It’s not every day that a governor promotes a startup company’s line of nutrition supplements. Then again, it’s not every day that a nutrition-supplement company promotes a first-term governor’s re-election.

Both happened Monday to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy as he toured ThinkitDrinkit, a Hartford startup that’s received more than $430,000 in economic assistance and job-training funds as it has hired 26 workers at hourly rates ranging from $15 to $20.

“This is how you build the economy in the long run,” Malloy said, pointing to ThinkitDrinkit as one of 944 small companies that have received grants and cheap loans from the Small Business Express Program.

Malloy accepted a sample drink from a young woman who wore a white lab coat with a large button featuring the company logo and “Malloy 2014!” The same message was written on a whiteboard in the company’s test kitchen.

“I will take that under consideration,” Malloy said of the message.

His audience laughed. Malloy is not yet an official candidate for re-election, but he is aggressively raising money for the Connecticut Democratic Party, leaving little doubt of his intentions for 2014.

His economic-development programs already are fodder for and against him. Republicans Tom Foley and John McKinney, two gubernatorial contenders, say Malloy has been too generous with aid. McKinney voted for the aid programs.

Malloy leaves little doubt that economic development will be a cornerstone in his case for re-election, though he used humor to deflect a question about how a big a role he hopes the issue will play when his first term is judged.

“I think that’s a fair question, if I wanted to be judged,” he said.

His audience laughed.

“I think what we’ve tried to do in Connecticut is change our outlook from short term, short term, short term to long term, long term, long term.”

Malloy said the state invested in 119 companies during the eight years before he took office, while his administration has put money in 1,600 companies.

Major employers that promise to create at least 200 new jobs are eligible for the “First Five” and “Next Five” programs. In a bipartisan special session on jobs, the administration and legislature created grant and loan programs for smaller companies and startups, as well as incentives for hiring veterans and the unemployed.

ThinkitDrinkit is the recipient of a $125,000 job-creation loan and a $100,000 loan from the Department of Economic and Community Development. It also has been paid $206,750 by the Department of Labor for training associated with 26 new hires, seven of whom are veterans.

The company opened in February in the Colt Gateway Building in Hartford, part of the historic Colt complex, part of which has served as incubator space for new companies. It intends to open its first retail outlet in Storrs at the commercial complex under construction across from the University of Connecticut.

It promises customizable sports and nutrition supplement drinks geared to athletes and others. Samples offered Monday included a sports drink, a drink for skin health and one geared to weight loss.

ThinkitDrinkit offers various “boost” ingredients for athletic performance, including caffeine and various natural ingredients. Customers can choose what is added to their drinks, with a limit of three “boosts.”

Company officials said all ingredients are approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Malloy was asked about the nutrition supplement industry’s history of making unproven health claims, as well as its reliance on energy drinks whose main ingredient often is caffeine.

“I think there has been historically some very broad advertising of these high-caffeine, high-energy boost stuff and that can have detrimental impact,” Malloy said. “We heard you are limited to three boosts, and you can pick those.”

“Overall,” Malloy sad. “I think this is a great product.”

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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