NORTH KINGSTOWN— Rhode Island Commissioner of Education Deborah Gist took the opportunity Monday morning to visit Quonset in North Kingstown, learning about the port’s diverse business community and how education in Rhode Island can assist them.
“The tour really reinforces why it is so important that we have consistent expectations for our high school graduates, the minimum level of skills they need,” said Gist. “It also drives home the importance of encouraging even more students to go into higher levels of math and science and to go into what are called STEM careers because there is a growing demand for that.”
Steven King, executive director of the Quonset Development Corporation, first highlighted the port’s growth and achievements since the Quonset Business Park’s founding in 2005. The business area, which houses over 175 companies which create more than 9,100 jobs, has brought in $317 million in private investment since that time, according to King, and continues to develop with 1,395 acres of 3,207 still available for new business.
“In 2010, we created a unified development process with the town of North Kingstown and, in conjunction, did a site readiness program,” said King. “We are very driven by land use, and there are not a lot of places that have things like industrial rail and access to the sea.”
“If someone arrives here today, we tell them that we can put their business in the ground in 90 days,” he continued. “The standard response is, ‘I had no idea.’”
Gist was brought to a number of sites and businesses in the port, including the General Dynamics building which is expanding to accommodate more submarine construction and Toray Plastics’ new solar panel array. King specifically pointed out to Gist that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has a building in Quonset as well, which serves as the base for its world renowned research vessel Okeanos Explorer.
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