Bristol’s economy showing signs of life

By LISA CAPOBIANCO
STAFF WRITER
Between business expansions and grants for new traffic signals and brownfield sites, Bristol has recently seen a number of improvements in its economic development status.
During a Bristol Development Authority (BDA) meeting held last Monday, city officials shared a variety of economic development news.
Within the past couple of weeks, Bristol received two grants, including a $528,000 grant from the Connecticut Department of Transportation to upgrade 23 intersections in the city, said Justin Malley, executive Director of Bristol Development Authority. Bristol also received a state grant of $125,000 from the Department of Economic and Community Development for the brownfields assessment at 894 Middle St.
Bristol has pursued opportunities to secure funding for environmental site assessment, cleanup and redevelopment of brownfield areas, which are defined as “real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of hazardous substances, pollutants, contaminants, controlled substances, petroleum or petroleum products, or is mine-scarred land,” according to the city’s website.
“The final end game is to get the property cleaned up and, most importantly, developed,” said Malley during the meeting. “We’ve gotten many brownfields grants over the years, but this is the first state money, and this opens up a whole new world for us.”
Besides approving these grants, the BDA board also approved several different business projects, including the lease of space at 110 Dolphin Rd., where Amstek Metal has moved its location from Farmington to Bristol. Established in 1987, Amstek is a multi-location distributor that offers high-quality engineered stainless and carbon wire and coil products in any quantity. Malley said Amstek was once located near GMN USA, which produces high-performing machine-tool spindles, high precision ball bearings, and non-contact seals, also relocated to Bristol.
“At this point [Amstek is] bringing over the staff that they have, but they do anticipate growing, and that’s essentially one of the reasons why they relocated,” said Malley. “They plan to expand, but in the near future, they’re keeping their existing staff.”
CMI Specialty Products, a provider of electromagnetic iron strip and round bar for a variety of industries, is one of the first companies that entered the Southeast Bristol Business District, and now plans to buy land to expand about 6,000 square feet.
“It’s a smaller piece , but it’s a piece, so hopefully we can keep this up—it’s $30,000 worth of land that now we’ll be getting some tax revenue for and more employment opportunities at CMI,” said Malley, adding the city council is expected to vote on the sales contract in October.
CMI’s expansion is not the only activity spurring in the Southeast Business District, as GMN plans to clear its lot within a week or so, said Mayor Ken Cockayne. Although the company initially looked for an existing building, GMN USA decided to construct a 25,000 square foot facility to house 18 skilled employees at the business park. GMN also received approval to build a 20,000 square foot addition to the property in the future that can serve as the home for the company’s ball bearing operation currently based overseas.
“We have a lot of things in the pipeline,” said Cockayne, recognizing the BDA for its work in economic development. “We’re out there trying to sell Bristol.”
“There’s the possibility we’ll have construction going on Lot 4 with GMN and CMI’s expansion at the same time,” added Malley.
Another business in Bristol planning to expand is The Arthur G. Russell Company, Inc., where Republican candidate for state governor Tom Foley recently visited. Russell recently acquired another company, and plans to expand within the next few years, said Malley. Established in 1945, Arthur G. Russell serves as a leading provider of automated assembly and test systems, drawing on over 60 years of designing, building and installing custom, assembly equipment and engineered parts.
Meanwhile, efforts are underway to revive a condemned commercial property in the West End. Gashi and Demaj Realty is looking to make improvements to 255 Main St., such as replacing damaged storefront windows and five broken windows upstairs, as well as including a two-foot band of brick on the bottom of the storefront windows, which will be similar to what currently exists across the street at the C.V. Mason building.
“They want their building to look similar to what the C.V. Mason building looks like,” said John Lafreniere, chairman of the Neighborhood Preservation Committee, adding that the building was damaged over a period of time.
Recently, the Neighborhood Preservation Committee voted to approve the application of owners Gashi and Demaj Realty for 50 percent of eligible façade improvements up to $24,698.80 for 255 Main Street. “They’re going to do everything they can do to clean it up and make into a place that can be rented from a commercial standpoint,” said Malley.
“This was a building that the city condemned,” added Cockayne. “We’re not out to tear down every building—we’re out to get them hopefully back on the tax rolls.”