With a $500,000 grant from the state, Foley Carrier Services is one of the first for-profit companies breathing new life into the Colt Building in Hartford.

Once the site of the Colt firearm company and the nation’s first assembly line, the sprawling complex is only partially renovated, but each new tenant brings new hope for the site. It also brings the state one step closer to getting the federal government to designate it as a National Historic Park.

The south armory is now home to a satellite campus of the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts, 212 residential units, and now Foley Carrier Services, which will occupy about 17,000 of the 350,000 square feet..

David Wendell, president of Foley Carrier Services, said when they went looking for a new location, access to parking and public transportation were at the top of their list. They were attracted to the Colt building because it had both those things and it meant they could “become part of a neighborhood renaissance.”

“We have a growing customer base of Latinos and being able to recruit more Spanish bilingual people also became a priority and we think the neighborhood will be a substantial help in that regard,” Wendell said. “And last but not least, we get to design a workplace in a national landmark which we think reflects our progressive values and which our employees deserve.”

Foley Carrier Services provides drug and alcohol testing and other services to help transportation providers remain in compliance with Federal Department of Transportation regulations.

The company needed the $500,000 grant to Colt’s developer to help complete $2 million in improvements to the space, but has not asked for any other state assistance.

“They have used their own capital to grow jobs,” Catherine Smith, commissioner of Economic and Community Development, said. “They’re on a mission.”

The company has 110 employees at the moment, but they’re still hiring.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who was on hand to welcome Foley to the building Thursday, said their presence marks a milestone in the history of the Colt Building. They became one of the first for-profit companies to occupy the South Armory.

Lexis Nexus has about 300 employees in the Sawtooth Building, which is part of the sprawling 260-acre Colt complex built by Samuel and Elizabeth Colt in 1855.

“One of Samuel Colt’s biggest problems was how to get his product to market,” Malloy said. “Now all these years later, after Samuel Colt has left us, Foley comes onto the scene.”

Malloy said Foley has relationships with 30,000 trucking companies.

“I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to join all of you in what is a celebration of our past, marked by a celebration of our future,” Malloy told an audience of Foley employees.

The $500,000 investment by the state was described by Malloy as “very little” for the “first-class jobs” they are getting in return.

Malloy has been criticized for giving state money to companies to stay in Connecticut if they promise to create jobs. But he’s not phased by the criticism and makes no apologies.

In the two years that Malloy has been governor he said he’s reached out to 400 companies. That’s double the amount of companies his predecessors reached out to in the previous 8 years, he said.

“This is not an immediate payoff, it’s a long term payoff,” Malloy said. “But we are capturing ideas, concepts, existing businesses, and new businesses in the state that we simply weren’t competing for in the past.”

Even in the next two years as the state faces a $2.2 billion deficit, Malloy said he plans on staying the course and continuing to borrow money to pay for these types of projects.