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    Thursday, June 20, 2024

    ThayerMahan's negotiations for Groton Heights School back on track

    ThayerMahan, the fast-growing marine technology company, is interested in expanding and converting the former Groton Heights School at 244 Monument St. — by the Bill Memorial Library and Fort Griswold in the City of Groton — into its future headquarters. The approximately two-acre property has been vacant since 2007. (Map: Scott Ritter/The Day | Data: OpenStreetMap Contributors; ESRI)
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    Groton — A marine technology company is re-initiating contract negotiations for the former Groton Heights School, after a delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    ThayerMahan is interested in expanding and converting the property at 244 Monument St. — by the Bill Memorial Library and Fort Griswold in the City of Groton — into its future headquarters. The approximately 2-acre property has been vacant since 2007, town Economic and Community Development Manager Paige Bronk said.

    A joint town and city committee recommended the fast-growing company, known for undersea robotics, as the preferred developer for the town-owned property after a 2018 request for proposals, Bronk said at a Town Council Committee of the Whole meeting last week before the developer and council went into executive session.

    The Town Council had approved a letter of intent for the sale and redevelopment of the property in June 2019 and was working on a property agreement with ThayerMahan, when the pandemic hit and delayed the process. But the company wants to proceed with the plan, Bronk said.

    Richard J. Hine, co-founder and chief operating officer of the company at 120 Leonard Drive in Groton, told the council that the company started in 2016 with two employees — himself and co-founder Mike Connor, the company's president and chief executive officer — and has grown to 70 employees over the last five years.

    He said the company intends to turn the Groton Heights building and annex into its corporate headquarters and research and development center.

    ThayerMahan’s primary markets include defense, autonomous systems, robotics systems and sensors, electronics sonar and thermal imaging, he said. The company’s primary customers are the Navy, Coast Guard and government entities, along with offshore wind businesses, including Ørsted.

    For the offshore wind industry, ThayerMahan conducts precision seabed survey work, cable inspections, undersea infrastructure inspections, and acoustic monitoring and mitigation, including monitoring to help protect the nearly extinct North Atlantic right whale from harmful sounds from construction activity.

    But the company hit a lull during the pandemic.

    “After four years of pretty remarkable growth, we took a bit of a step back starting in March of last year when COVID hit,” Hine said, though the company managed to not lay off any employees and took advantage of relief from two Paycheck Protection Program loans.

    While the company didn’t lose any work, a lot of it was delayed because customers weren’t working during the shutdown. Additionally, no one could travel, he said, putting "a significant damper” on the company’s ability to go out to sea.

    “We appreciate the town’s patience in letting us ride out the storm, so to speak,” he said.

    While its 2021 sales were flat from 2019, the company spent the last year and a half investing in internal research and development, Hine said. The company now has 14 patents and has acquired two companies: an acoustic services and science company in Lexington, Mass., and a small artificial intelligence company based in Groton.

    He said ThayerMahan has been invited to join the World Economic Forum and was named Innovator of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut.

    The company intends to hire more employees, projecting to reach 180 by the end of the next year, and its facilities needs continue to grow, Hine said.

    “We’re on the upswing, and things are back on track, so we’ve re-initiated contract discussions with the town,” he said. He added that there are four land or building issues that the company is working through and will require compromise from both the company and Groton, but he sees no reason that the plan won’t move forward.

    Bronk said the next step is to finalize the sales agreement that will set the stage for the future closing of the property. He expects that agreement to come before the council over the next couple of months.

    k.drelich@theday.com

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