Jackson Lab construction under way in Connecticut

Posted Oct. 17, 2012, at 8:48 p.m.

FARMINGTON, Conn. — Early construction work has begun on a controversial state-financed $291 million genetics lab project at the University of Connecticut Health Center campus outside Hartford.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Wednesday joined UConn President Susan Herbst and a group of state legislators and lab employees to mark the start of demolition to 12 small buildings on the campus.

The teardowns will clear space for The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine, a 173,000-square-foot research facility. The new building is scheduled to open in late 2014 as the Connecticut branch of The Jackson Laboratory, a nonprofit research institute based in Bar Harbor, Maine.

The state of Connecticut is financing the lab’s construction through a $192 million “forgivable loan” and a $99 million grant for research and funding support.

In exchange, Jackson Lab is under contract to create 300 positions within 10 years, including 90 scientist jobs. Lab assistants and janitorial staff will count toward the 300-job minimum, as will 10 full-time UConn faculty members who will work in the lab.

The Malloy administration last year courted Jackson Lab after the institute’s plans for a Florida location fell through. The Democratic-majority General Assembly approved the state subsidies with a 101-41 vote in the House and 21-14 in the Senate.

The project’s many Republican opponents, including state Rep. Chris Coutu of Norwich, portrayed the lab as a pricey and risky investment with uncertain benefits to the state.

At Wednesday’s news conference, Malloy described Jackson Lab as a long-term investment that will give Connecticut a leading role in forefront of genetics and bioscience research and create many spinoff jobs.

“We had a place in this arena in Connecticut, a leading role for a period of time, but we allowed that to dissipate,” the governor said. Malloy once again cited Pfizer Inc.’s decision last year to ship about 400 jobs from Groton to Cambridge, Mass., as a “shot across the bow.”

State Rep. Kevin Ryan, D-Montville, was among the lawmakers who attend the official start to demolition. He said Jackson Lab is a worthwhile investment.

“Maybe it won’t have an immediate effect on southeastern Connecticut, but it will have an effect on the state,” Ryan said. “Hopefully it will help us keep what remains of Pfizer in the areas because that’s a big concern right now.”

Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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