There are a number of reasons why US manufacturing (and related to this -- exports) has done so well. First and foremost is the US Dollar exchange rate. The dollar depreciation that has occurred over the past few years, driven largely by the extremely low interest rates orchestrated by the Federal Reserve, has made exports from the US much more competitive to foreign buyers than they otherwise would be. In addition to this, appreciation of the Japanese Yen has caused production costs there to become unacceptably high to a number of manufacturers, leading them to shift their Japanese production to other countries. To some extent, US manufacturing has benefited from this. Then there is the success of China as an exporter, which has produced upward pressure on manufacturing wages there and upward pressure on their currency, the Chinese Yuan. Finally, political pressure that continues to be applied to US manufacturers has led them to move some of their operations back to the US. The extent to which these factors have benefited Rhode Island manufacturing is not clear at this time. Since a study of this topic would entail due diligence, it is safe to conclude that no such study will ever occur here.
For Rhode Island, much of the recent manufacturing strength has been manifested in a return of the workweek from the highly depressed values it fell to during "The Great Recession" to more typical values. During the past three months, the workweek here has moved beyond the 40-hour level. In February of 2012, the average workweek, 40.7 hours, was the fifth highest length since 2000 (using the new industrial classification system that is as far back as we can go). The chart below (click to enlarge) shows Rhode Island's manufacturing workweek since 2000.