The city of Pawtucket, and by extension the state of Rhode Island, was sent reeling in August by the news that the Pawtucket Red Sox will be moving to a new home in Worcester, Massachusetts. Now, the city is in danger of losing another beloved Rhode Island institution.
Pawtucket mayor Donald Grebien has warned state officials that Hasbro, the second-largest toy company in the world according to Forbes, may be looking to move out of Pawtucket. According to the Providence Journal, Hasbro is “evaluating several options” for a potential new headquarters- many of which would require a move out of the state.
Governor Gina Raimondo has said that the company has not told the state anything about what they would need to stay within the state. This mirrors what the PawSox ended up doing before leaving the state, worrying many, Grebien in particular. On December 10, he sent a letter to Governor Gina Raimondo’s economic development chief, saying that keeping Hasbro in Pawtucket is “of the utmost importance for the stability of Pawtucket, East Providence, Central Falls, and the Blackstone Valley.”
Grebien has good reason to be so worried- his city is losing income fast. Also according to the Journal, the PawSox generated $1.9 million in fiscal benefits to the city of Pawtucket- and will likely continue to do so before they leave the state in 2021. Pawtucket also lost Memorial Hospital, which closed earlier this year due to financial losses.
On December 11, Raimondo met with House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and Senate President Dominic Ruggerio. She said after the meeting that its intent was to make sure they were “all on the same page,” stating “We want to make sure that, just like they have been here for 100 years, they are going to be here for another 100 years hiring Rhode Islanders.”
Lieutenant Governor Daniel McKee made a point of hosting his election night party in La Arepa, a local restaurant on the Lincoln-Pawtucket line. In his acceptance speech, following a narrow victory over Aaron Regunberg in the Democratic primary, he stressed the importance of supporting both local businesses and the city. Grebien also gave a speech that night, stating that he believed in McKee, the former mayor of Cumberland, to serve the interests of northern Rhode Island towns and cities.
However, apparent distrust between the state government and the people of Rhode Island has led to many being pessimistic about Pawtucket’s chances. Tom Ward, editor-in-chief of the Valley Breeze, wrote an opinion piece entitled “Are RI leaders ‘stealing’ Hasbro from Pawtucket?” In it, he pointed out while much of the talk by officials about Hasbro’s move has been about keeping Hasbro within Rhode Island, very little talk has been about keeping it within Pawtucket. After the article was published, Raimondo stated that her top priority was keeping Hasbro within Pawtucket.
Ward did point to a potential solution that the state may consider: land created by the city of Providence from when Interstate 195 was moved. The “I-95 Land” has been looked at by many companies, but Hasbro may be becoming a priority there.
Hasbro has a very long and beneficial history with the state of Rhode Island. In 1923, three brothers founded Hassenfeld Brothers in Providence. They quickly switched from selling textile products to selling toys when they found that that proved to be more popular, and soon came up with successful toys Mr. Potato Head and G.I. Joe. In 1968, the company officially changed their name to Hasbro. The company has been an integral part of Rhode Island, and even have the state’s only children’s hospital named after them.
The state of Rhode Island has lost many beloved institutions over the past few years. Hopefully, a couple of years from now, Rhode Islanders won’t be giving people directions in Pawtucket by saying “Take a left where Hasbro used to be.”
This was published in the January/ February edition of The Lion’s Roar. As of now, Hasbro has not yet made any further announcements about any future headquarters.