Stefan Pryor: 16 Who Made a Difference in 2016

Tuesday, December 27, 2016


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He was everywhere in 2016 in Rhode Island - from large deals to big controversies, and oftentimes in places somewhere in between.  If big business decisions were being made that involved state investment - and state taxpayer dollars — Pryor was there alongside the Governor making the announcements. 

Pryor, the Secretary of Commerce, had touted the unveiling of the $5 million tourism campaign that quickly fell into chaos when footage of Iceland was found used in the video; multiple errors were found on the website, and Tourism Chief Betsy Wall was ousted from her position less than six months after coming on board (and a gag-order was issued to keep Commerce employees from talking about her departure afterwards — ouch).

Then Pryor found himself in the middle of controversy after Commerce awarded $3.6 million in tax credits to a California developer who had been reported to be one of the most notorious slumlords in Los Angeles for decades. As GoLocal reported.

“One of the top advocacy lawyers in the country, Lauren Saunders, told following the announcement on Tuesday, “Robbins was one of the most dishonest and unscrupulous people I have come across in my career working for vulnerable tenants and consumers. I cannot imagine entrusting any (public) money to him.”  Former business owners at Robbins’ Hope Artiste Village decried the deal and a Commerce board member urged the state to consider who it does business with, and while Pryor had said following weeks of public reaction that Commerce would be “reviewing” the award, no action has been taken. 

Finally, Pryor has been front and center in a number of business announcements by the state in recent weeks — all of which involve incentives to lure businesses to come to Rhode Island. From Wexford on 195 — who refuses to divulge what it will get in rent from tenants that include non-profit Brown University, despite getting $30+ from taxpayers  — to Johnson & Johnson whose $6 million in subsides for a promised 75 positions comes out to the state paying $80K per job — Pryor found himself in the middle of what are both highly touted deals (by the Administration) and high-scrutinized subsidies in 2016.


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