Gov. Dannel P. Malloy secured Connecticut’s investment in a major genetic research initiative Monday — but not before one more partisan debate.
The State Bond Commission voted 8-2 to release $291 million, which will pay to build a new 173,000-square-foot research center for The Jackson Laboratory on the University of Connecticut Health Center campus in Farmington. The funds also will provide equipment and furniture for the facility, and will subsidize roughly one-third of operating costs for the next decade.
Financed over years, the $291 million investment will cost the state another $153 million in interest charges, according to a projection from nonpartisan legislative analysts.
The project had been identified and developed by the administration, and the General Assembly granted preliminary approval for the financing during a special session in late October.
Minority Republicans in both chambers overwhelmingly opposed the deal, and Sen. Andrew W. Roraback of Goshen and Rep. Sean J. Williams of Watertown — the lone Republicans on the 10-member bond commission — challenged Malloy again on Monday.
Technically, a portion of the state’s $291 million investment — $192 million to cover construction and new equipment and furniture costs — is a loan. But Jackson Labs can avoid repaying that loan provided it creates at least 300 new jobs within the next decade, and provided 30 percent of those jobs are senior scientist positions.
“We’re going to be investing $3 million per scientist,” Roraback said. “I think it is fair to ask how many other states made investments on this level?”
Malloy’s economic development commissioner, Catherine Smith, could not say Monday.
But administration officials have argued that the 300-position benchmark is not the key figure behind the investment.
“You can slice and dice with respect to what each job costs,” Malloy told Roraback. “You can do basic math as well as anyone does basic math, but it misses the point.”
The administration estimates that the project will create more than 7,400 jobs over the next two decades as it gives Connecticut a strong foothold in the growing genetics research field.
A 2009 analysis of the bioscience industry by PricewaterhouseCoopers, a global accounting and professional services firm, is projecting 11 percent annual growth for the foreseeable future.
Malloy noted that Groton-based pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. announced last year it would move 400 research and development jobs to Cambridge, Mass. — a move that sent a clear signal to state government here.
“If we do not invest in our supporting infrastructure,” the governor added, “we are going to lose the opportunities we have here.”
But Williams said that while “I want very badly for this project to be successful,” Connecticut still hasn’t taken enough of the most crucial steps to grow jobs: cutting taxes, reducing regulations and cutting energy costs. “I don’t believe in the last year we have sent a signal to the business community.”