Lt. Gov. Bysiewicz gives thumbs-up to Norwich business growth

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Norwich — Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz gave frequent thumbs-up Wednesday during an hourlong visit to downtown businesses, delighted to hear from young professional business owners opening new stores and restaurants in their hometown or home state.

She followed that walk during a warm, muggy afternoon with a tour of the Atlantic City Linen Supply, a large commercial laundry facility in the Stanley Israelite Norwich Business Park. ACLS Norwich handles laundry for both the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort casinos, numerous hotels and resorts throughout Connecticut and Rhode Island, and some as far away as Boston.

Facility founder and Chief Administrative Officer Dan Goldberg said the New Jersey-based company chose Norwich after a joint deal with the two tribal casinos, who co-signed a loan and became its “anchor” customers. The facility brings in bundles of laundry — sheets, pillowcases, towels and table linens — from customers in bar-coded bins. The items are sorted by size and type, dumped into large coded canvas bags hanging from overhead conveyors, each bag weighing about 150 pounds.

While many parts of the process require manual labor to transfer laundry into and out of washers and dryers, much of the system is automated, with a large sheet flattening and folding machine especially catching Bysiewicz’ eye, as fitted sheets came out folded perfectly square and flat.

“Mine aren’t that flat,” she said.

The linen service also is a major employer in the state’s Second Chance prison-to-work program, with about 60 to 70 percent of its 205 total workers having gone through the program, plant general manager Musalam Camasta said.

Bysiewicz gave two thumbs-up to that news and said Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration supports the program started by his predecessor, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, to offer “second chances” to prisoners being released to help them avoid reincarceration.

It costs $35,000 to $50,000 a year to have someone in the correctional system, Bysiewicz said outside the plant following the tour. “And now they’re making that as a salary. So inspiring.”

The lieutenant governor’s visit to Norwich started at City Hall. Bysiewicz, Mayor Peter Nystrom, City Manager John Salomone, Aldermen William Nash and Stacy Gould and state Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, and state Rep. Kevin Ryan, D-Montville, walked across the street to Café Otis, the first stop on their downtown tour.

Café owner Nancy Isa reviewed the eclectic Mediterranean menu and explained her excitement to open a café in the newly renovated and decorated original Otis Library building in March. Isa grew up in Norwich and graduated from NFA in 1997. She returned to the city, after working in food services elsewhere, to open her own restaurant.

In the same lower Broadway block, Bysiewicz met with Matthew DuTrumble, owner of Craftsman Cliff’s Roasters, the popular new coffee and cacao shop named for his father, a skilled craftsman. The shop quickly filled in the late afternoon, which pleased Bysiewicz.

Stops included the Wauregan Gallery, the new Asian grocery market, S&A Market, Apollo Cycles, These Guys Brewing and Foundry 66, the shared workspace run by Norwich Community Development Corp.

S&A Market owner Mei He answered Bysiewicz on why she chose to open her new market in Norwich this summer. Friends, she said, recommended Norwich because there are “many, many” Chinese residents and “many, many good Chinese restaurants.” Volunteers from the multicultural promotion group Global City Norwich helped clean out the vacant former grocery store space in the Thayer Building, and Foundry 66 helped with her business plan.

“The people are so nice here,” He said.

Bysiewicz praised Foundry 66’s efforts. The facility now houses 41 small business and entrepreneurial startups.

“They’re showing us all the new cool businesses,” Bysiewicz said of the downtown tour. “And you’re growing them right here.”

c.bessette@theday.com

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