Construction on the Jackson Laboratory facility in Farmington is well on its way to completion thanks in part to unique treatment of the project: the lab didn’t need any local approvals.
The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine will receive a $297 million subsidy from the state. Gov. Dannel Malloy has touted the project for its economic-development potential.
If all goes according to plan, the time between legislative approval and grand opening will be almost exactly three years.
In addition to the monetary benefits from the state, treating the lab as a “state project” allowed to it to avoid the time-consuming and costly land-use process faced by other developers. Instead, the project received state approvals.
Mike Hyde, the nonprofit lab’s vice president of external affairs and strategic partnerships, said another developer “would follow the exact same process that we are” – if it was building on state property and had state financial support.
“I don’t know if one is more stringent than the other,” Hyde said. “I couldn’t say it was a privilege because I don’t know what the other experience is like.”
According to a March 2014 update on the project, JGM received about $9 million in state money for research, training and other reimbursable expenses.
By the end of 2013, JGM spent $64 million on construction out of $135 million budgeted. The state gave JGM a $192 million forgivable construction loan.
According to hiring projections, the subsidy amounts to about $42,000 per job per year.
The General Assembly approved Malloy’s incentives for JGM in October 2011. The new law designated Connecticut Innovations, the state’s venture capital fund, to manage the state’s relationship with JGM.
Connecticut Innovations signed an agreement with JGM in January 2012.
JGM awarded the contract to manage construction of the 183,500 square foot lab in January 2013.
Hyde said the lab plans an Oct. 7 grand opening.
In order to maintain its incentives JGM needs to reach 300 employees within 10 years. Hyde said the building could fit up to 320 people. “We’ll hit the 300 employee mark sooner than we had imagined,” Hyde said.
Hyde said JGM has 79 employees in about 11,000 square feet of temporary space and is looking for about 35 new employees. “We’re adding people at a lively clip,” he said.
Some University of Connecticut employees count toward JGM’s hiring goals.
The legal principles that allow JGM to avoid local land-use regulations are the same that allow a contractor for the Department of Transportation to build a road for the state without local approval. These principles have expanded greatly. In 1959, Attorney General Albert Coles wrote an opinion giving the state the ability to give an airport hotel on state property a liquor license instead of following local regulations.
“Therefore, it is my opinion that the airport operation constitutes a governmental function serving the public need and by virtue of its nature is immune to the zoning power of the Town of Windsor Locks,” Coles wrote a half-century ago. “The hotel with a liquor permit would be in furtherance of, rather than a deviation from, the essential airport use and, therefore, exempt from the zoning regulations of the Town of Windsor Locks.”
Update: This post was updated to clarify that JGM did obtain state-level approvals for construction in place of local approvals.