|Here’s something to think about
for Quonset Business Park: 8,800 good jobs; $168 million in private
investment; more than $650 million in state and federal investment; and
tremendous growth potential.
This is not from some preposterous casino scheme. Rather, these numbers
represent what currently exists at Quonset, where 168 companies have
created 2,750 jobs just since 2005. These are good jobs in high-tech
manufacturing, the marine trades, and global trade-related fields.
These are precisely the kind of high-paying blue collar jobs that our
state needs as it transitions to a 21st century economy.
What is equally exciting is the tremendous potential for growth. An
additional $126 million in private investment, which would create even
more jobs, is already in the pipeline. As members of the Joint
Legislative Port Development Commission, which on February 14 made
recommendations for how to foster business and job growth at Rhode
Island’s working waterfronts, we know the potential for Rhode
Island’s ports to be great. The Commission’s final report
shows a potential for 1,000 new jobs and $70 million in additional
wages at Rhode Island’s ports. These are good quality jobs Rhode
A casino would create jobs, one might argue. That’s true enough,
but at what cost? The median income of a casino dealer is $18,090 a
year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics – a far cry
from the quality jobs being created right now at Quonset.
The prospect of a casino as a neighbor is one that Quonset businesses
could understandably find unsettling. It sends the wrong message about
what kind of business park is in place at Quonset. Facing uncertainty
such as whether they will lose the property on which they operate might
find them looking to expand their businesses elsewhere. Talk of a
casino at Quonset could allow competing business parks and ports to
attempt to lure away companies operating at Quonset as well as existing
and potential customers.
In addition to serving on the Port Commission, we both also serve on
the Lottery Commission, which oversees Twin River and Newport Grand.
Our existing gaming facilities are vital sources of state revenue, and
we support providing them with every possible protection, including
installation of table games at both facilities.
Putting aside the threat to existing facilities, one must wonder if
proponents of a casino at Quonset have truly thought through the
ramifications of such a proposal on the success story that is already
unfolding there. For instance, the port was the eighth-largest auto
importer in North America in 2010, and the second fastest growing auto
importer on the continent.
In fact there is very little available land at Quonset. The land
referred to in Representative Joseph Trillo’s “casino
plan” is actually under long-term leases for automotive import
delivery, value added manufacturing and distribution. The three largest
undeveloped parcels there are 62, 56 and 54 acres. They are not
contiguous, and they are not near the water. Assuming cruise ships,
which typically have on-board casinos, would even want to bring their
passengers to a port of call with the sole attraction of a competing
land-based casino, the ship channel is only capable of allowing one
such vessel in at a time. This would hinder Electric Boat –
poised for further growth with the US Navy’s shift to increased
submarine power – Senesco, and the business park’s other
The companies that would be impacted are some of Rhode Island’s
best employers. They have been creating thousands of good jobs, and
they are poised for continued growth. The voters of Rhode Island
recognize this, which is why they have chosen to support significant
public investment here. Rhode Island’s leaders also recognize the
existing strength and tremendous potential at Quonset, and they have
made consistent policy decisions to maximize their potential.
In bi-partisan unison, Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, Majority
Leader Dominick Ruggerio, and Minority Leader Dennis Algiere have
spoken out against the Quonset “casino plan.” We write in
that same bipartisan spirit today.
The discussion of a casino that has no practical prospects of coming to
fruition creates a climate of uncertainty that seriously undermines the
time, effort and money spent to create the Quonset success story in our
state. In short, the business park and port are thriving. It makes
little sense to gamble away a bright and prosperous future at Quonset
with an ill-advised casino fantasy. A casino at Quonset is a bad bet.
Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence) is the Senate Majority Whip.
David E. Bates (R-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol) is Senate Minority
Whip. Both are members of the Joint Legislative Port Commission.