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From Site Selection magazine, January 2024

The Land of Steady Habits Rises to the Occasion

Venerable Connecticut may be more dynamic than you think it is.

A beautiful sunset at Fayerweather Island Lighthouse in Bridgeport,Connecticut.
Photo: Getty Images/ Ara Josefsson

by Gary Daughters

e’re a shockingly productive state,” boasts John Bourdeaux, the Atlanta transplant who leads AdvanceCT, the nonprofit formed four years ago to recruit businesses to Connecticut and keep them there. A big part of the job, Bourdeaux says, is redirecting perceptions. Thus, he is quick to assert that, in 2022, one in four aerospace components made in the United States was produced in Connecticut. This, in a slender state of 3.6 million people that does more than sell insurance.

“One of the reasons I’m here is that we have not told the Connecticut story,” Bourdeaux told Site Selection via video conference in early December. “The Connecticut story is one of great innovation, tremendous opportunity and incredible assets that are available to companies of all sizes. The brand of Connecticut feels a little bit like 1950s white picket fence. Like Greenwich. That misses the vibrancy and diversity that are here and have existed for quite some time.”

That aerospace industry, for example. Far beyond Raytheon, Pratt & Whitney, Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky — all of which manufacture in Connecticut — exist scores of small suppliers, some with specific expertise that can reach back generations.

“Connecticut’s aerospace industry,” Boudeaux says, “isn’t run by conglomerates. You’ve got small and medium-sized businesses doing incredibly precise things. We make things that no one else can make. We make them better than anyone else can do it and we’ve been innovating for hundreds of years. That’s our bread and butter. It’s where we continue to find growth and investment here.”

In late 2023, that collective state skillset garnered endorsements from Hanwha, the South Korean mega manufacturer, and Nanoramic, a GM-backed battery startup, both of which announced decisions to establish significant footholds in Connecticut.

“The productivity and precision of our workforce,” says Bourdeaux, “is what both Hanwha and Nanoramic are buying into.”

Certified Sites Program Launches

Occum Industrial Center in Norwich is one of the first four industrial sites identified as either “shovel ready” or “investment ready” under AdvanceCT’s Connecticut Certified Sites Program, officially launched in mid-November. The name Occum, a section of Norwich, pays tribute to the surrounding region’s Mohican and Mashantucket Pequot heritage, says Kevin Brown, president and executive director of the Norwich Community Development Corporation, himself a member of the Mohican tribe. Newly marketed by CBRE, the 185-acre site offers more than 2 million buildable square feet and is zoned for buildings up to 80 feet high. Occum’s top differentiator, believes Brown, is the prized access it offers.


The productivity and precision of our workforce is what both Hanwha and Nanoramic are buying into.”

— John Bourdeaux, President & CEO, AdvanceCT


“We are near the [110-mile] midpoint of Boston and New York City, two of the biggest MSAs on the planet, and our price point is much lower than either,” Brown tells Site Selection. Right off I-395, the site is serviced by municipally run utilities that offer “lower rates and flatter command structures” to industrial users, says Brown.

Norwich is a mere 13 miles up the Thames River from New London, whose State Pier is undergoing a $300 million-plus renovation to support the nascent buildout of East Coast wind energy fields, a project recently dogged by the effects of inflation, higher interest rates and supply chain delays.

“Ultimately,” says Brown, “whether it’s one day, one year, 10 years or 15 years from now, this is the supply chain for offshore wind. You can’t get much closer to New London and State Pier than us.”

Sites in Bethel, Plainville and Windsor have received the AdvanceCT certification, with six more in the immediate pipeline, says Bourdeaux, and even more to come this year. The program’s recent launch, given the longstanding demand for certified industrial sites, does give rise to the question of whether Connecticut is late to the game.

“It’s not like, say, rural Georgia and places like that,” says Bourdeaux, “where you can find 350 acres of unincorporated land, eyeball it, put up a transformer and run a sewer line and call it a certified site. We have to be a lot more rigorous in our evaluation. We just don’t have a whole lot of land, and we have to be very smart about it.”

Connecticut, he says, has a “unique makeup.” No county structures and no unincorporated land. “It’s all owned by somebody. So, when you’re putting up a factory, you’re dealing with owners, history and all kinds of stuff. Connecticut has been here a very long time.”

A Welcome Win for Bridgeport

The Nanoramic project, announced in late November, would appear to fall under the heading of smart land use. An MIT spinout, the Massachusetts-based maker of advanced energy storage systems plans to build a 200-employee manufacturing site on the site of a defunct coal plant in Bridgeport, a prospect that makes it a poster child for the type of transitional energy investments being handsomely funded by Washington. The plans are backed by a $47.5 million grant under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, announced in conjunction with the project’s unveiling by U.S. Senators Richard Blumental and Chris Murphy and U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, all from Connecticut. 

Nanoramic reportedly opted for Bridgeport over sites in other states, including New York. Once an industrial powerhouse, Bridgeport has been staggered by globalization and the resulting divestment suffered by communities across the country.

“What better way to rejuvenate a community than to put in advanced clean energy manufacturing?” Nanoramic founder John Cooley was quoted as saying. “What I see is opportunity when we drive around Bridgeport.”

Nanoramic is receiving no state or local incentives. Bourdeaux says Advance CT, which began courting the company in the spring of 2022, provided help in securing the federal infrastructure grant. He foresees other advanced manufacturers buying into Connecticut.

“You’ve got a strong foundation here and something that’s in short supply elsewhere, which is predictability. One of Connecticut’s old nicknames,” he says, “is the ‘Land of Steady Habits.’ To some people, that’s a pejorative, but if I’m a CEO, I need some predictability. My marketplace is chaotic enough. Where I put my company needs to be steady, needs to be solid. And that’s what we’re delivering in Connecticut.” 

Connecticut AP-2

Gary Daughters
Senior Editor

Gary Daughters

Gary Daughters is a Peabody Award winning journalist who began with Site Selection in 2016. Gary has worked as a writer and producer for CNN covering US politics and international affairs. His work has included lengthy stints in Washington, DC and western Europe. Gary is a 1981 graduate of the University of Georgia, where he majored in Journalism and Mass Communications. He lives in Atlanta with his teenage daughter, and in his spare time plays guitar, teaches golf and mentors young people.


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