Make It In Eastern Connecticut
As I travel around eastern Connecticut, I get to see many exciting examples of resurgence in our manufacturing sector. Whether it’s seeing new graduates from workforce training programs entering the sector or innovative efforts giving new life to historic industries, I am thrilled by the work going on every day across our region to not just “Make it in America” — but “Make it in Eastern Connecticut.”
Weaving a Stronger Future
Earlier this week, I visited the American Woolen Company in Stafford Springs. Just a few years ago, the former Warren Mill, which produced fine worsted wool products for more than 160 years, was on the brink of closure. Along with the potential loss of the state’s last traditional textile mill, over 80 jobs were on the line.
When Jacob Long of American Woolen showed interest in purchasing the mill and keeping it running, I worked with him and town officials to overcome hurdles that threatened the deal. As a result our work, the mill stayed open and the new company rehired many of the workers — and has grown since.
Today, the mill produces material for a variety of high profile brands. And this week, I was on hand as the company activated wool carding and spinning machines that have been dormant for more than twelve years. This milestone will help the company take their success to the next level, including a recent deal to provide the fabric that will be used to manufacture top-quality pea coats for the United States Navy.
Angling for Growth
While in Stafford Springs, I also stopped by REC Components. For more than 40 years, REC has manufactured high quality carbon fiber shafts for fishing rods and angling equipment. During my visit, company president Alan Gnann told me that 2015 was the company’s best sales year — and that 2016 is on track to meet or exceed that mark. Most importantly to our region, they have added new equipment and hired new employees.
On Thursday, I stopped by the Spark Makerspace in New London. Hannah Grant, their executive Director, gave me a tour of their two storefronts on Golden Street where they have a commercial kitchen, a meeting space, an electronics workshop — including two 3-D printers which were built on site — and a wood shop. With 80 members on board today, they are hoping to expand their membership and the capabilities they provide to support emerging businesses and entrepreneurs. Notably, they are working on plans to have an outdoor welding center that would utilize the expertise of current and former Electric Boat welders. And, with plans to work with local schools and one day expand into other communities in the area, Spark remains focused on helping individuals expand their knowledge and skills while supporting the southeastern Connecticut community.
Their work caught the eye of the White House, and next week Hannah will represent Spark and our region at a conference for innovation and makerspaces. I am so proud to have her sharing her expertise with White House officials on behalf of our region!
Manufacturing has been a key part of eastern Connecticut’s past, and I am working to keep it a part of our region’s future. Thank you, as always, for taking the time to read this update.