EDC bet on 38 Studios is too big to miss on

That the state could sorely use an infusion of high-paying jobs is no secret.
Rhode Island has earned its first in, last out reputation during tough economic times due to a poorly diversified economy and often unimaginative leadership more worried about protecting turf than expanding economic opportunity.
So economic-development and legislative leaders deserve some credit for making a strong pitch to lure Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios video game firm to the Ocean State. The potential payoff is intoxicating: as many as 458 new jobs by 2012 paying an average salary of $72,500. But that comes at a potentially staggering cost of up to $75 million in revenue bonds the EDC would issue and could ultimately be responsible for, under a preliminary agreement.
On the surface, it seems like a rich, almost desperate, price to pay for promise, especially for the R.I. Economic Development Corporation.
The agency has a poor record of tracking, let alone holding loan recipients to, job projections. And long-term job growth in the volatile video game industry is hardly a sure thing.
Yes, the state must be willing to take some risks to turn the economic tide. But this potential bet is too big to miss on. Before it takes a final vote on the proposal, the EDC must make good on Executive Director Keith W. Stokes’ assurance of needing to see “a clear return on our investment.”
The agency’s chance to help lead the state out of its economic malaise will depend on it. •

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