Public Perceptions about

 

Future Economic Development at Quonset Point

 

 

 

 

 

by Darrell M. West

Taubman Center for Public Policy

Brown University

Providence, RI02912-1977

(401) 863-1163

Darrell_West@brown.edu

 

 

 

 

 

October, 2003

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sponsored by the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation

 

 




 

 

Table of Contents

 

 

Executive Summary3

 

Views about Economic Development4

 

Familiarity with and Impressions about Quonset5

 

The Bond Measure7

 

Quonset Enhancements8

 

Community Development Fund8

 

Investment and New Jobs9

 

Factors Affecting Quonset Views10

 

Breadth of Quonset Benefits11

 

Appendix:Survey Questions and Answers 13

 

 

 


Executive Summary

 

The Quonset Davisville Port & Industrial Park long has been considered vital to Rhode Island economic development.This 3,000-acre industrial park sits on the waterfront and has road, rail, air, and water access.It also has an airport with an 8,000 foot runway.In an effort to create jobs and enhance economic development, the state has invested around $300 million to improve the area's transportation infrastructure.

To determine how voters feel about future economic development at Quonset, the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation commissioned a public opinion survey on this subject.Between October 18 and 22, 2003, interviewers at the Taubman Center for Public Policy at Brown University conducted a telephone survey of 424 registered voters randomly selected from around the state.This survey inquired about a number of different topics:views about economic development within the state, familiarity with and impressions about Quonset, how voters would feel about a $48 million bond measure to improve Quonset, and what factors would affect people's impressions about economic development and job creation at Quonset.Phone interviewing was conducted at the Taubman Center's John Hazen White Public Opinion Laboratory.The survey had a margin of error of about plus or minus five percentage points.

Among the important findings of the survey were the following points:

1) Eighty-eight percent of the state's voters feel that economic development is very important to the future of Rhode Island.

2) When asked to rate Rhode Island's current efforts at economic development, three percent said these efforts were excellent, 31 percent described them as good, 47 percent felt they were only fair, 12 percent believed they were poor, and 7 percent were unsure.

3) The top obstacle to state economic development, in the eyes of voters, was high taxes (14 percent), followed by politicians and politics (9 percent), lack of jobs (8 percent), lack of business opportunities (8 percent), money problems (4 percent), education problems (4 percent), poor leadership (3 percent), the General Assembly (2 percent), health insurance problems (2 percent), too small of an economy (1 percent), budget problems (1 percent), and environmentalists (1 percent).

4) Most voters are not very familiar with Quonset Point.When asked how familiar they were with business activities taking place there, 13 percent said they were very familiar, 46 percent claimed they were somewhat familiar, 38 percent were not very familiar, and 3 percent were unsure.

5) Despite the general lack of familiarity, 76 percent of voters said they thought the 145 companies operating at Quonset providing 6,000 jobs and generating $3 million in lease revenues were very valuable to Rhode Island, while 18 percent believed these companies were somewhat valuable, 2 percent felt they were not very valuable, and 4 percent were unsure.

6) The state is considering a $48 million bond measure on the ballot next year to improve Quonset Point.When asked whether they would vote in favor or in opposition to this bond measure, 64 percent said they would vote in favor, 13 percent indicated they would oppose the bond measure, and 23 percent were undecided how they would vote.

7) Of the specific enhancements planned for Quonset Point, upgrading utility service was most likely to be very important by voters, followed by repairing piers (62 percent), demolishing deteriorating buildings (59 percent), constructing new roads (57 percent), refurbishing the Quonset airport (41 percent), and building new bike paths (39 percent).

8) We asked voters how they whether they would support or oppose the creation of a community development fund financed by new Quonset Point revenues.Overall, 70 percent said they would support a community development fund, 11 percent would oppose it, and 19 percent were unsure.

9) The state often spends money for roadways, buildings, and repairs in order to attract private investment and create new jobs.Seventy-one percent consider this a good use of state money, 14 percent think it is not a very good use, and 15 percent are unsure.

10) One issue that could affect public support for a Quonset Point bond measure is the status of a container port at Quonset proposed by a past administration.When asked if state leaders promised not to build a container port at Quonset Point, would that make voters more or less likely to support a bond measure for Quonset Point, 40 percent said that a no container port pledge would make them more likely to support a bond measure, 21 percent stated it would make them less likely to support the bond, and 39 percent were unsure how it would affect their position.

11) If the state could generate new money by selling a portion of the land at Quonset Point, 37 percent say this would make them more likely to support a bond measure, 29 percent indicate it would make them less likely to do so, and 34 percent are unsure.

12) In looking at voter views about the breadth of Quonset Point benefits for Rhode Island, 68 percent believe Quonset benefits the entire state, 17 percent think it benefits just the area right around Quonset Point, and 15 percent are undecided.

13) When asked whether they thought the state already has spent too much money on Quonset Point for the number of jobs that have been created, 17 percent believe too much money has been spent, 38 percent do not think too much has been spent, and 45 percent are unsure.

 

Views about Economic Development

 

We asked about people's overall views about economic development in Rhode Island.Eighty-eight percent of the state's voters feel that economic development is very important to the future of Rhode Island, nine percent say it is somewhat important, two percent believe it is not very important, and 2 percent were unsure.

There is little variation by demographic category.Men (88 percent) and women (89 percent) thought economic development was very important.The same was true for union members (92 percent) and non-union members (88 percent) and for whites (89 percent) and minorities (86 percent).There were few meaningful differences by age or family income.

††††††††††† However, when asked to rate Rhode Island's current efforts at economic development, voters were less positive.Three percent said these efforts were excellent, 31 percent described them as good, 47 percent felt they were only fair, 12 percent believed they were poor, and 7 percent were unsure.

††††††††††† The individuals most likely to rate economic development unfavorably were those aged 45 to 64 years old, union members, and those making between $20,000 and $60,000 and making over $150,000 in family income.

 

Views of Current Economic Development Efforts by Subgroup

 

Excellent

Good

Only Fair

Poor

Gender

 

 

 

 

-male

3%

30%

47%

15%

-female

3

32

48

11

UnionMember

 

 

 

 

-member

0

26

62

12

-non-member

3

34

45

12

Race

 

 

 

 

-white

2

33

48

12

-minority

7

36

46

7

Age

 

 

 

 

-18-24

5

21

47

16

-25-34

4

43

40

8

-35-44

1

39

47

10

-45-54

1

30

52

14

-55-64

3

27

48

18

-65 or older

5

33

49

7

Family Income

 

 

 

 

-$0-20K

5

38

40

11

-$20-40K

5

34

41

18

-$40-60K

0

23

55

18

-$60-80K

2

22

56

11

-$80-100K

0

44

47

6

-$100-125K

0

37

56

7

-$125-150K

0

59

35

6

-over $150K

5

25

65

5

 

††††††††††† We also asked an open-ended question regarding what voters considered the single biggest obstacle to economic development within the state.The top obstacle named was high taxes, which was named by 14 percent of respondents.This was followed by politicians and politics (9 percent), lack of jobs (8 percent), lack of business opportunities (8 percent), money problems (4 percent), education problems (4 percent), poor leadership (3 percent), the General Assembly (2 percent), health insurance problems (2 percent), too small economy (1 percent), budget problems (1 percent), and environmentalists (1 percent).All other items listed were named by less than 1 percent of voters.

 

Familiarity with and Impressions about Quonset

 

††††††††††† Most voters are not very familiar with the 3,000-acre waterfront property at Quonset Point.When asked how familiar they were with business activities taking place there, 13 percent said they were very familiar, 46 percent claimed they were somewhat familiar, 38 percent were not very familiar, and 3 percent were unsure.

††††††††††† Men are more familiar with Quonset Point activities than women.Whites said they were more familiar than minorities did.Young people are the age group most likely to say they are not very familiar with Quonset Point.People whose families made $40,000 or less reported they were not very familiar with Quonset business activities.

 

Familiarity with Quonset Point Business Activities by Subgroup

 

Very Familiar

Somewhat Familiar

Not Very Familiar

 

Gender

 

 

 

 

-male

17%

51%

32%

 

-female

9

45

44

 

UnionMember

 

 

 

 

-member

14

58

28

 

-non-member

13

46

39

 

Race

 

 

 

 

-white

14

49

36

 

-minority

4

25

61

 

Age

 

 

 

 

-18-24

16

11

74

 

-25-34

17

26

55

 

-35-44

18

46

33

 

-45-54

14

58

28

 

-55-64

11

59

30

 

-65 or older

7

49

40

 

Family Income

 

 

 

 

-$0-20K

5

35

54

 

-$20-40K

8

45

46

 

-$40-60K

20

46

32

 

-$60-80K

14

55

31

 

-$80-100K

13

62

25

 

-$100-125K

19

39

42

 

-$125-150K

18

65

18

 

-over $150K

20

50

30

 

 

††††††††††† However, despite the general lack of familiarity, 76 percent of voters said they thought the 145 companies operating at Quonset providing 6,000 jobs and generating $3 million in lease revenues were very valuable to Rhode Island, while 18 percent believed these companies were somewhat valuable, 2 percent felt they were not very valuable, and 4 percent were unsure.

††††††††††† There were no differences by gender in feelings about the importance of Quonset.But union members (68 percent) were less likely than non-members (79 percent) to cite Quonset as being very important to Rhode Island.Young people (42 percent) were the least likely to think Quonset was very valuable to the state.There also were racial differences in that whites (80 percent) were more likely than minorities (54 percent) to feel Quonset was very valuable.

††††††††††† After informing respondents that the state's long-term master plan for Quonset Point called for $1.7 billion in private investment and the creation of 13,000 jobs, we asked them whether if that happened, would they consider Quonset Point a success.Seventy-nine percent said they would while 4 percent indicated they would not.

 

The Bond Measure

 

The state is considering a $48 million bond measure on the ballot next year to improve Quonset Point.When asked whether they would vote in favor or in opposition to this bond measure, 64 percent said they would vote in favor, 13 percent indicated they would oppose the bond measure, and 23 percent were undecided how they would vote.

Union members (76 percent) were more supportive of the bond measure than non-members (68 percent).Whites (71 percent) were more likely to favor it than minorities (57 percent).People earning between $80,000 and $125,000 were the ones most likely to favor the bond question.

 

View of $48 Million Bond Measure by Subgroup

 

Favor

Oppose

Unsure

 

Gender

 

 

 

 

-male

66%

10%

24%

 

-female

63

14

23

 

UnionMember

 

 

 

 

-member

76

18

6

 

-non-member

68

13

19

 

Race

 

 

 

 

-white

71

14

15

 

-minority

57

18

25

 

Age

 

 

 

 

-18-24

63

26

11

 

-25-34

74

9

17

 

-35-44

67

13

20

 

-45-54

75

12

13

 

-55-64

74

10

16

 

-65 or older

60

21

19

 

Family Income

 

 

 

 

-$0-20K

75

19

6

 

-$20-40K

63

20

17

 

-$40-60K

71

13

16

 

-$60-80K

71

15

14

 

-$80-100K

81

3

16

 

-$100-125K

77

7

16

 

-$125-150K

71

6

77

 

-over $150K

75

10

15

 

 

††††††††††† There were few differences in voter support based on familiarity with Quonset Point.Among those who said they were very familiar, 69 percent favored the bond measure.There also was strong support among those who indicated they were somewhat familiar (70 percent) and not very familiar (66 percent).

 

View of $48 Million Bond Measure by Familiarity with Quonset Point

 

Favor

Opposed

Unsure

 

Familiarity

 

 

 

 

-very familiar

69%

17%

14%

 

-somewhat familiar

70

14

16

 

-not very familiar

66

12

22

 

 

Quonset Enhancements

 

The state hopes to enhance the value of Quonset Point by adding several features to the park.For example, it would like to demolish old buildings, build roads on the property, and refurbish the area around the airstrip.This would allow the state to generate additional revenue and jobs.When asked if they would support or oppose the state spending money at Quonset Point to make these kinds of improvements, 74 percent indicated they would support additional state spending, 11 percent did not, and 15 percent were unsure.

As part of the proposed bond measure, we asked how important each of several specific enhancements would be:very important, somewhat important, or not very important.In general, voters believed that upgrading utility service was most likely to be very important, followed by repairing piers (62 percent), demolishing deteriorating buildings (59 percent), constructing new roads (57 percent), refurbishing the Quonset airport (41 percent), and building new bike paths (39 percent).

 

Percentage of Voters Thinking Specific Quonset Enhancements Would Be Very Important

Upgrading Utility Service

65%

Repairing Piers

62

Demolishing Deteriorating Buildings

59

Constructing New Roads

57

Refurbishing the Quonset Airport

41

Building New Bike Paths

39

 

Community Development Fund

 

The state hopes to use extra revenue generated by Quonset Point to create a community development fund that would help towns all across the state.We asked voters how they whether they would support or oppose the creation of a community development fund financed by new Quonset Point revenues.Overall, 70 percent said they would support a community development fund, 11 percent would oppose it, and 19 percent were unsure.

††††††††††† There were some variations in support for a new community development fund based on demographic category of the voter.Union members were a little more supportive (80 percent) compared to non-members (74 percent).And younger people were more likely to favor this idea than older voters.

 

Views of Creating a Community Development Fund Financed by New Quonset Revenue by Subgroup

 

Support

Oppose

Unsure

 

Gender

 

 

 

 

-male

68%

14%

18%

 

-female

71

9

20

 

UnionMember

 

 

 

 

-member

80

12

8

 

-non-member

74

11

15

 

Race

 

 

 

 

-white

75

11

14

 

-minority

71

14

15

 

Age

 

 

 

 

-18-24

100

0

0

 

-25-34

83

9

8

 

-35-44

78

11

11

 

-45-54

76

12

12

 

-55-64

68

14

18

 

-65 or older

67

11

22

 

Family Income

 

 

 

 

-$0-20K

81

5

14

 

-$20-40K

74

11

15

 

-$40-60K

75

14

11

 

-$60-80K

80

13

7

 

-$80-100K

78

3

19

 

-$100-125K

61

19

20

 

-$125-150K

82

12

6

 

-over $150K

70

12

18

 

 

Investment and New Jobs

 

††††††††††† The state often spends money for roadways, buildings, and repairs in order to attract private investment and create new jobs.Seventy-one percent consider this a good use of state money, 14 percent think it is not a very good use, and 15 percent are unsure.

In general, voters consider state money put into Quonset as a good investment.When asked if the state issued $48 million in bonds to pay for improvements at Quonset Point, whether they would consider that a good or not so good investment, 67 percent indicated they believed it would be a good investment, 12 percent thought it would be a not so good investment, and 21 percent were undecided.

††††††††††† Seventy-seven percent believe that repairing buildings and improving the infrastructure at Quonset Point is a good way to attract new jobs, while 8 percent do not, and 15 percent are unsure.

††††††††††† If state bonds attracted private investment and created 13,000 jobs, 81 percent said they would consider that a good investment, while 4 percent did not, and 15 percent were unsure.†† Eighty-two percent they think it would be a good investment if the bonds issued allowed the state to enhance Quonset Point and thereby attract tenants that paid higher wages and created more jobs, while 5 percent did not 13 percent were unsure.

 

Factors Affecting Quonset Views

 

There are several issues that affect public support for a Quonset Point bond measure.One is the status of a container port at Quonset proposed by a past administration.We asked voters if state leaders promised they would not build a container port at Quonset Point, would that make them more or less likely to support a bond measure for Quonset Point.Forty percent said that a no container port pledge would make them more likely to support a bond measure, 21 percent stated it would make them less likely to support the bond, and 39 percent were unsure how it would affect their position.

Younger voters were more likely than older voters to say a no container port pledge would make them more likely to support a bond measure.Higher income voters were more likely than lower income individuals to say a pledge would make them more likely to support the bond.

 

Impact of No Container Port Pledge on Bond Support by Subgroup

 

More Likely to Support

Less Likely to Support

Unsure

 

Gender

 

 

 

 

-male

46%

28%

26%

 

-female

42

20

38

 

UnionMember

 

 

 

 

-member

44

26

30

 

-non-member

43

23

34

 

Race

 

 

 

 

-white

43

23

34

 

-minority

43

25

32

 

Age

 

 

 

 

-18-24

47

11

42

 

-25-34

51

15

34

 

-35-44

44

26

30

 

-45-54

45

23

32

 

-55-64

40

19

41

 

-65 or older

38

32

30

 

Family Income

 

 

 

 

-$0-20K

32

19

49

 

-$20-40K

45

25

30

 

-$40-60K

48

25

27

 

-$60-80K

47

18

35

 

-$80-100K

41

28

31

 

-$100-125K

44

22

34

 

-$125-150K

53

29

18

 

-over $150K

50

20

30

 

 

Voters have mixed views about the longer-term disposition of Quonset.If the state could generate new money by selling a portion of the land at Quonset Point, 37 percent say that would make them more likely to support a bond measure, 29 percent indicate it would make them less likely to do so, and 34 percent are unsure.

One of the new activities planned for Quonset Point is using the airstrip on that property to maintain and customize corporate aircraft.Fifty-seven percent believe that is a good way to create jobs at Quonset Point, 25 percent think it is a not so good way to create jobs, and 18 percent are undecided.

††††††††††† The state also would like to attract bio-tech and high technology firms to Quonset Point.Seventy-four percent think that would be a good way to create jobs, 9 percent does not, and 17 percent is undecided.

If state bonds attracted private investment and created 13,000 jobs, 81 percent say they would consider that a good investment, 4 percent think it would be a not so good investment, and 15 percent were unsure.

Eighty-two percent believe that if the bonds allowed the state to enhance Quonset Point and thereby attract tenants that paid higher wages and created more jobs, that would be a good investment, while 5 percent say that would be a not so good investment, and 13 percent were undecided.

 

Breadth of Quonset Benefits

 

In looking at voter views about the breadth of Quonset Point benefits for Rhode Island, 68 percent believe Quonset benefits the entire state, 17 percent think it benefits just the area right around Quonset Point, and 15 percent are undecided.

When asked whether they thought the state already has spent too much money on Quonset Point for the number of jobs that have been created, 17 percent believe too much money has been spent, 38 percent do not think too much has been spent, and 45 percent are unsure.

Minorities are more likely than whites to think too much has been spent on Quonset.Poorer people also are more likely than those earning higher incomes to believe too much has been spent.

 

View of Past Spending on Quonset by Subgroup

 

Too Much Spent

Not Too Much Spent

Unsure

 

Gender

 

 

 

 

-male

19%

42%

39%

 

-female

18

44

38

 

UnionMember

 

 

 

 

-member

16

58

26

 

-non-member

19

40

41

 

Race

 

 

 

 

-white

18

43

39

 

-minority

28

28

44

 

Age

 

 

 

 

-18-24

26

32

42

 

-25-34

17

36

47

 

-35-44

19

42

39

 

-45-54

20

52

28

 

-55-64

24

35

41

 

-65 or older

14

42

44

 

Family Income

 

 

 

 

-$0-20K

24

43

23

 

-$20-40K

25

37

38

 

-$40-60K

19

45

36

 

-$60-80K

24

38

38

 

-$80-100K

22

41

37

 

-$100-125K

7

56

36

 

-$125-150K

6

65

29

 

-over $150K

5

58

37

 

 


Appendix:Survey Questions and Answers

 

How important is economic development to the future of Rhode Island? 88% very important, 9% somewhat important, 2% not very important, 2% don't know or no answer

 

How would you rate Rhode Island's current efforts at economic development? 3% excellent, 31% good, 47% only fair, 12% poor, 7% don't know or no answer

 

What is the single biggest obstacle to economic development within the state?(open-ended responses classified into the following categories)high taxes (14 percent), politicians and politics (9 percent), lack of jobs (8 percent), lack of business opportunities (8 percent), money problems (4 percent), education problems (4 percent), poor leadership (3 percent), the General Assembly (2 percent), health insurance problems (2 percent), too small of an economy (1 percent), budget problems (1 percent), and environmentalists (1 percent) (all other obstacles named were under 1 percent)

 

One of the state's major resources is 3,000 acres of waterfront property at Quonset Point.How familiar are you with the business activities taking place at Quonset Point?13% very familiar, 46% somewhat familiar, 38% not very familiar, 3% don't know or no answer

 

Right now, there are 145 companies at Quonset Point that provide 6,000 jobs and generate $3 million in lease revenues for the state.How valuable do you feel Quonset Point is for Rhode Island? 76% very valuable, 18% somewhat valuable, 2% not very valuable, 4% donít know or no answer

 

The stateís long-term master plan for Quonset Point calls for $1.7 billion in private investment and the creation of 13,000 jobs.If this happened, would you consider Quonset Point a success? 81% yes, 4% no, 15% donít know or no answer

 

The state hopes to enhance the value of Quonset Point by adding several features.For example, it would like to demolish old buildings, build roads on the property, and refurbish the area around the airstrip.This would allow the state to generate additional revenue and jobs.Would you support or oppose the state spending money at Quonset Point to make these kinds of improvements:74% support, 11% oppose, 15% donít know or no answer

 

How important do you think each of the following enhancements would be:very important, somewhat important, or not very important.

a) demolishing deteriorating buildings:59% very important, 23% somewhat important, 6% not very important, 12% don't know or no answer

b) constructing new roads:57% very important, 26% somewhat important, 7% not very important, 10% don't know or no answer

c) refurbishing the airport at Quonset Point:41% very important, 25% somewhat important, 15% not very important, 19% don't know or no answer

d) repairing the piers:62% very important, 18% somewhat important, 6% not very important, 14% don't know or no answer

e) upgrading utility service:65% very important, 17% somewhat important, 4% not very important, 14% don't know or no answer

f) building new bike paths in the park:39% very important, 28% somewhat important, 24% not very important, 9% don't know or no answer

 

The state hopes to use extra revenue generated by Quonset Point to create a community development fund that would help towns all across the state.Would you:70% support, 11% oppose the creation of a community development fund financed by new Quonset Point revenues, 19% donít know or no answer

 

The state often spends money for roadways, buildings, and repairs in order to attract private investment and create new jobs.Do you think this is a:71% good, 14% not very good use of state money, 15% donít know or no answer

 

Do you think repairing buildings and improving the infrastructure at Quonset Point is a good way to attract new jobs? 77% yes, 8% no, 15% donít know or no answer

 

If the state issued $48 million in bonds to pay for improvements at Quonset Point, would you consider that a:67% good, 12% not so good investment, 21% donít know or no answer

 

If there were a $48 million bond measure on the ballot next year to improve Quonset Point, would you vote:64% in favor, 13% in opposition to this bond measure, 23% donít know or no answer

 

If state bonds attracted private investment and created 13,000 jobs, would you consider that a:81% good, 4% not so good investment, 15% donít know or no answer

 

If the bonds allowed the state to enhance Quonset Point and thereby attract tenants that paid higher wages and created more jobs, would you consider that a:82% good, 5% not so good investment, 13% donít know or no answer

 

If state leaders promised they would not build a container port at Quonset Point, would that make you: 40% more, 21% less likely to support a bond measure for Quonset Point, 39% donít know or no answer

 

If the state could generate new money by selling a portion of the land at Quonset Point, would that make you:37% more, 29% less likely to support a bond measure for Quonset Point, 34% donít know or no answer

 

One of the new activities planned for Quonset Point is using the airstrip on that property to maintain and customize corporate aircraft.Do you think this would be a:57% good, 25% not so good way to create jobs at Quonset Point, 18% donít know or no answer

 

The state also would like to attract bio-tech and high technology firms to Quonset Point.Do you think this would be a:74% good, 9% not so good way to create jobs at Quonset Point, 17% donít know or no answer

Do you think Quonset Point benefits:68% the entire state, 17% just the area right around Quonset Point, 15% donít know or no answer

 

Do you think the state already has spent too much money on Quonset Point for the number of jobs that have been created? 17% yes, 38% no, 45% donít know or no answer