Horowitz: Landing GE Demonstrates Raimondo’s National Profile is Good For RI

Tuesday, June 14, 2016


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Failing to realize that Governor Raimondo’s strongly positive national profile is not only good for her, it is good for Rhode Island, some people have actually criticized her for getting too much national publicity. Last week’s announcement that General Electric(GE) will be opening a  Digital Technology Center in Providence and bringing an initial 100 high technology jobs with the potential for hundreds more to our State should put an end to that level of absurd, but all too typical Rhode Island parochialism.

Raimondo’s national reputation is a door opener to Fortune 500 companies like General Electric. And in this case, once her foot was in the door, her persistence in the face of GE choosing Boston over Providence for its corporate headquarters earlier this year ended up paying big dividends. When a company with GE’s outstanding reputation chooses Rhode Island, other companies are bound to take notice.

The sounds last week of GE Executives and spokespeople singing Rhode Island’s praises provide a big boost to efforts to recruit more businesses and entrepreneurs to our State. “It’s really about talent," said, GE-Digital spokeswoman Amy Sarosiek, pointing to the talent at Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design. Expanding on this point, Chris Drumgole, vice president and chief Technology officer for GE Information Technology said, "We needed a place that had a strong tech talent pipeline, top-tier university partnership opportunities and great quality of life. With its unique location along the northeast corridor, Rhode Island gives us access to many of the assets we need for success."

The new jobs will be in the high paying areas of engineering, software and applications design. As Governor Raimondo said, "Our top priority is putting people back to work, so I'm thrilled that GE Digital is planning to bring hundreds of new high-paying jobs to Rhode Island over the next several years."

To land GE, the State is supplying about $5,6 million in incentives over about a ten year period. This isn’t exactly chump change, but Commerce Secretary Pryor estimates that at least $12 million in new state revenues will be generated. Far more importantly, it sends a strong message to the new technology sector that Rhode Island is an attractive place to locate a business.

The GE  decision adds to the Raimondo Administration’s growing record of economic development success. This includes Wexford-CV Properties commitment to build a life-sciences complex on Providence’s 195 land, the manufacturing firm, Greytstone, choosing to expand in Rhode Island instead of Virgina, two new hotels moving forward in Providence, and Electric Boat adding 4,000 jobs in Quonset and Connecticut close to the RI border.

These results are being generated by  a sound economic development strategy—one that is based in large measure on evidence and best practices, drawing on: policy approaches that have succeeded in other states, including  targeted tax incentives to encourage businesses to locate here, an overhaul of job training, and long-overdue investments in infrastructure.  And Yes, they are also a result of Governor Raimondo’s positive national profile—one we Rhode Islanders should be celebrating, not criticizing.


Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island


Related Slideshow: 5 Economic Projects - Can Raimondo Get Them Done?

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#5 Wexford-CV Properties

The Raimondo administration continues to work with the 195 Commission to seal the deal with the Baltimore-based Wexford Science and Technology for development of prime real estate on the former highway land.  While a proposal was made back in June for a mixed-use project, the negotiations between the state and the life sciences have been mostly behind the scenes, with a key vote taken on the proposal taking place Monday night -- in closed session.  

"It is important to note that a P&S while an important milestone, is still just a step in the development process," said Commission spokesperson Dyana Koelsch.  You can see the plan as presented on the Jewelry District's website HERE.   Will we see shovels shortly?

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#4 General Electric

Reports that the Connecticut giant is eyeing a move elsewhere — with Rhode Island on that short list — has many a Ocean Stater excited at the possibility.  The Boston Globe not surprisingly made the case that their state should top the list (taking a dig at the others), saying that the "Boston area is on the short list of contenders for the headquarters and its 800 people, as GE’s search focuses on high-cost states in the Northeast. In relation to those states, Massachusetts compares favorably on its business tax climate."

However a Connecticut State Rep told the Hartford Courant a month earlier that Rhode Island as an option “wouldn’t surprise him.” Said State Rep John Frey in November, “It's been expressed to me by a couple of people at GE that they've been impressed by what the governor has done with state employee liabilities." To say a GE coup by Raimondo would be monumental for Rhode Island would be an understatement.

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#3 Citizens' Campus

The Rhode Island-based banking powerhouse has indicated that is looking for a vacant location state as a potential new campus for 4,000 + of its employees — while maintaining its headquarters downtown at One Citizens Plaza.  There is little indication at this time however of consideration of a vacant parcel of prime Providence real estate just to its HQ's south (that being the Industrial National Bank “Superman” building); the bank is indicating that keeping its support facility in Cranston is still an option.  

“The lease for our service and support facility in Cranston expires in 2018. We are exploring several opportunities ranging from renewal to potentially consolidating some of our staff and back office functions at a new location in Rhode Island," said Citizens spokesperson Jim Hughes.  Watch to see how Citizens moves forward -- and what, if any, role Raimondo has in the process -- and outcome.

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#2 Superman Building

The arguably most iconic building in Providence — and Rhode Island’s - skyline lost its last tenant in 2013, and a year later an appraiser deemed it to have “zero value.”  A failed effort to utilized tax credits and public investment by High Rock Development has left watchers asking if and when anything is going to move into the historic (if slightly aging) building.

Former Mayor and real estate developer Joseph Paolino, who has been a vocal supporter of trying to get Citizens Bank into Superman, told GoLocal, “I think the biggest problem [in the city] is Superman, because it depresses everything around it. Paolino, who bought three properties nearby downtown back in 2014 — said the revelation that the Industrial National Bank building was empty had cost him a mortgage with a major lender.

Whether there is an opportunity for a Citizens Bank move, or a new developer to re-package a viable mixed-use proposal, if the Superman building is still empty in several years' time, that is not a win for anyone -- not the city, not the state, and not the Governor.

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#1 195 Rollout

When Raimondo took office, she understandably made a number of changes on the 195 Commission. A tax stabilization agreement (TSA) structure was finalized this past summer, and the Commission has the Wexford biotech proposal moving forward — but how much more development, and how soon, will the Raimondo administration be able to accomplish what it pledged it would do?

Raimondo called for the 195 land to be a manufacturing hub during her campaign — and while year one might have been setting the stage, the next years are critical for the state — and Governor.  Will she usher through her proposed Innovation Institute?  


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