Not playing games
After losing PawSox, Grebien employs ‘full-court press’ to keep Hasbro in city
PAWTUCKET — With Hasbro in the process of evaluating options to “contemporize” its corporate headquarters – including the possibility of finding a new campus – Pawtucket Mayor Donald R. Grebien on Wednesday afternoon said it was time for local and state officials to be proactive rather than reactive to keep the toy company in the city.
While Hasbro has yet to make any direct threats to leave Pawtucket and its Newport Avenue headquarters, Grebien – still stinging by the loss of the Pawtucket Red Sox earlier this year – put out an “urgent call for action” to ensure Hasbro remains situated in Pawtucket, whether at its current headquarters or a new campus somewhere in the city.
Grebien, during a press conference at City Hall, said he spoke with Hasbro’s executive director of global affairs earlier Wednesday, and he said Hasbro has affirmed their commitment to meet with city and state officials to work toward a solution.
“If nothing else, I’ve learned from the loss of the PawSox we all need to be committed, working together with them as they transform to their future business model that works for their success,” the mayor said.
Julie Duffy, Hasbro’s senior vice president of global communications, said in a statement emailed to The Times on Wednesday prior to the press conference: “We are in the process of evaluating several options for contemporizing our corporate headquarters, including finding a new corporate campus in the vicinity of our current headquarters.”
“We are committed to delivering a fully-updated, connected and flexible
workspace for all of our employees, and want to find the right solution that will ultimately create the best corporate headquarters for Hasbro into the future,” Duffy said.
Hasbro was described by Grebien as an anchor for Pawtucket and Central Falls, and he acknowledged that Pawtucket has taken its share of blows over the last few years with the loss of the PawSox to Worcester and the closure of Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island.
“Hasbro is a priority and it’s indicative of the larger need for our communities. We need a full-court press, a laser focus to determine with state leaders to help revitalize and refocus the Blackstone Valley,” Grebien said.
Representatives from the city, Hasbro officials, and members of the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation have been meeting to put a definitive package together to ensure Hasbro’s future in Pawtucket.
“There is much work to be done, but together I believe we can retain our city’s greatest asset and build to that future, to turn Pawtucket, Central Falls, and the Blackstone Valley into an economic engine that helps our state move forward,” Grebien said.
This call for action, which was publicized via a last-minute press release issued to the media late Wednesday morning, came following the “alarming” news last month of the toy maker’s organizational changes that could affect less than 10 percent of the compa- ny’s workers, the mayor said.
“It really brought a renewed focus…” Grebien said. “They’re committed and they want to sit down and continue talking and see how we make sure that they’re here. They’re looking at what their future is and what it holds … My fear is for whatever reason that they make the decision that they have to pull out and the lives it affects in the community … We know they need to be here. This is where they started, this is where their history is, we want them here, we want them to know we’re going to do everything we can to keep them here.”
Hasbro employs about 1,200 people in Pawtucket, the mayor said, and the impacts of a relocation out of the city would be seen in the tangible and property taxes the company pays.
District 16 state Sen. Elizabeth Crowley echoed the mayor’s sentiment, that it was important to be proactive rather than reactive.
“I think with the PawSox, we were more reactive to the different things … Rather than get told three months down the line, six months down the line, a year down the line that they’re going to leave Pawtucket, we want to keep them here because it’s not only the business itself, it’s the ancillary business that goes around the facility,” Crowley said.
“We weren’t proactive enough to keep (the PawSox) here. I as a senator and I can tell you that my colleagues in the Senate that represent Pawtucket, we’re going to work our darndest to make sure that we do not lose Hasbro,” Crowley added. “We will do whatever it takes to make sure that the incentives are there and I would say that my colleagues in the House would want to do the same thing.”
District 58 State Rep. Carlos E. Tobon, a member of the House Finance Committee, said Pawtucket is in a unique situation after losing its potential revival with the proposed downtown stadium.
“We took a big hit because other people felt they didn’t have the ability to support Pawtucket at the time,” Tobon said of the unsuccessful bid to build a new ballpark downtown. “If Pawtucket goes down … then it’s going to be a lot more costly than if we had a specific number that we’re going to go after.”
District 62 state Rep. Mary D. Messier said it’s a matter of getting everybody in one room to come up with a solution, and that didn’t happen with the PawSox.
“I think this is equally important; we can’t afford to lose them,” Messier said.
“This is 1,200 jobs. I have friends whose family members have worked there, it’s an effect to the community,” Grebien said. “PawSox gave us that identity because Pawtucket was always referenced, but everybody knows that Hasbro started here, so this would be a bigger hit.”
“I just want to make sure we all get at the same table, having the same conversations,” Grebien said. “If nothing else I’ve learned from the PawSox, we need to be together, not in our silos … We had such an uphill battle with the PawSox, we want to be proactive with Hasbro. It’s about keeping them here and bringing additional businesses into the community.”
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Above, Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien, joined by city and state officials in City Council Chambers at Pawtucket City Hall Wednesday, tells reporters the city is ‘trying to be proactive not reactive’ to recent reports that Hasbro could be in the process of leaving Pawtucket. The mayor stated the city is doing everything in its power to keep the company here in this city. Below, the iconic Mr. Potato Head replica outside of Hasbro’s worldwide headquarters in Pawtucket.
After seeing the Pawtucket Red Sox move on to Worcester, Pawtucket can ill afford to lose Hasbro, which employs around 1,200.