Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien’s frantic concern is understandable. He has seen his city's Memorial Hospital close. And he has watched as the new owners of the Pawtucket Red Sox, led by Larry Lucchino, announced their plans to abandon their loyal fans, grab a lucrative deal and move the successful Triple-A franchise to Worcester in 2021.
Now he is worried that Hasbro, the world’s second largest toy company, will move its corporate headquarters from Pawtucket.
He called for an “urgent” effort by state officials to keep that from happening. He said he fears that, without financial incentives from the state, Hasbro might close its doors and move on.
“They haven’t really told us what direction they are moving; it changes … They’re a private company and [play it] very close to the vest,” Mayor Grebien said during a press conference at City Hall Wednesday, surrounded by local and state officials.
Hasbro has made it clear that it is focused on the future. It has to be, in the hyper-competitive and ever-changing world of toys, which in the era of digital graphics and communications has turned Hasbro increasingly into an entertainment company. The company took a hit in revenues recently when the Toys ’R’ Us chain went bankrupt, and it said that “difficult” changes are underway that could affect some in its global workforce of 5,000 employees.
As Hasbro spokeswoman Julie Duffy explained, “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.”
The company has committed itself “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,” she said.
With 1,200 local jobs on the line, Hasbro's continued growth and success in Rhode Island is something that Gov. Gina Raimondo and other state leaders must make a high priority. Both Hasbro and Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor insist that the lines of communication are open.
“Governor Raimondo recognizes that Hasbro is a global company with many options for a new headquarters. She continues to be extremely supportive of Hasbro and has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to helping us grow and evolve our business in Rhode Island,” said Ms. Duffy.
While the company has not shared its plans, the state is eager to help it find the space it needs in Rhode Island, Mr. Pryor said. The governor, who has checked in several times on the matter with Brian Goldner, Hasbro’s chief executive officer, is expected to meet with company officials in coming days.
The state must keep working on this to ensure that Hasbro remains in Rhode Island. How much should Rhode Island be prepared to do to keep Hasbro here? A lot.
The loss of this company’s headquarters would affect the state’s economy much more than the departure of a Triple-A baseball franchise, as painful and demoralizing as that was.