After listening to Gov. Dannel Malloy speak on the topic of job creation at a recent event in Greenwich, Rob Powell, the treasurer of Advanced Fusion Systems, approached the governor and extended him an invitation to come to Newtown and learn more of the to create hundreds of new jobs in Connecticut.
Malloy made good on the invitation Weds., Oct. 12, arriving at the firm’s Edmond Road site for a presentation, tour and question-and-answer session where company officials discussed some of the obstacles they have faced in applying for state business incentive programs.
“The reason that we wanted you to come here was just to understand the scope of the project, the investment that Bill has made and how we are working with the state,” Powell said of William Joyce, a Newtown resident who is the company's principal investor and chief executive officer.
While saying he was not the one who ran the state programs to which the company was applying, the governor said he would help raise AFS’ profile.
“What’s important is that you get some attention and I’ll pass that along,” Malloy said. “I’ll make sure that we convey to the team of people that this needs to be treated with all seriousness and deliberate speed.”
Malloy is in the midst of promoting a jobs bill that is to be taken up by the legislature during a special session set to begin Oct. 26. State Democrats are expected to begin discussing the bill during a caucus later Wednesday, according to Rep. Chris Lyddy (D-106), who also came along on the AFS tour.
“I’m sure there will be a lot of debate,” Lyddy said of the jobs bill.
The creation of new jobs in Newtown was part of how AFS marketed the project when it bought the old Pitney Bowes property at 11 Edmond Road last year. The company has plans to grow a niche hi-tech manufacturing business, which within five years could hire as many as 500 highly skilled employees, officials said during their presentation.
At the moment, the firm has two employees with plans to employ 14 by the end of the year, including the owners but not including consultants and contractors, officials said.
The firm, which is in the midst of a massive renovation, is reportedly the first heavy-industry company to start up in Connecticut in about 50 years, according to AFS’ president Curtis Birnbach.
For instance, the company has acquired patents and intend to manufacture electron tube technology; power electronics, such as fault current limiters used by electrical companies to help protect their grids from damaging surges; and power pulse systems used for microlithography in the semiconductor industry, environmental remediation and other uses.
The company has put in about $9 million into renovating an existing building for its uses, work that should wrap up toward the end of next spring, officials said. The firm also is in the process of seeking loans or investments in the range of $20 million or so, Powell said.
AFS and state tax relief on fuel and equipment purchases, although officials said they had been hoping state sales tax relief would have been granted by now. The process has been slow going, particularly because the company is in startup mode and has not been able to show revenue – apparently one of the factors state officials consider, Powell said.
The company also had hoped it would qualify for the state’s First Five program, a business incentive program started by Malloy to give companies substantial financial assistance if they create 200 or more new jobs within two years or invests $25 million and creates at least 200 jobs within five years. Powell said it was unclear whether the company would qualify under those guidelines.
Company officials expressed frustration the state had many programs crafted around incorporated businesses as opposed to limited liability companies, such as AFS.
“A lot of hi-tech startups know they are going to lose money for some sort of time, so they bill them as an LLC,” Joyce said. “It’s a good idea to be open to that.”
Malloy replied, “I agree with you.”
Malloy, Lyddy, Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra and others also were led on a tour of the expansive construction site, under the condition that the several members of the press who accompanied the officials refrain from taking pictures.
Among some of the features of the large facility was an underground electrical grid, which required the digging of trenches and installing of electrical equipment followed by the pouring of about 275,000 cubic feet of concrete to cover the equipment, Birnbach said.
Another 5 million pounds of concrete was poured for the construction of a radiation lab, which will be used to test some of the products. Other features included the installation of a power distribution machine, which will be accessible from a control room and used to run the power grid system.
Llodra said it was exciting for Newtown to be home to a hi-tech startup.
“It’s exciting to have cutting edge technology in Newtown,” she said.
Correction: Workers poured about 275,000 cubic feet of concrete to cover the underground electrical grid at Advanced Fusion Systems. The unit of measurement listed in an earlier version of this article was incorrect.