Editorial: Fear of Economic Development Projects After 38 Studios Deal

Laurie White (president of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce) and Michael Sabitoni (president of the Rhode Island Construction and Building Trades Council) teamed up to pen an op-ed in the Providence Journal to warn lawmakers and the public that what happened with 38 Studios should not cast aspersions of future state investments into other industries. While lawmakers and pundits are pointing fingers at each other over whose fault it is, other ventures that want to do business in the state are feeling the effects. These new ideas that require investment are being compared to the deal with 38 Studios, which put taxpayers on the hook for millions of dollars.

"Debate over the 38 Studios bond payments dominated this year’s General Assembly session," the editorial begins.  "Rightly so — the decision was an important one for state lawmakers, with larger implications for Rhode Island’s economy. But we’re left with a fear that unease over the 38 Studios fallout could further damage the state’s struggling economy if we allow our caution to turn to apathy, our fear to paralysis."

The editorial goes on to say that not every new economic development proposal in the state "bears the hallmark of 'another 38 Studios,'" and that the state's business climate (which is at an abysmal ranking of 49th in the country, according to CNBC) can be put on the back of the 38 Studios deal that went sour – larger issue of failed economic strategies are also at play.

"Moreover, we shouldn’t let one experience affect how we view opportunities to build new industries here or capitalize on outside investments," the op-ed notes.

White and Sabitoni say that they are also "dismayed" by unfair comparisons between 38 Studios’ failed venture and the Deepwater Wind offshore wind projects. Critics of that project, they say, are "either inexcusably uninformed, given the amount of public information available on the Block Island Wind Farm, or they are purposely misleading the public in a desperate eleventh-hour attempt to sway opinion on a project that has consistently drawn widespread and diverse support from the general public, the Chamber and labor leaders as well as major local and national environmental groups."

The op-ed then goes on to explain some details on the project, followed by a call to view the CNBC ranking for the state's business climate as a call to arms to do something positive.

"The fallout from 38 Studios should not cripple us so much that we allow it to unfairly taint worthy projects," the editorial notes in closing. "Other states are waiting in the wings to capitalize on these promising opportunities if Rhode Island doesn’t move forward. Let’s move smartly and boldly on the right projects, right now."

Source: Providence Journal

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