United States Navy / wikimedia commons
Groton Shipyard, Conn. (Apr. 15, 2003) — The nuclear powered attack submarine Virginia while under construction. Electric Boat Corporation of Connecticut is the lead design authority for the New Attack Submarine. (United States Navy / wikimedia commons)

HARTFORD, CT — They were able to come together in 2016 to approve a $220 million economic incentive package for Lockheed Martin to keep helicopter production in Connecticut, and state Sen. Cathy Osten is hoping the legislature can do it again for Electric Boat.

Osten has proposed legislation in an effort to award $100 million in manufacturing bonds to Electric Boat for site improvements and to help with planning costs for the new Columbia Class submarine.

The U.S. Navy ordered 12 of the ballistic missile submarines to be built between 2021 and 2035. Advanced construction will begin this year.

Osten, who is from Sprague, said Groton is not even in her district, but this is a jobs bill for eastern Connecticut.

“When it comes to jobs there are no borders,” Osten said.

There’s an additional $50 million in the bill to fund a new Apprenticeship Connecticut initiative to develop workforce pipeline programs to train qualified entry-level workers for jobs with manufacturers.

“There are 30,000 jobs across Connecticut waiting to be filled in our major defense industries and their subcontractors,” Osten said. “There are another several thousand jobs in other manufacturing sectors. They all need trained workers.”

She said she’s spoken with Jeffrey Geiger at General Dynamic, the parent company of Electric Boat, and they need to construct a whole new building and dock for the new Columbia Class submarine, which is much longer than the Virginia Class. She said they also need qualified workers.

The Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee approved Osten’s proposal 44-7 last week.

The fiscal note says that as a result of the legislation, “debt service costs are expected to increase.”

House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said the legislation wasn’t necessarily on his radar, but he believes the state should be doing everything it can to help its big employers.

“I wouldn’t take it off the table,” Aresimowicz said. “I think it will be part of [budget] negotiations.”

He said when there’s a large employer involved then the state needs to be helpful.

“We should invest in our cities and our major employers,” House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said Wednesday.

Electric Boat plans on hiring between 15,000 and 20,000 new employees by 2030. The company plans to spend $1.7 billion on capital improvements to the boat yards in both Groton and Quonset Point, according to fourth quarter earnings reports.

In addition, Electric Boat has 446 active suppliers in Connecticut and its spending with them will double over the next few years. It already spent $514 million over five years with those suppliers.

According to the Eastern Workforce Investment Board, the increased employment will have a significant $52 million impact on the region at a time when it is losing gaming industry jobs.

Electric Boat already has hired 3,200 more employees in 2017. Its Groton shipyard will grow to 6,000 employees during construction of the Columbia.

However, Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, said he doesn’t believe the company needs the money immediately and would rather figure out what they need before authorizing $100 million.

“It would be reasonable for them to ask, but at this point given our situation and their situation, the $100 million is more valuable where we are now,” Formica said.

He said he doesn’t support increasing debt payments at this juncture.

“If they don’t need the cash now, why would we struggle to give them the cash now?” Formica said.

Instead, Formica and Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, introduced legislation that passed the Appropriations Committee, of which Formica is one of three chairs, that would give $1 million to the Eastern Workforce Investment Board to get workers trained for these jobs.

The Department of Economic and Community Development was unable to confirm whether it’s negotiating any incentives with General Dynamics, the parent company of Electric Boat, and a spokeswoman for the company did not offer any further information than what was publicly available.