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02/01/2016 | Ironwood Insight
Improving the Environment for Connecticut Manufacturers

On January 11th I was honored to attend an event organized by the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) hosted by Brian Montanari, president and CEO of HABCO Industries, one of Ironwood Capital’s portfolio companies. At the event, Governor Malloy cited HABCO as an outstanding example of a thriving aerospace company that has benefited from several programs which the state has developed to support Connecticut manufacturers.

It’s All in the Numbers
According to the National Association of Manufacturers, in 2015 manufacturers in Connecticut accounted for 10.68 percent of the total output in the state and employed 9.49 percent of the workforce. Total output from manufacturing was $27.03 billion in 2014. In addition, there were 160,500 manufacturing employees in Connecticut in 2015. Average annual compensation for manufacturing employees in 2013 (the latest numbers available) was $95,671, as compared to the non-farm business average salary of $57,768.

By any measure, manufacturing is a critical contributor to Connecticut’s economic health. Even though output and jobs are up from their recent low point in 2011, we still have work to do to continue to improve the environment for manufacturers in Connecticut.

Investment Makes a Difference
Fortunately, there are many sources of capital seeking to help grow manufacturing in Connecticut. Thanks to the collaboration of private market investors, our state legislators, DECD and our state manufacturing and aerospace associations, there are many creative programs that employers can utilize to develop their manufacturing businesses and their employees. Programs include everything from specialized education and hands-on training, to research and development tax credits and incentives to purchase energy-efficient equipment and much more.

HABCO Knows How To Leverage Opportunity
Founded in 1970 and headquartered in Glastonbury, HABCO designs ground support equipment and test equipment for the military and commercial aerospace industry. It has participated in several initiatives, including:

  • Connecticut’s Step Up Program, which provides wage and training subsidies to employers that hire unemployed jobseekers and former military personnel.
  • Department of Labor’s Manufacturing Innovation Fund Incumbent Worker Training Program, which provides employee training grants.
  • The Apprenticeship Sponsor program, in which companies partner with local technical high schools to hire students working towards apprenticeable occupations, including CNC Machining.

HABCO has also worked with DECD to obtain capital to invest in new equipment and facility improvements. Combined with private capital from sources such as Ironwood, HABCO plans to acquire state-of-the art CNC lathes, milling machines and other capital improvements to increase efficiency and competitiveness.

HABCO is also an active member of Aerospace Components Manufacturers (ACM), a highly effective non-profit regional network of over 80 independent Connecticut and southwestern Massachusetts-based aerospace companies. In addition to marketing the region as a world-class manufacturing center for aerospace components, ACM has created a program for adopting and implementing lean enterprise practices and conducting ongoing workforce training and development.

Collaboration and Support Provide Real Benefits
Ironwood has a long history of supporting Connecticut companies with great potential, such as HABCO.  The investment in HABCO was made through a collaborative partnership we established with Advantage Capital Partners. Over the last 15 years, Ironwood’s funds and partnerships have invested $135 million in 41 Connecticut-based companies at every lifecycle stage from start-ups to mature businesses. Our portfolio companies have created more than 750 new Connecticut jobs, a 28% increase in their collective workforce.

At Ironwood Capital, we are excited about the future of HABCO and other opportunities in the aerospace, defense, and healthcare manufacturing sectors. HABCO’s success demonstrates that Connecticut can provide an environment that spurs growth and innovation, thanks to focused commitment and cooperation among capital providers, government, educational resources and businesses throughout the state.