BUILD TO FIT: Quonset Business Park is home to companies such as Toray Plastic (America), but R.I. Commerce Corporation Executive Director Marcel A. Valois says future plans don’t mean replicating such a large park.
Although demand for industrial properties remains soft, state leaders believe a shortage of premium, pad-ready and permitted sites may be contributing to the problem and could prevent manufacturers from locating here in the future.
To boost the advanced manufacturing sector, the state’s new economic plan being finalized by the R.I. Commerce Corporation recommends funding “to acquire, permit and deliver a fully functioning business park.”
Where in the state the new park should be located or how it would be financed are not addressed in the report, a business-centered piece of the larger RhodeMap RI plan scheduled to be completed by February. Other sections of RhodeMap focus on land use and will likely narrow down the best candidates for industrial expansion.
R.I. Commerce Corporation Executive Director Marcel A. Valois cautioned that a new park was one of many recommendations and any discussions are only in the exploratory phase, but the Commerce Corporation board of directors in late June received a presentation on the facility needs of today’s advanced manufacturers.
“We need to look at the inventory that over the next 10 years would support the growth of companies in Rhode Island who need larger footprints than what we typically have available in older buildings and neighborhoods,” Valois said. “Around the state we no longer have a robust inventory: Highland Corporate Park is full, Quonset Point has less than 300 acres available for lease. If you look around the state and say ‘where would you locate a company needing 100,000 to 300,000 square feet,’ there aren’t many options.”
Valois said Commerce RI had recently been approached by companies looking for modern space in the 200,000 to 300,000-square-foot range and had limited options to show executives.
Quonset Business Park is the leading industrial park in the state and one of Rhode Island’s economic success stories, but Valois said future plans do not necessarily mean trying to replicate something so large.
Multiple smaller parks in different areas may prove to be a better solution.
Expansion of Rhode Island’s suburban business campuses has become a controversial subject recently, and the state economic-development plan pairs its recommendation for a new park with the need to encourage industrial development in urban areas.