Note to RI’s Governor: Business is Booming in SC Due to Its Good Biz Climate, Not its “Innovation Campus”


It was good to see the House Finance Committee demonstrate some healthy skepticism late last week towards the $20 million bond that the Governor wants to put on the ballot for a – cue one of her favorite buzz words – “Innovation Campus”.

And it was on display Thursday as lawmakers questioned administration officials about the initiative, which would use that $20 million as seed money for a winning team of companies and universities to build a research campus, or campuses, somewhere in the state.

It was irresponsible and bordered on dishonest that, in pointing to a state with a good economy, Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor mentioned the presence of an innovation campus but not the hospitality of its business climate.

In support of the Innovation Campus plan, Pryor came armed not only with the Brookings Institutions’ report that recommended it, but a list of places across the country where government, academic and corporate dollars had been used to build something. At the top of his list was Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research in South Carolina, which was built with assistance from BMW and a $40-million bond.

Both lawmakers and voters should say “no” to this bond proposal. The very last thing that Rhode Island’s economy needs is yet another vague initiative inspired by a buzz word and funded by ever more borrowing on the taxpayers’ already maxed out credit card.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    It seems to me that business development is an area where the government should not lead, or follow. It should keep apace. It occurs to me that in the BMW, Clemson, arrangement, it is possible that BMW simply “outsourced” research that they would otherwise have to do on their own dime. From BMW’s point of view, academic facilities are tax free and any “grants” to it are probably tax deductible.Meanwhile they get necessary research done.

    I agree with Monique that “innovation campus” has a nice “forward looking”, “pro-active””feel good” ring to it. One might look just across the border to Attleboro, Ma. the city took about 50 acres by eminent domain to build an industrial/business park (Industrial Estate, in Britain) and attract “good jobs” The whole thing was a boondoggle, debts in arrears, Redevelopment heads fired, work slowed for 4 years, etc., etc. No one would buy in, for a lot of obvious reasons. Now, the parcel was bought up, at a price matching debt, to become a “Sports Center. Great , a bunch of low wage “bucket boy” jobs. It is being hailed as a tremendous success. Back pats all around.

  • Max

    South Carolina wooed BMW with a business friendly environment and a package that include tax incentives, infrastructure improvements, and onsite training from the S.C. Technical College System which was established in 1960. BMW provided $10 million to Clemson to establish the research center. Our Governor is putting the cart before the horse. With her new truck toll plan, high taxes, and oppressive regulations, what manufacturing company in their right mind would pull up stakes to move here. She’s driving the last nail into the Rhode Island coffin.

  • loumazzucchelli

    Small beer. Probably not enough money to make a difference – and it depends on well-heeled partners to make it work. A meaningful program would be bigger, but no one has demonstrated either the will or the competence to develop and execute such a program. Other comments about RIs dysfunctional macro environment just exacerbate the problem.

  • D. S. Crockett

    Unfortunately, RI voters are apt to approve most bond issues as such bonds are part of the feel good mentality felt by most leftys.