February 27, 2012 | last updated June 4, 2012 11:47 am
Q&A

Farmington braces for economic growth

Courtney Hendricson

Q&A talks about Farmington's future with Courtney Hendricson, the town's economic development director.

Q: On Jan. 30, the Connecticut State Bond Commission approved $291 million in borrowing over the next decade for Jackson Lab's proposed research laboratory to be built at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington. What's the immediate impact to Farmington?

A: Already we are working with both the senior leadership of UConn Health Center and The Jackson Laboratory as they begin to design the facility. We look forward to welcoming several hundred construction jobs in the near future. We will continue to work with UCHC and Jackson during construction and once the facility is built in order to ensure a positive outcome for all of us. We are also working with the State Department of Transportation and Department of Economic and Community Development to determine the impact to our roads and infrastructure as well as to town services.

Q: According to some estimates, Jackson Lab's Farmington facility is expected to support 6,800 permanent jobs, which could bump up Farmington's workforce by 40 percent or more. How does a town like Farmington handle this influx of workers? What are some of the challenges the town faces from a greatly expanded workforce?

A: An increase of 6,800 jobs would actually increase our workforce by approximately 20 percent. Farmington already enjoys a larger workforce than our resident population so we are used to the daily "influx" and we handle it well by maintaining our roadways and supporting alternative forms of transportation like our efficient bus route and commuter parking lots. That is also why it is critical that we are already working with DOT and DECD to ensure that the road infrastructure is improved to alleviate the additional traffic this development will bring. We are also interested in the state's proposed busway as a mass transit alternative in the vicinity of UCHC. We expect Jackson to bring in high-paying jobs in science as well as support staff. An expanded workforce will bring with it a demand for worker-type services like restaurants, dry-cleaners, banks, etc.

Q: What type of development will you go after to complement Jackson Labs? Not so much specific companies but types of industries.

A: The location of UCHC has created a medical corridor along Route 4 in Farmington. Several new medical office buildings have been developed here in recent years, filled by doctors and specialists who want to locate in a convenient suburb with easy access and plentiful parking. UCHC itself is now expanding and revitalizing several of its facilities as part of Governor Malloy's Bioscience Connecticut initiative. In 2010, Farmington joined Connecticut's first bioscience enterprise zone, which provides tax advantages to attract businesses engaged in biotechnology, pharmaceutical, or photonics research, development or production. We expect that these bioscience and medical type businesses will continue to locate along the UCHC corridor where Jackson will be. Farmington prides itself on a strong and vibrant business community, boasting more than 2,000 registered businesses from corporate headquarters, to industry, to sole proprietorship.

Q: On the flip side, what type of development does the town not want associated with Jackson Labs? A large workforce like that is going to want to be fed and avail itself of conveniences like gas stations, dry cleaners, etc. How do you stop or do you want to stop Route 4 from becoming the Berlin Turnpike?

A: As I mentioned, we not only anticipate but welcome an increase in restaurants and services like dry-cleaners and banks throughout town over the next several years in order to meet the demands of a growing workforce. As with all development in Farmington, we will enforce our zoning and other regulations to ensure that all development is high quality and appropriate for the location it is in.

Q: Does a large development like this change the character of a town like Farmington or does it benefit from its location on the outskirts of town?

A: Farmington has always prided itself on the fact that our large corporate players and industrial sites are located on the outskirts of town along the highways and in areas that are appropriate whereas the residential areas, open space, recreational space and family farms tend to be in the heart of the community, literally in the center. This has worked to our advantage and we don't anticipate this model changing by the construction of Jackson on UCHC's campus. This development is similar in size to several others that have successfully integrated into Farmington's business community.

Q: Also, the UConn Health Center is in close proximity to West Hartford. Is there any advantage to the towns working together on development or are we not set up for regional cooperation on development?

A: Farmington does work well with our neighboring towns and cities and we do cooperate regionally on several issues including emergency dispatch, equipment sharing and social service programs. In fact, Farmington and West Hartford share the Westfarms mall property and we have always worked well together to maintain this important business. Since the construction of Jackson will be entirely in Farmington, West Hartford will not necessarily play a role in this development. However, there is potential for cooperation with West Hartford and other surrounding communities with regards to commuter transportation and other services for the growing workforce in our community.

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