Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo cited the opening Wednesday of the Wexford Innovation Center in Providence as a vote of confidence in the state’s future.
Speaking before a gathering of business people ahead of a ribbon-cutting, Raimondo repeated her view that the state is in the early innings of an economic comeback. At the same time, she said the decision by firms such as Wexford Science and Technology to build in Providence will strengthen Rhode Island’s footing.
“They could invest anywhere, but they’re building here, investing here, adding jobs here, because they know what we know, which is that Providence is the place to be,” Raimondo said. “We’re a city and a state on the rise. We have talent that people want to hire. We have top-notch universities.”
The Innovation Complex (to be named .225, for its street address on Dyer Street) is the fifth such project for Baltimore-based Wexford in the U.S.
Raimondo said she expects the almost 200,000-square-foot Wexford Innovation Center to create a few thousand jobs.
The anchor tenants for the project, which was built with $32 million in state subsidies are Brown University, Johnson & Johnson, and Cambridge Innovation Center.
Speaking of CIC, Wexford CEO Jim Berens said, “When they get through their ramp-up period over the next year, there will be dozens of companies that exist within their space and there will be hundreds of entrepreneurs.”
The Wexford project was announced in December 2016. At that time, Raimondo called it a game-changer for the state.
Speaking ahead of the ribbon-cutting, Berens said, “The goal here is to create an effective intersection between private industry, between discovery and education and entrepreneurs, with a goal at the end of the day of concentrating talent here, innovation talent,” Berens said.
According to a statement from Raimondo’s office, the Wexford “complex linchpins other developments in the area including South Street Landing, the pedestrian bridge spanning the Providence River, new housing developments such as River House and Chestnut Commons, and the Garrahy Courthouse parking garage. Additionally, other I-195 parcels are in various stages of the development and review processes."
Earlier this week, Boston Globe tech columnist Scott Kirsner included Providence among cities that he said don’t seem to be in the hunt to back up Boston as a regional hub of innovation.
Asked why Kirsner didn’t mention Providence, Raimondo said, “I don’t know – he should have. Because clearly he’s not here today.”
Raimondo said, “It’s not an overnight thing, but we are clearly moving in the right direction."