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State and Pfizer deal will develop local jobs

By TONY SHERIDAN

Publication: The Day

Published April 13. 2014 4:00AM

Bravo to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and his administration for staying committed to finding new uses for two vacant Pfizer buildings in Groton. As a result of the months of negotiations between the administration and pharmaceutical giant, a deal was reached that not only assures the buildings will be active again, but that they will be filled with people holding quality jobs.

The governor and his commissioner for economic and community development, Catherine Smith, achieved a deal in which Pfizer agreed to donate the two buildings, in the process strengthening eastern Connecticut's reputation as a leader in science-related industry. One of those vacant buildings on Pfizer's Groton campus will be utilized by the Connecticut United for Research Excellence (CURE) to create a bioscience incubator program.

Pfizer was one of the original founders of CURE in the 1980s, when the organization came together originally to be an "unbiased and objective source for information and education about the nature and practice of life sciences research and development," according to its website. Later, CURE's mission expanded to include growing Connecticut's life sciences base and creating a "powerful biotech cluster" in the state. The actions of Pfizer now demonstrate the company's continuing commitment to helping Connecticut's employment and economy grow.

The state is demonstrating its commitment to job recovery and growth in eastern Connecticut by contributing $4.2 million to the endeavor in the form of a grant to CURE Innovations, LLC to fund the renovations and other work necessary to convert the building to business incubator space.

According to Gov. Malloy's office, "CURE Innovation Commons, approximately 24,000 square feet in size, will house up to seven laboratories, numerous offices, conference rooms and a large meeting space. It could accommodate six to nine separate companies and there will be some space to accommodate startup projects. (It) will welcome tenants with a wide breadth of research and development interests, including in chemistry, pharmacology, medical device, information technology, biomedical engineering, and clinical trial-related services. New initiatives in agriculture and marine science - also aspects of southeastern Connecticut's technology story - will contribute to the multi-disciplinary shared-working environment."

All of this activity is great news for Groton, for eastern Connecticut and for the entire state, as projects such as this incubator are designed to bring in new business and new employees, while helping retain the skilled workforce that the region is already fortunate to have. The emphasis on biosciences, as exemplified in Gov. Malloy's Connecticut Bioscience Initiative, is to bring in companies that will create high-paying jobs. This in turn benefits all our communities, as these scientists and others move to the area.

Additionally, the state's decision to use the second vacant Pfizer building as the new home for the Department of Administrative Services' data center will not only save Connecticut taxpayers considerable money, but bolsters the region as a wonderful resource for Hartford.

"The state's new IT data center will support the critical work of some 50,000 state personnel whose work is highly dependent on the smooth and reliable operation of the state's IT network, including public safety related functions," said DAS Commissioner Donald DeFronzo. "We require a disaster recovery facility where the IT systems and data are backed up and readily available in the event of a catastrophe, allowing Connecticut to reposition its disaster recovery capabilities and providing significant advantages to the state. The challenge of finding a new site for the Connecticut Data Center has been a long and difficult one, but today is a result of a plan that allows DAS to meet its statewide IT objectives, in alignment with the goals of our sister state agency, the DECD, and in partnership with Pfizer."

The Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut supports Gov. Malloy's Bioscience Initiative, welcomes CURE and the state's DAS to Groton, and looks forward to a future filled with new jobs, new residents in eastern Connecticut, and a further invigorated local economy.

Tony Sheridan is president and chief executive of Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut.

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