video: Raimondo Refuses to Answer Questions About Leases at Wexford — Despite $40M in Taxpayer Subsidies

Tuesday, September 26, 2017
GoLocalProv News Team and Kate Nagle

Raimondo at Wexford Press Conference
On Monday, Rhode Island Gina Raimondo and other dignitaries broke-ground on the long awaited Wexford project on I-195 land. The project moves forward with more than $40 million in state subsidies, but officials from Wexford, Brown University, and now Governor Gina Raimondo all refuse to disclose the lease agreements between Wexford and its tenants - claiming they are private. 

Raimondo lauded the project, but in an interview with GoLocal continued to refuse to answer questions about the leases between Wexford and Brown University, Cambridge Innovation Center, and Johnson & Johnson.

In January, a GoLocal investigation found that the permanent job claims for the Wexford project by the Raimondo administration were inflated. 

Raimondo had repeatedly claimed that project will create 1,000 new permanent jobs in Rhode Island. After weeks of requesting information about tenants, rents, and job creation, GoLocal was finally able to secure actual job numbers for the project and then fact check those claims. 

In fact, actual jobs created will be closer to 80 to 90.

Raimondo’s Jobs Numbers Inflated 

As an example, the project claimed in 2016 that 706 permanent jobs will be created by building de facto spec space for Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC), but CIC itself promises only a handful of jobs.

CIC is a tenant of Wexford and CIC will be leasing the state-subsidized office space for lease. The practice of claiming tenant space as job creation is specifically flagged by federal watchdogs as improper (see below).

“Where's the due diligence that provides a basis for these estimates? Assuming fixed proportions based on square footage is almost certainly going to prove overly optimistic,” said URI Professor of Economics Len Lardaro, when alerted to the job claims last January.

Len Lardaro, URI
As one example, as part of the 1,000 new jobs being created is the claim that Brown University will be creating 100 new jobs.  However, Brown only anticipates creating 15 jobs at the outset. 

“Of the 100 university positions expected at the Innovation Center upon its anticipated opening in early 2019, approximately 15 will be new jobs — our School of Professional Studies currently employs approximately 85 people and expects to grow to approximately 100 prior to the opening of the new space,” according to Brian E. Clark, the Director of News and Editorial Development at Brown University.

Wexford's design for Providence
According to a press release from Raimondo’s office on Monday, “The Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) (63,000 square feet), Brown University's School of Professional Studies (50,000 square feet), and Johnson & Johnson (31,000 square feet) will be tenants in the nearly 195,000-square-foot Innovation Building. Construction is expected to take approximately two years (to build).”

"For too long, the I-195 land was nothing but dirt," Raimondo said. "Today marks the start of something transformational, not just for this land, but for our state and its economy. This complex will become the epicenter of Rhode Island's resurgence, creating jobs at every rung of the ladder, from janitors to PhD computer scientists. We've worked hard for this, and we are finally seeing the results of our efforts.’

"The Providence Innovation Campus is now on the path to becoming a flagship Rhode Island institution," said U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. "It is my hope that this vacant land will be transformed into a launching place for Rhode Islanders seeking great jobs, boosted by the talent of our world-class universities and the energy of entrepreneurship in Rhode Island."

The entire federal delegation was in attendance. Mayor Jorge Elorza did not attend as he was reportedly in Washington, D.C.

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