If you want to view a forest of construction cranes a bustling port flush with imports and thousands of well-paying jobs, don’t bother with the Providence I-195 land or the capital city’s Jewelry District. Take a trip to the Quonset Business Park.

This former U.S. Navy base in North Kingstown hosts nearly 12,000 jobs, a figure that has been growing rapidly in recent years. Quonset is home to one of every seven manufacturing jobs in the state. More than 200 companies are located on the park’s 3,000 acres.

A spin through the area shows massive growth, particularly at the General Dynamics division of Electric Boat, which is expanding to meet the demand for the Columbia class of submarines. Then are the thousands of cars and trucks sheathed in white plastic that make the park resemble the biggest auto dealership you’ve ever seen. More than 250,000 vehicles –from foreign manufacturers Volkswagen, Audi, Fiat and Porsche-are imported to Quonset, where finishing touches and optional equipment is added before they roll into showrooms.

Quonset is an example of what can be done with foresight, private-public partnerships and cooperation among the state’s usually fractious politicians. Rhode Island’s economy was first fueled by the U.S. Navy during the Revolutionary War, when the Katy was commissioned in Providence, becoming the first vessel in the nascent navy.

After the Civil War the navy grew, creating thousands of jobs in the state, particularly in Newport. That was the home of the Atlantic Fleet and a crucial research and manufacturing center for torpedoes and undersea research. Quonset opened as a navy installation at the beginning of World War II. Rhode Island political lore has it that it was a gift of sorts from President Franklin Roosevelt to Rhode Island Sen. Theodore Francis Green, an eccentric Yankee liberal Democrat who was one of the few senators to support FDR’s Supreme Court-packing scheme.

The base became known for the Quonset Hut, the half- moon-shaped buildings that were used around the world to houses soldiers and sailors. Some of those buildings are still used at the park today. Successive governors and Assembly leaders supported investments at Quonset. And federal representatives pitched in. Sen. Jack Reed is the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee. He has relentlessly advocated for submarine building at Quonset. His House counterpart, Rep. Jim Langevin, is a member of House Armed Services, which controls the military budget.

Every so often, Reed and Langevin’s offices are picketed by peace groups who don’t believe in building weapons of war. This may be a noble sentiment. But these weapons are going to be built somewhere and Rhode Island is fortunate that these thousands of well-paying blue collar positions are in the Ocean State.

For business, a major attraction of the park is that utilities, roads and the port and rail connections are all in one space. The park is well-planned and a new business can get a quick decision on a site. There is no interference from the town or other political entities and scant red tape. Business leaders often complain about not-in-my-backyard issues and nettlesome local zoning regulations. There is none of that here.

There are also features few industrial parks boast. There’s a shopping center and function rooms at the former navy officers club. And even a well-maintained public golf course run by the town. Town-park relations are good, says Steve King, the park’s managing director. The park gives the town a strong tax base. The town provides police and fire services. Yet unlike housing developments, the park doesn’t put a burden on schools.

Everything seems to be going well at Quonset. Yet there are some clouds on the horizon. There are a passel of foreign companies in the park. Uncertainty over trade policies is one factor that could dampen future growth growth, says University of Rhode Island economist Leonard Lardaro.

An increase in auto tariffs could hurt the car impost business, for instance.

The park is also a victim of its own success, says Stefan Pryor, state commerce secretary. Quonset is running out of land for future development. So the Raimondo Administration is asking the Assembly for money and support to replicate Quonset’s model in other cities and towns. They didn’t get all they wanted last year, but Pryor says the measure will be introduced again in January.

This we know: Nobody ever devised an anti-poverty program as effective as a paycheck.

Scott MacKay’s commentary can be heard every Monday morning at 6:45 and 8:45 and at 5:44 in the afternoon.