Sports broadcasting giant ESPN will be the third of five companies receiving incentives from the state for the promise of creating at least 200 jobs, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced Tuesday at the company’s complex in Bristol.
It joins CIGNA Corp. and TicketNetwork, companies with which Malloy announced partnerships in July.
As a participant in the governor’s “First Five” program, ESPN will receive a $17.5 million loan from the Department of Economic and Community Development over 10 years for the construction of a new “Digital Center 2” building, in which the company plans to invest more than $100 million. ESPN officials estimated the construction of that project will create 200 jobs.
The “First Five” deal also offers up to $1.2 million for a job-training grant program. The amount of money the company receives will depend on the number of jobs it creates. Two hundred jobs will authorize $300 million; every additional 100 jobs will get the company an extra $150 million up to 800 jobs.
The program also allows the Connecticut Development Authority to grant as much as $6 million in sales and use tax exemptions for construction materials and capital equipment.
The deal cements the baseline number of full-time employees in Connecticut at more than 3,800. ESPN Executive Vice President Ed Durso said that many of the new jobs will be associated with technology; others will involve programming, sales and marketing, research, and administrative and legal support.
“As we’ve grown we’ve had to increase our capabilities in all of those areas,” he said.
Malloy described ESPN as a homegrown success story, a company that he wants to see continue to expand.
“I know ESPN can build facilities wherever it wants. In fact I know it’s had the audacity to build facilities in places other than Bristol,” he said, mock-glaring at Durso. “But here we celebrate this success.”
The company has demonstrated a commitment to Connecticut, and the state reciprocates that commitment, he said.
For his part, Durso praised Malloy’s “First Five” program.
“I think this program evidences a continuing interest in the state of Connecticut to keep companies like ours active and growing here in the state,” he said.
He said that ESPN’s plans dovetailed nicely with the governor’s. They began talking about the program months earlier as they were developing the last stages of the “Digital Center 2” project, he said.
Durso did not say whether the company would have decided to build the center, the 19th building on its Bristol campus, in Connecticut had Malloy not offered the incentives.
“I think we had plans to grow here in Connecticut. Exactly how, where and why was always an open question. We have facilities in California. We have a big facility in Charlotte, North Carolina. We’re growing now in Texas,” he said.
The company prefers to stay in Connecticut, he said. Programs like the “First Five” initiative help sell that idea to its corporate parent, Walt Disney Co., which is based in California.
“We have to establish why it is important for us to stay here and the types of programs that can support our continued growth,” he said.
Malloy rejected the notion that the state assistance amounted to a longevity payment for a successful Connecticut company. ESPN could have easily chosen to build its new four-story, 193,000 square-foot facility elsewhere, he said.
“If I lost this, and they decided to add 200 jobs in Austin or 200 jobs elsewhere after having considered us, you could rightfully criticize me,” he said. “I suppose people can criticize me that I had them bring 400 jobs to the state but, you know, go make a headline out of it.”
The announcement doubled as a groundbreaking ceremony for the new facility. The governor donned a hardhat and helped toss the first mound of dirt with a baseball bat-shaped spade.
When completed, the building will serve as the new home of ESPN’s SportsCenter program. It will feature four new studios, six production control rooms and 26 edit rooms, a press release from the governor’s office said.
Malloy said the broadcaster’s continued growth also benefits businesses in the surrounding community, including a hotel whose clientele is probably made up largely of people connected to ESPN.
Earlier this year the company moved its magazine’s operations to Connecticut, bringing jobs with it. ESPN will open a child care center on the campus later this month, Durso said.
Though Malloy has said he wants to expand the program in the future to allow for more companies to participate, there are still two slots left in the original “First Five” program. On Tuesday he said his administration is in talks with some out-of-state manufacturers; he added that moving a business into the state is a process that takes more time.
The state’s offering to ESPN differs from its deals with the two previous “First Five” participants.
On July 12, Malloy announced that CIGNA Corp. would be the first company to receive assistance. The state will be giving the insurance company between $50 million to $71 million in tax incentives over the next few years to help it create between 200 and 800 new jobs.
Later in the month he added the South Windsor based ticket exchange company TicketNetwork to the “First Five” roster. The state is offering that company a $4.5 million, 10-year state loan to create between 200 and 600 jobs over the next 10 years.