Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced Wednesday the state will be giving $19.1 million in forgivable loans to a joint venture steel product company as the next part of the First Five program. In exchange the new company will create 408 jobs in North Haven over four years.
Sustainable Building Systems, a cooperative effort by Australia-based Weeks Group and Arizona-based Diverse Services Group, will manufacture steel building material and establish its United States headquarters at a 400,000 square foot facility in North Haven. The company is the sixth to take part in Malloy’s First Five program.
Under the program the Department of Economic and Community Development will provide the company with a 10-year, $19.1 million loan at 2 percent interest. Sustainable Building Systems will get $10 million at the closing, another $5 million if it creates 208 jobs within two years and $4.1 million if it has created another 200 jobs within four years. If all 408 jobs are created the loans will be forgiven.
Malloy said new technology has made the steel industry an economic driver again.
“In the last century the steel industry was the backbone of our nation, providing jobs and helping to build the middle class. Companies like Sustainable Building Systems represent the next evolution within that industry,” Malloy said. “By embracing 21st Century technology, what is old is becoming new again and green manufacturing jobs represent the future.”
The governor said he wasn’t surprised the international company would choose Connecticut as its headquarters, given the state’s educated workforce, high quality of life and the competitive business climate the state promised it.
“The First Five program is working, it’s giving Connecticut a significant advantage in attracting the top companies around the world and allowing them to grow and expand operations here,” he said.
Kevin Weeks, founder of the Weeks Group, agreed.
“We can design our commercial buildings anywhere we like in the world. We are choosing to do that here in Connecticut and there’s a very good reason for that, it’s because you have a great deal of wealth in your education system here and the smarts to see it through,” he said.
Weeks said the company has design centers in Australia and India but has trouble finding qualified staff who understand the technology involved.
Peter Zitis, CEO of a steel building subsidiary of the Weeks Group, said the company was happy to participate in the First Five program.
“Connecticut is very strongly positioned as a strong state for house growth and other programs we are endeavoring to pursue in these markets,” Zitis said.
Duane Armijo, CEO of Diverse Services group and president of Sustainable Building Systems, said he expects the facility to be operational within the next year.
Malloy said he’s often been asked when the state would bring the manufacturing industry in on the First Five program.
“Obviously this is a very big step in manufacturing and quite frankly the kind of manufacturing which is a sweet spot for us,” he said.
The state reached the end of the initial phase of the First Five program last month when home health services company CareCentrix became the fifth company to participate. However, the program allows for 15 companies to participate over the next two years.