[Bristol Press] Expansion proposed for Bristol’s bioscience zone

February 15, 2011
State Senator Jason Welch displays a thick stack of unfunded mandates that the state of Connecticut imposes on towns during a Thursday press conference at the Legislative Office Building.  Senator Welch and other area officials want to see mandate relief in Gov. Dannel Malloy's upcoming budget.  (Pictured from left to right:  Harwinton First Selectman Frank Chiaramonte, Bristol School Superintendent Phillip Streifer, State Rep. Whit Betts, Plymouth School Superintendent Anthony Distasio, Senator Welch, Bristol Mayor Art Ward, Bristol City Councilman Ken Cockayne, New Britain Mayor Tim Stewart.) Senator Welch and Mike Nicastro, president of the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce, discuss Bristol’s bioscience zone.

Story as it appeared in the Bristol Press

A proposal to expand the city’s bioscience zone moved ahead a little Monday.

A bill in the state Senate — and a similar one in the state House — seeks to add the city’s industrial park off Middle Street and the downtown area to Bristol’s existing bioscience zone.

It also would create a new bioscience zone in Plainville.

On Monday, lawmakers on the Planning and Development Committee heard testimony in favor of Bristol Republican state Sen. Jason Welch’s bill.

Mike Nicastro, president of the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce, testified that competition for bioscience companies can be extensive.

If the zone doesn’t include the places where new or growing bioscience industries can locate, he said, the zone itself is only symbolic.

A bioscience zone offers qualifying companies certain types of tax incentives, similar to an enterprise zone. It’s intended to offer attractive spots for incubator businesses that spin off of medical research done at the University of Connecticut Medical Center and local hospitals.

Currently, the zone in Bristol is around Bristol Hospital and along parts of Route 6, and does not include downtown land slated for development or the city’s newest industrial park.

“Having a viable and strategically designated zone for central Connecticut is a more realistic opportunity and one that allows more communities in the region to participate in the future,” said Nicastro.

State Rep. Whit Betts, a Bristol Republican, also provided testimony.

“The proposed bill is really a technical change and does not make any changes other than to expand the area in which bioscience companies can operate.” Betts said,

Expanding the zone, Betts said, would give Bristol and Plainville a better chance to compete for bioscience firms. Adding new high-tech companies would increase the local tax base and also provide high-paying jobs.

Betts said he did not believe there is any controversy about the proposed expansion.

The change to the zone borders may even be able to be made administratively and not require passing a law, Betts said.

But state Rep. Frank Nicastro, a Bristol Democrat who is a co-author of the House bill that seeks to expand the bioscience zone, said the change most likely has to be legislated.