With critics calling for radical change to the R.I. Economic Development Corporation in the wake of the 38 Studios disaster, Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee turned to Marcel A. Valois, a trusted name who had run the quasi-state agency 16 years earlier. And within weeks, the choice seemed to have a calming effect on the organization, which had just been overhauled and seen the departure of a large portion of management.
In the past six months under Valois, the EDC has reached out to more than 600 Rhode Island companies in an effort to help existing business instead of trying to lure them from elsewhere with incentives. A more restrained EDC should help the state avoid disasters such as 38 Studios, but that still leaves Valois with the job of trying to improve an economy that trails behind its neighbors.
PBN: Why did you want to come back to this job after 16 years and all that’s happened?
VALOIS: In my conversations with the governor I just felt based on my background, that with my experience I could be helpful. When I go around the state and talk to people both in and outside of business, there are folks who have opinions and some have high levels of cynicism and I like to challenge them and say: What are we going to do about it? I was at a point in my life where I thought I could be helpful, where I could bring my experiences and knowledge of the economic-development field to Rhode Island at a time I thought they needed some direction and stability at the Economic Development Corporation.
PBN: Since you have come back, have you personally taken a look at what was going on internally at the EDC during the 38 Studios period, in order to learn from it and avoid similar pitfalls?
VALOIS: No. I have not been focused on 38 Studios, but I am familiar enough with the process and the conversations that led up to the 38 Studios decision to understand and learn around the due diligence that is required when we get involved in these very high-risk, early-stage decisions. I certainly have an appreciation for that. It certainly helps formulate my approaches to the restructuring of programs or activities here at EDC. But it is not limited to me. I think a lot of people have learnt over the last two years. There are a lot of new procedures in place as a result of everyone learning some very valuable lessons from that experience.