Officials: Bill won’t push Hasbro departure

Officials: Bill won’t push Hasbro departure

PAWTUCKET – Deep in the 57-page Article 12 of Gov. Gina Raimondo’s proposed budget, in amending the Rhode Island Qualified Jobs Incentive Act, are some paragraphs that could, depending on their interpretation, set off alarm bells for residents worried that city-based toymaker Hasbro will leave for Providence.

But city officials, after conferring with representatives from Commerce Rhode Island last week to express their concerns, say they’re satisfied these changes do not increase the likelihood of Hasbro leaving, saying they will actually be voicing support for the proposed modifications.

“CommerceRI has submitted legislation updating Article 12 that defines the tools and powers of CommerceRI that will be heard on Thursday at the House Finance Committee. We will be supporting this legislation as it will strengthen the state tax credit program for major economic development projects and enhance the Opportunity Zone program,” said Pawtucket Director of Commerce Jeanne Boyle. “We have been assured by CommerceRI that this will not increase the likelihood of Hasbro leaving Pawtucket.”

Added Boyle, “In fact, we are hopeful that these new tools may assist us in working with CommerceRI in keeping Hasbro here. We have made it clear that we will not support any legislation that will pit communities in our small state against one another.”

City officials remain opposed to any changes of state policy discouraging poaching of businesses from other Rhode Island communities.

Jennifer Bogdan, director of communications for Raimondo, confirmed the content and characterization of those conversations this week.

Hasbro officials have said they’ll decide by the middle of this year whether they’ll keep the company in Rhode Island or move elsewhere, repeatedly saying that they need to be a “modern play and entertainment company” with a facility that matches. They have said they’re open to moving somewhere in the area of their Newport Avenue headquarters, potentially even outside of Pawtucket, and could also renovate the existing headquarters.

About 1,600 of Hasbro’s 6,000 or so employees work in Rhode Island, spread across offices in Pawtucket, Providence and East Providence, and the company is looking to consolidate offices with a new headquarters.

Raimondo and other state leaders have said they’re prioritizing keeping Hasbro in Rhode Island, but have not said that a new headquarters in Pawtucket is a must. The company is believed to be looking at parcels in Providence and elsewhere.

Mayor Donald Grebien has said that the city can’t afford another loss of a major entity, following losses last year of the Pawtucket Red Sox and Memorial Hospital.

Hasbro has been hurt significantly by the closing of Toys ‘R’ Us, and is trying to rebrand itself as being about much more than toys.

City officials say the company is working exclusively with the quasi-public economic development agency CommerceRI on next steps, and there are no current discussions happening between Hasbro and local officials.

The legislation up for consideration in the House Finance Committee this Thursday, March 14, defines a major economic development opportunity as the expansion or relocation of a business in a targeted industry where at least 51 percent of new full-time jobs are classified as high wage and where the expansion or relocation meets additional criteria, including: the creation of 100 new jobs in the state or the relocation or establishment of a regional or national headquarters or other major corporate hub in the state. It lists a tax credit of $7,500 for each job as long as the business is considered a major economic development opportunity.