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April 24, 2014

Town manager: ClearEdge may file for bankruptcy

Contributed Photo A ClearEdge Power fuel cell.

Fuel-cell manufacturer ClearEdge Power may file for bankruptcy, according to South Windsor Town Manager Matthew B. Galligan.

Galligan said a ClearEdge official called him Thursday around 2:30 p.m. and told him that the company’s backers were looking to exit the fuel-cell business, possibly through a bankruptcy or sale.

“It was kind of out of the blue,” Galligan said. “We’ve been working with them to do some fuel cell business here in South Windsor.”

He said he expected to receive more information soon.

ClearEdge filed a WARN Act notice with the state on Friday that said the company has closed and that 268 workers are affected.

Several ClearEdge union employees contacted the Hartford Business Journal saying they were sent home early Thursday. One said it was because of a lack of work due to a parts shortage, and that workers aren't sure if they are laid off temporarily or permanently.

Another said employees were told to empty their lockers.

Several ClearEdge officials did not return calls Thursday afternoon. The company has hired a crisis spokesman, Steven Gerbsman, who is based in California.

Reached Friday afternoon, Gerbsman said ClearEdge had no comment on the situation.

At least one ClearEdge customer hadn’t heard the news when contacted Thursday.

Luigi Marcone, director of facilities operations and environmental health and safety at Western Connecticut State University, said ClearEdge workers had visited campus Wednesday to perform routine maintenance on the fuel cell the college commissioned in 2012. He said he has been pleased with both the product and the service from ClearEdge.

“This is a complete surprise,” Marcone said.

Earlier this year, the state’s Bond Commission approved a loan package worth approximately $1.5 million. The state would forgive $650,000 of the loan if the company retained 17 jobs and created 80 within three years. The package also included a $103,000 training grant.

Jim Watson, a spokesman for the Department of Economic and Community Development, said Friday morning that the company had indicated earlier this month that it no longer wanted the aid package.

The news comes not long after ClearEdge said it was aiming to double its revenue this year, invest $21 million in R&D, and hire new engineers.

ClearEdge bought United Technologies Corp.’s UTC Power division in late 2012. The business had never turned a profit while under UTC’s ownership. Finances were made private after the sale, because ClearEdge is privately held.

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