Steven King is the managing director of Quonset Development Corporation (QDC) which manages Quonset Business Park (QBP), a 3,200 acre business park located on Quonset Point, (North Kingstown) Rhode Island. Besides the 200 plus companies located within the QBP is the Port of Davisville, one of the country’s top auto ports with numbers over 300,000 in most years, although with COVID and other disruptions the Port slipped under 200,000 in 2021. And the Port collaborates with NORAD (North Atlantic Distribution Inc.), the auto processer generating the vehicle traffic, and a processor in normal years among the top ten in the U.S. But as Steven King explains in the interview with AJOT, the QDC ho sts a wide variety of economic ventures, including some like “Rhode Island Ready” that have become part of Rhode Island’s own initiatives. And there is also offshore wind power which stands to be a once in a generation boon for the Port of Davisville and Rhode Island.
AJOT – What is the “Rhode Island Ready” initiative and how does the QDC fit in?
Steven King – One of the things that we did here in the real estate development side of the business is what I call the “Site Readiness Initiative”. That was to pre-program, pre-design and pre-permit [for client development]. We started that effort after the economy collapsed in 2008. And by doing that, we are now in a position to develop sites in the business park with a 90-day turnaround time. This has been tremendously beneficial to us [QDC] with a lot of deals that have happened since that time between 2010 or so and today. And because the program was so successful, the [RI] Governor and the General Assembly in Rhode Island determined that we did such a good job, then we could help them mimic the same thing around the state of Rhode Island.
AJOT – How was the program adapted to the State?
Steven King – An initiative was put together to get a bond issue passed by the voters of Rhode Island in a special election in 2020 and approved a $40 million in obligation bond issue. QDC has been tasked with finding additional industrial sites and helping to ready them for new business in the state of Rhode Island.
AJOT – This leads very nicely into the offshore wind initiative. Could you update us on what is happening with QBP and offshore wind power?
Steven King – “I guess I’ll back up a little bit and talk about the Port of Davisville. We have a $234.5 million master plan that we’re working through to rehabilitate the old World War II era infrastructure, to bring it up to modern code and provide a new service life of 50-years into the future. We’re also building additional facilities and expanding the capabilities of the port to leverage that [and] to capitalize on the opportunities with the offshore wind industry.
We are on the last couple months of construction and the first element of that project, which was the rehabilitation of our Pier 2 at the Port of Davisville, which is an $83.1 million project. It’s been going on now for almost three years and that’ll be completed here in June.
We are about to begin a project to reconstruct the outer perimeter of Pier One. That first element of that first part of that phase of that project will kick off here. Later in the spring we’re going to put that up for bid to construct the south side of Pier One.
We are also designing and beginning the permit process to construct a brand new pier facility at what we call Terminal Five at the Port of Davisville. To provide some more flexibility and create a whole new multi-use pier, that will be able to accommodate the ro-ro vessels that routinely call on the port. As well as all the various vessels that will be associated with the offshore wind projects, whether it be cable laying vessels or offshore service vessels or what have you.
And so, there’s a lot of good action in the port. We have $120 million of the program that’s been funded. We’re in line at the General Assembly and the [Rhode Island] Governor McKee, he proposed $60 million with the offer monies that are in their purview, the General Assembly. We’re hopeful that’ll make it through the final budget cut, and we’ll have an additional $60 million to help us with this project.
As it relates to the Port, we also recently entered into an agreement with Orsted North America for their Revolution Wind project. They lease the bulkhead space from us, and we are designing a series of improvements to add utility services and the like at those berths, to homeport five crew-transfer vessels at the Port of Davisville.
AJOT – I’ve heard you say that you’re thinking of the Park as a “logistics hub”. From your perspective, what does a “logistics hub” mean in terms of the QDC?
Steven King – “It means “home base” for operations, for both the construction of the wind farms, as well as the ongoing operations and maintenance. You may know the Block Island Wind Farm was the first project built in the offshore waters here in the United States. And the operation and maintenance crew for that five turbine project is housed here across the [Quonset] business park.
We like to look into the future, so we can capture jobs for the long term. I mean the construction jobs are terrific but once the project’s built, we want to continue to have job opportunities for our citizens here long into the future.
The home porting of the crew transfer vessels is key to that. To be able to have berth space to accommodate and service offshore vessels and become just the logistic space for the supplies for both people, food, equipment, tools, materials. Everything you’re going to need to work some 15, 20 miles offshore building this project.
AJOT – What are the goals longer term? I mean, I think you alluded to them already, in saying that you want to protect and build these jobs. And obviously the commitment to offshore wind power is one aspect of that. Is this the soup to nuts type of vision that you have?
Steven King – Yes, for the actual wind part. Yeah, but I mean, the business part itself is tremendously successful. We have over 210 companies and more than 12,900 jobs here every day, folks that come to work here. And we’ve been engaged with our largest tenant General Dynamics Electric Boat that builds the new submarines for the Navy. You may know about that, but they are building a new strategic, ballistic nuclear submarine, what they call the Columbia-class submarine that will replace the Ohio-class strategic submarines that were built here in the late 1980s.
We’ve been engaged in a program for the last three or four years and QDC has built $65 million of infrastructure. Most recently building a new pier to accommodate their transport barge that they had to construct special to move the Columbia-class modules between both here and New London, Connecticut and Newport News, Virginia. That project just got completed. And there’s been tremendous growth. I mean, I can go back to days when we had around 5,000 employees working here. We have had a huge advancement and General Dynamics invested $800 million in building the facilities that were allowed to happen by virtue of the investment in the infrastructure.