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EB to buy, convert Pfizer's NL property

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New London— Electric Boat plans to make the former Pfizer World Research Headquarters into a "global center for submarine excellence," according to EB President John P. Casey.

The two sides have reached an agreement for EB to buy the propery. A closing could happen within the next two months, Casey said. Both Casey and Pfizer representatives declined to discuss the details, including the purchase price, until after the deal is finalized.

But a press release issued by the governor's office said that the Groton-based Electric Boat will spend $99 million to develop the new engineering, research and development center. This includes the purchase of the land and buildings at 50 Pequot Ave. built and currently owned by Pfizer and an upgrade for two EB-owned buildings in Groton.

The project will create 700 positions, of which half have already been filled. Casey said the rest of the new employees will be hired in the next two to three years.

"This is good news for all of southeastern Connecticut," Gov. M. Jodi Rell said at the press conference held Monday morning at Pfizer, citing a "ripple effect" of the jobs created that will bring business to local retail establishments.

The state Department of Economic and Community Development will assist EB with a $15 million grant, phased over three years. The money may be used for construction, equipment and other eligible project-related activities.

Because the New London facility is located in an enterprise zone, EB may be eligible for a five-year, 80 percent abatement on real and personal property taxes and a 25 percent corporate tax credit for 10 years.

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, called the announcement a "thunderbolt of positive hope" for the region's economy "at a time when we desperately need it."

Courtney has helped secure millions for the early research and design work on the next generation of ballistic-missile submarines that will replace the current fleet of Ohio-class, or Trident, submarines.

Several studies released by the Obama administration recently have touted the importance of the program, including the Nuclear Posture Review, which called ballistic-missile submarines the "most survivable leg of the U.S. nuclear triad."

"This is not a blip, a temporary upswing," Courtney said. "This is a long-term commitment for a program to be part of the country's naval priorities for many years to come."

Engineers working on the Navy's next-generation submarine will be the first to move into the complex. They are expected to occupy two floors of Tower C in July. The remaining employees will move in phases through 2011.

The complex holds about 2,200 people but Casey said the buildings could be modified to accommodate more.

Toni Hoover, senior vice president and director for Pfizer's Groton and New London campuses, said the company will ensure a "smooth transition of our colleagues" and of the real estate.

EB employs 10,000 people, of whom about 4,000 are involved in design and engineering.

Robert Canova, president of the Marine Draftsmen's Association United Auto Workers, Local 571, said that there has been a lot of rumor and speculation over the past few months.

"It's nice to see they finally came up with an agreement between the parties," he said. "It's a state-of-the-art facility and to have everyone co-located will be a great thing."

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