U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and U.S. Representatives Jim Langevin and David Cicilline today joined with Governor Lincoln Chafee to announce $6 million in federal funding for the Quonset Development Corporation in North Kingstown and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) to help make upgrades and repairs related to storm damage caused by Hurricane Irene. The federal funds, which are appropriated by Congress and administered by the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), will be used to reconstruct Quonset's Zarbo Avenue Bulkhead, which helps to protect three marine trades industry businesses from waterfront storm surges.
The bulkhead was built in 1941 and sustained significant damage from last year's hurricane. It is now considered highly vulnerable to failure from future storms. Because of the danger, the existing companies were forced to relocate their equipment during major storms due to concern the bulkhead could fail.
The new bulkhead will be constructed 1-2 feet taller than the original in order to better protect the existing and future businesses that will be located along the waterfront industrial property.
The Quonset Development Corporation estimates that the project will protect 80 existing jobs and create 32 new jobs by encouraging investment in the currently vacant parcel of land on the bulkhead.
"This federal funding will help rebuild the bulkhead, prevent future flood damage, and strengthen Rhode Island's economy by creating jobs and attracting further business and investment," said Reed, a member of the Appropriations Committee who has worked for over two decades to help direct more than $100 million in federal funding for upgrades at Quonset's railways, airport, and infrastructure.
"The port at Quonset is a valuable asset for our state's economy," said Whitehouse. "This funding will give businesses at Quonset peace of mind that their property is safe from storm damage, protecting existing jobs and encouraging the development of dozens more. Adding to the new control tower, pier and crane, it will help keep Quonset an economic engine for Rhode Island."
"We cannot expect businesses to locate and expand in our state unless we are proactively working to put them in a position to thrive," said Langevin. "Acquiring this funding represents the type of commitment required to take full advantage of the economic opportunities we have at Quonset."
"Quonset is an important gateway for Rhode Island's economy," said Cicilline. "These federal funds will help preserve jobs, lay the groundwork for future employment opportunities in the state, and underscore the significance of the marine trades to the Ocean State's economy."
"This federal funding will create Rhode Island jobs in both the near- and long-term," Governor Chafee said. "Quonset is home to 168 companies supporting 8,800 employees, and we must continue to strengthen this vibrant economic hub. This funding will allow us to do just that, improving the bulkhead and protecting area businesses from future storm damage."
"We are extremely grateful to the Economic Development Administration (EDA) for this grant, and the ongoing support we receive from our Congressional delegation," said Steven J. King, P.E., Managing Director of Quonset Development Corp (QDC). "Not only will this help improve an important part of our infrastructure, but it will also help our tenants and support the essential jobs they provide to Rhode Islanders. With more than 160 companies, 8,800 full-time and part-time jobs, and the 7th largest auto-port in North America at the Port of Davisville, this grant will also keep the momentum going at the Quonset Business Park."
The Quonset Development Corporation applied for the funding after attending the EDA Grant Workshop hosted by Reed and Whitehouse in July at the Community College of Rhode Island. Both Senators and Congressman Langevin also sent letters to EDA supporting Quonset's application. The EDA grant requires a 20% match to the federal funds.