So Much For The Knowledge District

As an engine of economic growth surely the biotech industry is to be preferred above hotdog vending and parking lot attending. But guess which way our state leadership is heading.

Certainly PawSox co-owner James Skeffington behaves as if his 10,000-seat stadium on the riverfront is a done deal. At his press conference Thursday (ProJo) Phineas T. Bluster generously announced that the Dyer Street location will suit his needs just fine . . . once we throw more of the surrounding land into the deal. The project will require an additional 4.8 acre parcel, intended now for use as a public park but, oh well. Not that he wants to pay for any of this land. Skeffington wants to lease the land from the state. I think he should pay for it. And pay taxes on it.

Turns out the PawSox ownership team would also need the Narragansett Bay Commission to relocate some of its stormwater utilities that are underneath the proposed left field. Skeffington dismissed this as a trifling obstacle — spoken like a person spending other people’s money.

Now comes word that we have had legitimate interest regarding this parcel from out-of-state biotechnology companies, but their efforts have been stymied due to lack of interest! Kate Bramson writes in the April 3rd Providence Journal that an attorney and a doctor from the Boston area had hoped to build life-sciences laboratories on the parcel, but

“We had to suspend our Providence Biolabs initiative when it became clear that there was not sufficient state support available to bring a shared laboratory to Providence,” Fruehauf told The Providence Journal.

Ehrlich said their project is at a “standstill” after unsuccessful attempts to meet with state leaders. He and Fruehauf presented their plan to Gina Raimondo last October, during her gubernatorial campaign. But Ehrlich said he thinks the governor wants to support a bigger project than what they proposed. He said he’s aware of conversations between institutions and entities with larger plans, but Ehrlich said he’s not involved in those discussions.

“The word I got was that the scale of our project was too small, that they wanted something with more of a bang,” Ehrlich said.

What the?! Governor Raimondo was elected in large part because of her alleged business acumen and evident success in the world of venture capital. The new PawSox ownership team has made it abundantly clear — Rhode Island taxpayers will be on the hook for a big chunk of this project. Raimondo has been busy lately, but now she needs to read Paul Grimaldi’s excellent piece from the March 1st Providence Sunday Journal — “Game of winners & losers.”

Or, for the Cliff Notes version, read the ProJo PolitiFact column which declared the claims of RI Republican National Committee rep Steve Frias to be “True.”

Steven Frias said, “Research performed by economists has shown no consistent, positive impact on jobs, income or tax revenues arising from stadiums or sports franchises.”

It appears that he belted this one out of the park.

It also should be noted that attendance for PawSox games has been on the decline in recent years, and can we at least pay off the Studio 38 tab before we fall for another self-aggrandizing booster.

And for crying out loud, get those biotech guys back on the phone!



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