Not play­ing games

Af­ter los­ing PawSox, Gre­bien em­ploys ‘full-court press’ to keep Has­bro in city

Pawtucket Times - - FRONT PAGE - By JONATHAN BISSONNETTE jbis­son­nette@paw­tuck­et­times.com

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.”

Fol­low Jonathan Bissonnette on Twit­ter @J_Bis­son­nette

Ernest A. Brown pho­tos

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.

Ernest A. Brown photo

Af­ter see­ing the Pawtucket Red Sox move on to Worces­ter, Pawtucket can ill af­ford to lose Has­bro, which em­ploys around 1,200.

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