A Building Products Company Joins State's First Five Program
By BRIAN DOWLING
July 18, 2012
A new international construction technology and materials firm will bring 408 jobs to the state, filling a North Haven building emptied when a Canadian printing company closed operations in 2008.
Sustainable Building Solutions, introduced Wednesday by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, becomes the sixth company in Connecticut's First Five program, which offers aid packages to businesses adding at least 200 jobs and investing at least $25 million. The program has been expanded to allow up to 15 companies to receive aid from the state.
SBS, a partnership of companies in Australia and Arizona, will design, manufacture and install components of commercial and residential buildings, such as panels and trusses. The business aims to help create buildings using technology that saves energy and makes construction more efficient.
The partnership, formed this year, will receive $19.1 million in loans at 2 percent interest, in three installments as it meets job targets, through the state Department of Economic and Community Development. Much of the money will not have to be paid back if the company maintains the promised 408 jobs at the North Haven headquarters over the next four years.
"Across the country, we are grappling with the fundamental question of how we can reinvent the American economy," Malloy said, adding that the steel industry once formed a backbone for an economy that supported the middle class. "Companies like Sustainable Building Systems represent the next evolution of that industry."
SBS is a partnership between Steel Building Systems International, a subsidiary of the Weeks Group in Adelaide, Australia, and the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Diverse Services Group, a building contractor. The partnership said it will begin work in North Haven in six months, with the target of being fully operational by the summer of 2013.
The business will occupy the giant building vacated when Quebecor, a Montreal printing company, laid off 350 employees in a reorganization.
Leading the design and manufacturing portion of the partnership, Steel Building Systems produces factory-fitted interconnected building components that rely less on traditional, skilled tradespeople.
"The technology is superior to anything else in the marketplace. The end result is almost clinical in relation to perfection," said Kevin Weeks, CEO of the Weeks Group. "We were obviously interested because this is the market we wanted to pursue: You have 300 million people in your country and you're a framing market."
Joining together with a U.S. construction firm, Weeks said, "was the perfect opportunity."
Duane Armijo, CEO of Diverse Services Group, said that for a long time he was looking for a building manufacturing partner. He expects that SBS — which he also heads as CEO — will change the traditional housing market. He heard of the state's First Five program and reached out to the Weeks Group to form the partnership.
"We came out of the home building market in Phoenix and we built with wood our whole careers, and what we've found is that there has to be a better way to build," Armijo said, adding that the design-to-constructing partnership will enable the company to bring energy-efficient homes to the U.S. market at a price competitive with traditional construction.
SBS will invest a total of $97 million, financed partly through the state loan.
The 386,000-square-foot building "has interior rail siding, can be subdivided ... and offers clear heights of up to 36 feet," according to the website of the current ownership group, MCP Mountain 297 State St LLC. That group, formed from Marcus Partners and ClearRock Properties, bought the property from a Quebecor subsidiary in 2011 for $3.75 million, records show. SBS signed a lease with the ownership group on Monday.
Malloy said Wednesday that the First Five program has created 3,048 new jobs for the state, a total of $648 million in private investment from $128 million in state funds.
The previous First Five companies were, in order, Cigna in Bloomfield, ESPN in Bristol, NBC Sports in Stamford, Alexion Pharmaceuticals in New Haven and, most recently, CareCentrix, which is moving from East Hartford to downtown Hartford.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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