Chief Executive Officer and East Providence native Chris Ryding.
As a refresher to some, Gripnail, which was profiled in mid-2013 by The Post and eastbayri.com, has its roots in the East Bay. The company was founded by Peter and Peggy Hallock in 1965 in Bristol, remaining there until it moved to East Providence and a different Dexter Road location in the early 1990s, according to Mr. Ryding. In 1996, Gripnail located to its current plant at the 97 Dexter address.
The company specializes in manufacturing pins for fastening materials to metal surfaces, doing much of its business with the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) industry. Gripnail has some three dozen employees and annual sales in excess of $6.5 million.
Gripnail operates under an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan), which provides a company’s workforce with a proprietary stake. Employees have stock ownership, often at no up-front cost to them as was the case with Gripnail. ESOP shares are part of the employees’ compensation. The shares are allocated to employees based on service and are held in a trust until he or she retires or leaves the company. Those shares are then redistributed back to the remaining employees.
“We discussed the benefits of employee ownership and how companies like ours tend to have better pay and benefits, are more competitive than other businesses in their industry, and are generally viewed as good places to work,” said Mr. Ryding
He continued, saying he and Mr. Block also discussed a number of other issues pertaining to making the Ocean State more attractive and competitive to businesses.
“We talked about making Rhode Island more business friendly in order to attract businesses and keep businesses here by reducing taxes for commercial real estate, property, TDI, income, estate and sales taxes,” Mr. Ryding said. “The improved business climate will increase job opportunities for the unemployed and high school and college graduates who have now may have to move out of state to find a job.”
Gripnail’s business and its reliance on complex, intricate machinery means it needs a well-trained workforce. Mr. Ryding implored Mr. Block to tackle important education issues like vocational training.
“Local and state level training is not where it should be for our business, and as we look to expand, we’ll need a pool of talented machinists and machine operators to help grow our business,” Mr. Ryding noted.