Hartford’s swift factory, model for state Future’s Fund Program

Hartford

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The Lamont administration is proclaiming this week as “Redevelopment Week” around the state.

Officials kicked off the initiative with an event at the Swift Factory in Hartford’s Northeast neighborhood, highlighting investments in urban communities as one of the governor’s initiatives.

Years ago workers at the Swift Factory used to manufacture gold leaf some of which was used on the dome of the State Capitol. Now the factory is a massive campus where residents from the neighborhood can create the next big thing.

Since February, Chef Walter Little is stirring up his famous cajun food at Chef Walt’s. “My customers in the inner city have been following for years and just to have a secure lighted facility to come and continue what has already been started is a blessing.”

Little has served time in prison but now serves up his passion to hungry customers at Hartford’s Swift Factory.

His business is one of dozens calling the 80,000 square foot commercial campus.

“You can’t give someone like me that kind of opportunity because we’re gonna blow the doors off and re-claim this building,“ said Little to the sound of applause.

“#06120 is one of the top most impoverished census tract in our nation. in our nation – not in our state in our nation,” said Gwendolyn Thames the Deputy Commissioner of the state’s Department of Econcomic and Community Development.

The state poured in $33 million in historic and new market tax credits, brownfield site clean-up money and redevelopment loans. A decade later, some call it the “Black Wall Street.”

Governor Lamont, told entreprenuers he gets it.“I got a tell you there’s nothing better than having your heart and soul invested in something like this.”

But some lawmakers representing the district say the government wasn’t always willing to invest. State senator Doug McCrory reminded the tenants at the factory. “You survived every barrier that existed in urban communities Connecticut for the last 60 years ever since white flight in the 60s.”

A new round of grants worth $150-million called “The Future’s Fund” is pending at the legislature.
McCrory says it will be a lifeline to minority and women owned businesses.

The Chair of the State’s Black and Puerto Rican Caucus says this is the tip of the iceberg. State Rep. Geraldo Reyes, “We got a put more money in that bucket because you’re going to find out in the state of Connecticut there are many innovative talented young community of color.”

Chef Walter Little agrees. And says he’s positive the state will get the needed investments to the people in the community. For now he’s focused on filling orders.

“My life‘s focus right now is just making sure my staff and I are in a position to serve,” added Little.

The legislature has to approve the $150- million Future Funds program.

The state’s economic development czar is expected to announce some corporate partnerships in the coming weeks.

The state is looking to get dollar-for-dollar matches to keep the program running when the federal American Rescue Plan dollars run out.

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