Business Excellence Awards
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As director of finance at the Quonset Development Corporation, Kevin Barry could boast that he has helped bring thousands of good jobs to Rhode Island.
One of his top accomplishments came about last year, when he was part of the team that convinced Electric Boat to renew its lease at Quonset Business Park for another 25 years. It means the submarine builder will hire several hundred more people over the next few months, and eventually it will double its workforce to 6,000.
“Through his presence, insight, and teamwork, Kevin has been a great contributor to Quonset’s success,” said Steven J. King, managing director of the QDC. “There’s nothing we throw at him that he can’t figure out.”
Barry, a lifelong Pawtucket resident, began working at the North Kingstown facility 18 years ago. Since then, the business park and airport has grown by leaps and bounds, and has been reorganized several times.
Since 2005, more than 3,500 jobs have been created at the park (the most recent announcement coming two weeks ago, when Greencore USA announced it was building a new facility at Quonset, with plans to employ 393 once the plant is operational), and Quonset’s Port of Davisville is one of the top 10 auto importing facilities in North America. The park’s annual gross revenue was close to $12 million in 2013 (not including federal grant funding).
The site was originally the Quonset Point Naval Air Station, a defense installation. The state took over the property in 1978 after the military base closed, and established the Rhode Island Port Authority to transform the site into a business park. Eventually the then-R.I. Economic Development Corporation took over the job. The old Seabee facility at Davisville was added to the site in 1999.
In 2004, the state set up the Quonset Development Corporation, a quasi-state agency, to manage the property. It is now a subsidiary of the R.I. Commerce Corporation, the agency that replaced the EDC at the beginning of this year.
The QDC’s staff is small – just 42 people – which means Barry must wear several hats not normally associated with a CFO’s duties. He is human resources director, director of administration, a liaison to the town of North Kingstown, and a spokesman when the QDC presents reports to the state legislature.
“When we separated from EDC, we had to pick up the human resources work and all the things associated with that,” Barry said. “We run a very lean operation, so we don’t have a separate IT department. We do that through consultants, and I manage them. We have office space and warehouse space, and I manage those. I make sure our insurance policies are up to date.”
King, the QDC managing director, added, “There’s private land within the park that’s part of North Kingstown, so we have a municipal-services agreement with them. There’s property outside the park that’s tied into our wastewater system. Eventually the town will take over the billing, but right now it’s our job. At Quonset Park we also run our own water supply and sewer systems, and Kevin is in charge of developing the rate structures.”
Eventually there could be 15,000 people working at Quonset when companies have established themselves on all the land. “When we started, the companies here employed 3,000 people,” King said. “Now we’re closing in on 10,000. We’ve got 175 companies here today. The park includes about 1,400 acres. We’ve built on 900 acres; we’ve only got about 300 acres left.”
At the bustling Port of Davisville, the number of foreign-made vehicles delivered each year has soared to more than 200,000, up from 20,000 a year when Barry first came on-board. “That puts us in the top 10 in North America for finished vehicle logistics. Kevin Barry gets to handle all the dockage fees and wharf fees, and bills all the ships,” King said.
In addition to coordinating the billing and the accounting of utilities provided to the tenants and North Kingstown residents by the QDC, Barry manages a rail transportation fund between the QDC and Seaview Transportation, as well as a joint capital fund the QDC shares with North Kingstown. And as director of finance, he oversees a number of things, including the annual budget and audits, lease payments, PILOT payments, port fees and tariffs, and federal grant reimbursements.
“We’re like a small municipality here,” Barry said. “We have utilities, public works. But it never gets too confusing. Everyone does what needs to be done.”
Barry also oversees the use of federal grant money. For example, in 2010 Quonset received a $22.5 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant. Barry was responsible for ensuring the completed work met certain criteria, that contractors stayed on budget and that grant funding was received in a timely manner. He did the same with a recent dredging project the QDC completed with a $7.5 million revenue bond approved by the state legislature.
Barry attended Bryant University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and an MBA in accounting. He previously worked for Cookson America Inc. as a controller for its Poly-Flex Circuits subsidiary in Cranston and as a senior corporate accountant at the company’s Providence office. His first job as a teenager was washing dishes and cooking at a nursing home. “I ended up becoming their bookkeeper,” he said.
Asked what drew him to working in finance, Barry said, “I like that there’s always a right or wrong answer. In this business, things have to add up or down.”