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A conversation with.Ron Angelo, Acting Commissioner, Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development

"Connecticut wants to be a national model for energy technology and conservation, and use of biofuels and renewable forms of energy to reduce business costs. We're uniquely situated to capitalize on the hydrogen and fuel cell market"

Jun/Jul 07
Q. What caused excitement in Connecticut development recently?
Apart from some of the major corporate expansions announced in the past few months, one of our most exciting developments was the creation of the Office of Brownfield Remediation and Development. This central office plays an integral role in the state's efforts to promote responsible growth, and builds on the state's nationally recognized approach to brownfield redevelopment. We are a historic state, with a lot of mill sites and older industrial towns. With our high land values, we want to reuse these sites in our future economic development plans.

Q. How are your established clusters faring?
Connecticut's cluster-based initiatives have been enormously successful in making our state competitive in today's global economy. The insurance and financial services cluster is a primary example. Financial services employs more than 54,000 people here. RBS Greenwich Capital, a subsidiary of the Royal Bank of Scotland, is building a new $400 million, 500,000-square-foot facility in Stamford, bringing 1,150 additional jobs to southwestern Connecticut. UBS Warburg, one of the largest financial firms in the world, runs the world's largest securities trading floor in Stamford. Long known as the insurance capital, Hartford is home to Aetna's headquarters and is a center of operations for Amsterdam-based ING Group. Fairfield County is growing exponentially in the hedge fund industry. About 11 percent of the estimated $1.3 trillion invested in hedge funds globally is managed here. The state's bioscience cluster is thriving. International company Boehringer Ingelheim continues to expand, while Pfizer, U.S. Surgical, and Bristol Myers all have a huge presence in the state. This sector ties into our universities, such as Yale, for research and technology transfer. And our smaller startups act as a pipeline for these larger companies. Also well established and growing is aerospace and defense. Connecticut is home to one of the largest players, United Technologies Corporation, which includes Pratt & Whitney, Sikorsky, and Hamilton Sundstrand. Industry, government, and academia are working together to promote the more than 1,000 companies in the industry supply chain.

Q. What new sectors are evolving?
Alternative energy, and fuel cells in particular, is an emerging
sector of our economy. Connecticut wants to be a national model for energy technology and conservation, and use of biofuels and renewable forms of energy to reduce business costs. We're uniquely situated to capitalize on the hydrogen and fuel cell market, which is expected to generate $18.6 billion in annual revenues in the next decade. Connecticut has been a pioneer in fuel cell technology - spacecraft and submarines for example - and now we're continuing in that tradition. Fifteen percent of the world's work force in the fuel cell industry is in Connecticut, home to industry leaders like FuelCell Energy, Inc. and UTC Power. We are in the process of trying to form a fuel cell cluster so companies can share knowledge and attract the best researchers and work force.

Q. Are you trying to attract companies from abroad?
Connecticut ranks third in the country in terms of our work force being supported by U.S. subsidiaries, which currently employ more than 100,000 people. This is due to several factors. One is our strategic location between Boston and New York. Another is our work force, which is highly skilled and one of the most productive in the world. The recent announcement that direct flights to Amsterdam will now be available from Bradley International Airport, just north of Hartford, should strengthen our ability to attract international companies to Connecticut.

Q. Are incentives important in your quest for new projects?
Certainly incentives are a part of our overall strategy. DECD's Office of Business and Industry Development can offer flexible and creative packages. One of our most powerful tools is the Urban and Industrial Sites Reinvestment Tax Credit Program, which fosters development in urban centers and the reuse of brownfields. This program allows the state to provide up to $100 million in tax credits in a 10-year period for eligible projects. New Job Training tax credits provide credits to companies that relocate here, create jobs, and fill them with area residents. The credit equals up to 25 percent of the state income tax withheld from the new employees' wages and applies for five years. The Displaced Workers Tax Credit authorizes business tax credits for companies that hire workers who were laid off because of corporate restructurings in which at least 10 Connecticut workers lost their jobs. In addition to tax credits, the state can offer many financing vehicles that can be customized for projects.