Memo to EDC and 38 Studios: Economic Development Is More than Just Money

Mark Patinkin’s Sunday column has a jocular tone, describing his attempts to tour the offices of 38 Studios — the videogame venture of former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling for which Rhode Island has guaranteed $75 million in loans.  But he does have a serious point to make:

By the way, 38 Studios unveiled its first game at a store in Bellingham, Mass., on Feb. 7. Curt Schilling himself was there. To be honest, as a Rhode Island taxpayer, it hurt my feelings. We’re giving him a $75-million guarantee, and he won’t even launch his product here? What are we, chopped liver?

But Schilling has indeed delivered on jobs. The Rhode Island Economic Development Corp. says 38 Studios now has 270 employees with an average wage of more than $80,000 a year. That’s good for the state.

Elsewhere in the column, Patinkin laments the lack of any signage or any indication at all that something $75-million-exciting might be going on at One Empire Plaza in downtown Providence.  Altogether, his objections come close to articulating the intangible justification for Rhode Islanders’ bemused snorts at the news that Schilling launched his new game in Massachusetts:  economic development is more than just jobs and more than just money.

Those are critical, to be sure, but the state needs to be not just a location on the map with some buildings in which stuff happens that generates money.  It needs to be the place… defined by something cooler than the random Mr. Potato Head statue.  38 Studios should expend some energy making its neighborhood and its state feel like a cool place to be.  Premiering games, here, would be a good start, but there are countless other small ways in which it could be accomplished.