Hartford - The Malloy administration's biggest and priciest economic development deals received final approvals Friday from the State Bond Commission, with authorizations totaling $88.6 million.
The bulk of the money will support construction and expansion for the initial four corporate beneficiaries of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's First Five program. The rest will go to UBS Group America in Stamford and Blue Sky Studios in Greenwich, which have agreed to retain or expand a set number of jobs.
Catherine Smith, commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development, said the development deals are generating buzz in the business community.
"We're getting calls from New York and all over the country saying, 'You know, if I'm going to grow, maybe I want to grow in Connecticut,'" Smith said.
Asked if she's hearing interest in southeastern Connecticut, the commissioner said she couldn't comment about specific geographic locations but said the inquiries are from businesses in a variety of industries.
The First Five program offers state tax credits, "forgivable" loans and work force training grants to a set number of businesses that promise to create either 200 new in-state jobs within two years or 200 jobs with a $25 million investment within five years.
The General Assembly agreed to double the number of potential beneficiaries to 10 as part of this fall's bipartisan jobs creation package.
Of the First Five, the Bond Commission authorized $21 million for health insurer Cigna; $18.7 million for ESPN; $5.9 million for online ticket provider TicketNetwork and $20 million for NBC Sports. If any of the companies fail to meet job or investment targets, the state will not forgive that company's loan, Smith said.
Two Republicans voted against the bond authorization: state Sen. Andrew Roraback of Goshen and state Rep. Sean Williams of Watertown.
"I have a hard time understanding that if something is good for the state of Connecticut in the economic development arena, why would we limit it to five companies?" Roraback said afterward about First Five. "If this is something that's going to benefit us as a state, we ought to have all you can eat."