Hartford Business Incubator Wins $3.7 Million Workforce Training Center Grant

HARTFORD — A local business incubator will use $3.7 million from the U.S. bailout to develop a workforce training center and support program for its tenants, according to an official with the organization at nonprofit that operates the facility from a former gold leaf factory in the north end of town.

The business incubator has been operational for about a year at the 65,000 square foot Swift factory, according to John Thomas, assistant project manager responsible for community engagement and social media for Community Solutions. Members of the Connecticut federal delegation visited the business incubator this week to celebrate the grant.

“During the short period of operation, we were able to get almost full rental,” Thomas said. “This funding will allow us to expand our presence with our tenants. It also allows us to fill in remaining spaces as well as increase commerce and business in the community. »

Some of the money will be used to fund the training center, which will be operated by the brand new branch of the Hartford Public Library, which was launched in March in the business incubator, according to city officials. . When its expansion is complete later this year, the 15,000 square foot branch will have space for library services as well as an innovative learning center.

Among labor-related services, the branch will offer entrepreneurship courses as well as technical labor and technology training.

“Swift Factory has once again become a job creator and economic engine in North Hartford,” Mayor Luke Bronin said in a statement. “This new EDA grant will allow us to build on that momentum and redouble our efforts to support local entrepreneurs and job seekers in North Hartford.”

Thomas said the business incubator has about a dozen tenants, including Harriott Home Health Care which has already expanded twice within the business incubator. Another tenant operates a “ghost kitchen,” which is a professional food preparation and cooking facility created to prepare meals for delivery only.

Before the business incubator opened, Thomas said Community Solutions officials “went down and asked people what the neighborhood needed.”

Thomas said the training program will be used to train workers for tenants expanding their operations as well as teach members of the North End community the basics of what it takes to start a business.

“I always like to tell people that if you dream it, you can do it,” said Thomas, a Hartford native and former Marine. “This community has been inundated with services and rights programs for a generation. But real communities are built around businesses and it’s a way for people in our community to see like-minded people running businesses.

The Swift factory closed permanently in 2005. The old factory was donated in 2010 to Community Solutions, a national non-profit organization focused on ending homelessness and the conditions that create it, started a fundraising effort to renovate the building, which cost $34 million to complete.

“This federal grant to spur the growth of minority-owned businesses and train workers is a force multiplier for economic growth in this neighborhood, this community and the greater Hartford area,” said U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, D -Conn., in a statement.

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said the Swift plant “could have become a post-industrial wasteland when it was abandoned, but thanks to federal funding, it’s turning into a vibrant center for organizations nonprofits, schools and minority- and women-owned businesses in North Hartford.

“This injection of nearly $4 million from the US bailout will help attract even more tenants, create new jobs and provide a major boost to the local economy,” Murphy said.

U.S. Representative John B. Larson, D-1st District, said U.S. bailout money “is designed to spur job growth in the communities hardest hit by this pandemic.”

Bridget Quinn, president and CEO of the Hartford Public Library, said federal money is “crucial to achieving our goal of creating a space where North Hartford residents of all ages can access learning opportunities. life-changing education and vocational training”.

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