Speaking on the wet concrete floor of a dark ex-factory from the World War II era, Gov. Ned Lamont and New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart proclaimed that the building will soon be the first stage of a cutting-edge energy and tech project.
“What this is going to do for the city of New Britain is transformative — a few hundred jobs to start, thousands of jobs when it’s completed,” Stewart said.
“This center is going to become one of our largest taxpayers virtually overnight,” she predicted.
Drawing Big Names In Technology
At its construction groundbreaking, EIP LLC said it is spending $100 million to bring 44 Connecticut-made fuel cells to the building. By the end of 2020, the plant will produce nearly 20 megawatts of power for the local energy grid, the company said.
Lamont said the project represents the best of entrepreneurship, and predicted that an attached data center — planned as a later stage — will draw the biggest names in technology.
“This will be the data heart for Google, Amazon and Microsoft. It’s amazing, this is ‘the cloud,’ ” Lamont said, looking around the spartan industrial building of bare pipes, tubes, conduits and girders. “I thought ‘the cloud’ was more heavenly than this.”
The state this summer agreed to $55 million in tax credits for the project, which developers said would make Connecticut competitive in the drive to land high-tech, data and green energy businesses.
Mark Wick, a partner in EIP, acknowledged that the company doesn’t yet have contracts with companies such as Amazon, which require massive amounts of digital data storage that’s both secure and accessible. The data center is also a later stage of the planned multi-year, $1 billion project.
Stanley to Lease Space to EIP
The plan is to remodel a few long-vacant Stanley factories and build several new buildings on what was a huge industrial tract along Myrtle Street. The land is still owned by Stanley Black and Decker, successor to the Stanley Works, once the centerpiece of New Britain’s hardware-manufacturing industry. Stanley will lease space to EIP.
The company plans “a high-performance computing center, data center, microgrid powered by Doosan fuel cells manufactured right here in Connecticut,” Wick said. The first phase is the fuel cell center on Curtis Street.
“This facility in this building will become the largest indoor fuel cell installation in the world,” Wick told a crowd of city officials, state lawmakers and business owners.
Grand Opening End Of 2020
EIC next year will be moving Doosan fuel cells into the vintage 45,000-square-foot brick building, which was once Stanley’s hardware stamping plant. “We expect to have many people back at a ribbon-cutting at the end of 2020 when we’re commissioned and putting 20 megawatts out into the grid.”
Pros & Cons
Stewart acknowledged that the project created ill will among preservationists last year because it entailed demolishing more than a half-dozen Stanley buildings from the turn of the century.
“Every one was talking about getting rid of historic property and what that means to a community,” she said. “But to see this historic site being reused into something that’s going to absolutely benefit not just New Britain or the state of the Connecticut, but the entire region is going to be an incredible thing.”