Friday, May 22, 2015

Making the right investments

If you’ve spent any time watching the Red Sox this year, you’ve probably caught yourself chanting “we need a pitcher, not a belly itcher”. You are not alone. While Porcello and Buccholz have been decent, I have been left with the feeling that the Red Sox should have invested more money in the offseason to fill out the rotation after trading Lester, Lackey, Peavy and Miller late in the ’14 season. The team has a history of proving people wrong (lots of writers are still eating their words over the mini 2nd baseman) but I’ll go on record wishing we’d grabbed Max Scherzer when he was a free agent.

While regrets in baseball usually last a season — 86 years in the case of the Babe Ruth trade would be the exception — the ramifications in politics and government can be felt far longer. I recently talked to someone about how upset they were about the Navy leaving Newport in 1973 and there’s no doubt that singular event shaped — and damaged — Rhode Island’s economy for a generation. As Rhode Island looks to move ahead, we need to make sure that we invest smartly in the things that make us stronger and fix our weaknesses along the way.

Last weekend I joined more than 125,000 others who spent some time in Newport to attend the events around the Volvo Ocean Race at Fort Adams. The weather was amazing and the event was jammed with sailing enthusiasts from all over the world. Newport was chosen as the ONLY North American stop for the race and was chosen in large part because of the infrastructure upgrades (read: investments) made at Fort Adams in recent years that were championed by local legislators with the hopes of attracting big regattas like this one. While we’ve been following the Volvo Ocean Race for every mile because of our hometown skipper (go Charlie!), I will admit that seeing thousands of people enjoying a perfect day gave me a little jolt of Rhode Island pride and the sense that “if we build it, they will come.”

Investments need to make sense of course. We’ve thrown public money in the wrong direction before and we’ve also been pennywise and pound foolish. The “we don’t do incentives” policy of the Chafee administration contributed to our sloth-like recovery from the great recession while other New England states leveraged resources to land new companies. There’s a balance between rolling out the welcome mat and giving away the store and it’s budget time, so we need to find that balance and invest in our assets that will lead to growth — just like we did at Fort Adams.

The great news is that the Newport Volvo stopover wasn’t just a success in my eyes. Newport had four times as many visitors as the last North American stopover and the race organizers announced that Newport has first dibs on a stop in 2018. While the race isn’t over yet, Newport and Rhode Island are already winners. P.S. Go Alvimedica!

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