On Wednesday, the Connecticut General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to approve a deal that would keep Sikorsky Aircraft, a Stratford-based helicopter manufacturer that employs roughly 7,800 people statewide, in Connecticut for the next 16 years.
As part of the deal, Sikorsky promised to keep its headquarters in Stratford until 2032 and increase its spending to Connecticut suppliers from $300 to $470 million, while increasing its in-state employees to just over 8,000 by the end of the 16-year period. In return, the state government will pay grants of up to $8.57 million to Sikorsky each year for meeting certain annual benchmarks in growing jobs, payroll spending, utilizing in-state suppliers and deploying capital for machinery, equipment and other long-term investments, according to a Wednesday press release by the Connecticut State Senate Democrats.
The deal will pump $69 billion into Connecticut’s economy and support almost 25,000 jobs either directly or indirectly, the release noted.
“More than anything else, this agreement today for me represents an investment in Connecticut’s future,” read a statement from State Sen. Eric Coleman (D-Bloomfield) in the press release. “We’re seeing enormous job growth in our manufacturing sector, with Sikorsky staying here … I’m very confident in Connecticut’s economic future.”
The company will receive additional payments of up to $1.9 million per year if it exceeds these benchmarks, and will be exempt from up to $5.7 million of sales and use taxes annually over the 16-year period, according to the same press release. In total, Sikorsky’s check from Connecticut’s state government will be in the hundreds of millions if it abides by the terms of the deal.
Though the costs of keeping the helicopter manufacturer in Connecticut will be substantial, state lawmakers, who voted 35–1 to approve the deal in the Senate and 136–6 in the House, were confident that the benefits of keeping the behemoth manufacturer in state would far outweigh the costs.
Other lawmakers emphasized that Sikorsky’s promise to increase spending on in-state suppliers would greatly impact other businesses across the state.
State Sen. Gayle Slossberg (D-Milford) said in the same press release that 34 companies in her district, as well as over 300 others around the state, conduct business with Sikorsky. She said the agreement guarantees that Sikorsky will greatly increase its business with those suppliers, while also growing its own full-time employment to over 8,000 jobs.
This agreement comes at a pivotal moment in Sikorsky’s history. The company, which has been based in Stratford since 1929, was bought last year by Lockheed Martin, one of the nation’s largest defense contractors. Sikorsky also recently signed a contract with the U.S. Navy to begin production of a new military-helicopter prototype, the CH-53K King Stallion. This brand-new helicopter, which will be the largest ever used in the U.S. Armed Forces, will be able to carry 36,000 pounds of cargo and is as large as “two passenger buses,” according to Wednesday’s press release.
“The reason we needed to reach [an] agreement with the state quickly is because the U.S. Navy requires us to identify a production site by early October in order to progress into the next phase, which will involve an initial low-rate production of aircraft,” Sikorsky representative Paul Jackson told the News.
Sikorsky has also been in conversations with government officials from other states, such as Florida and South Carolina, about a potential relocation. Connecticut senators praised the deal further, given that it would keep a company that has been in Connecticut and contributed to its economy for nearly a century from moving out of state.
In fact, Jackson noted that Sikorsky has already paid Connecticut businesses over $160 million for supplies to manufacture the first round of King Stallions, and that Sikorsky will continue to be a close partner with these businesses as the manufacturing process continues.
“The landmark agreement that Connecticut reached with Sikorsky solidifies our state’s reputation as a place where people make things and lays the ground work for a much stronger state economy,” State Sen. Terry Gerratana (D-New Britain) said in Wednesday’s press release.
Sikorsky has locations in 12 different countries, including Brazil, China and Poland.