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$20 million expected from Bond Commission for reuse of Pfizer buildings

By Lee Howard

Publication: theday.com

Published February 26. 2014 4:00PM   Updated February 27. 2014 12:08AM

Groton — The State Bond Commission is expected to approve more than $20 million in funding Friday to repurpose two buildings on Pfizer Inc.’s campus off Eastern Point Road, including more than $4 million to allow a statewide association to develop bioscience incubator space.

“These items are part of a much larger effort, involving public and private sector partners, to create jobs, encourage economic development and foster a bioscience cluster in southeastern Connecticut,” Peter A. Yazbak, a spokesman for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, said in a statement.

Yazbak said more information would be forthcoming on this “major initiative” once details are ironed out.

Connecticut United for Research Excellence, which promotes bioscience-oriented businesses in the state, would receive $4.2 million to establish a Bioscience Innovation Center on the Pfizer campus at Building 286, according to state Rep. Elissa Wright.

In addition, $18.25 million is being requested to build out a state Bureau of Enterprise Systems and Technology data center at Pfizer’s Building 230, she said.

“These projects will help retain the economic footprint of those facilities, attract and retain jobs in high-demand information-technology and bio-technology fields,” Wright, a Democrat representing Groton, said in a statement announcing the funding. “In an age of globalization and rapid technological change, these significant state investments recognize the talents of a strong workforce and the contributions, needs and importance of this region to the economic success of Connecticut.”

The state confirmed last year its interest in developing a data center at one of the Pfizer buildings. Earlier this month, Rod MacKenzie, site leader for Pfizer in Groton, confirmed the company was in negotiations with the state to offer another building to CURE, but he offered no details.

Wright said funding for the CURE project will be a grant-in-aid for costs associated with developing incubator space. The Bond Commission indicated that $365,000 in state money already had been spent on the project, bringing the total cost to nearly $4.6 million.

“The funds will finance leasehold improvements, planning, programming and operational costs,” Wright said in a release. “The center will be a business incubator for the bioscience industry and may create new jobs.”

In a phone interview, Wright said she was hopeful that incubator space would encourage local scientists to stay in the region and would be a catalyst for future economic growth. She noted that the region is well known for its strength in the pharmaceutical and bioscience fields.

“This could provide the capability for building on those strengths,” she said.

Wright said she expects the CURE building would supplement the University of Connecticut at Avery Point’s Technology Incubation Program, which also offers startup businesses a place to test out new ideas. She said the intent is to forge closer connections between businesses and academic institutions.

“It’s certainly very promising,” she said.

State Rep. Ted Moukawsher, D-Groton, and state Sen. Andrew Maynard, D-Stonington, both said in phone interviews that they support moves to occupy the Pfizer buildings, though they are concerned about potential lost tax revenue. The town is expected to lose $2 million in tax revenue once Pfizer completes its ongoing demolition of Building 118, the sprawling former research center on campus.

The bonding requests for improvements at Building 230, which would be leased from Pfizer, is in addition to other funding of $2.75 million approved last year so the bureau could relocate its data center to Groton by next year.

Some of the bond money will go toward connecting to a back-up data center in Massachusetts. The data center will provide tech support to the executive branch.

l.howard@theday.com

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