TicketNetwork's move from Vernon to South Windsor, and not out of the state, is proof that “Connecticut is open for business,” according to the governor.
On Thursday, Gov. Dannell P. Malloy celebrated the online ticket exchange company’s grand opening extravaganza, saying in essence that the company is a poster child for the state’s ''First Five'' program.
The TicketNetwork saga started in late May when CEO Donald Vaccaro announced the company had purchased the Gerber Scientific campus off Kelly Road in South Windsor, just over the Vernon line, for about $7 million. He said he was staying in his native Connecticut despite serious recruiting efforts from other states.
Vaccaro said that, at about 14,000 square-feet, his former headquarters on Bolton Road in Vernon was just too small. When Gerber bucked its historic trend and said it was moving everything to its Tolland facilities - and not vice versa - the Gerber complex became available.
TicketNetwork will now spread out over the sizable corporate campus, but lease back the small of the buildings to Coburn Technologies.
About two-thirds of TicketNetwork's 338 employees have made the move already and the rest should be in place by Oct. 1, Vaccaro said.
Malloy said the moved made sense.
"I've been to Bolton Road … and this is … much better,'' he said.
To help make it that “much better” Malloy’s administration has pledged about $7.75 million in state assistance to help in the purchase and reconfiguration of the South Windsor building so TicketNetwork can call it home. (The works thus far has cost about $15.35 million, including the purchase price, Vaccaro said.)
Here is the breakdown of the incentives given to TicketNetwork for staying in the state:
• A 10-year, $4.5 million loan from the state Department of Economic and Community Development for the project.
• A five-year, $1.8 million loan from the Connecticut Development Authority for information technology, fixtures, furniture, among other things.
• A grant of up to $1 million for alternative energy initiatives via the installation of wind, solar of fueled cell systems. United Technologies Corporations’ fuel cell division is based in South Windsor.
• A software engineering training grant from the state that can range from $250,000 for 200 jobs created to $450,000 for 600 new jobs.
About the last incentive, Malloy joked, "I am making him add more jobs.''
The ''First-Five Program" is designed to attract - or in the case of TicketNetwork, relocate in-state - large-scale business development projects with incentives for the first five companies that create 200 jobs within two years or invest $25 million and create 200 new jobs within five years.
Malloy called TicketNetwork ''one of the fastest growing companies in the state.'' He and Vaccaro said Virginia and North Carolina were states that courted the business heavily.
''I want to make sure that these types of innovative enterprises establish roots here in Connecticut and continue to create jobs and make capital investments that will directly benefit the local and state economies,'' Malloy said.
Cigna has also joined the ''First Five'' program, Malloy said.
TicketNetwork is a large online ticket exchange that services venues from sporting events to shows to concerts. It provides access to more than $1 billion in ticket inventory.
Vaccaro said it is all about the roots Malloy spoke of. He started in Vernon in small spaces and said he wanted to stay in town. He said he would work with Vernon officials to market the Bolton Road building. He said the Gerber building was too good to pass up when the state pledged a ''public-private partnership.''
''I was just too small for us,'' he said of the Vernon location. "At first, we thought this building was too big, but it is going to work nicely,'' he said.
''We are honored to be selected to an elite group of companies and for us; it keeps people where they want to live. Many of our employees are from the area - from east of the river - and they want to stay here,” Vaccaro said.
TicketNetwork will "ramp up'' its work force in several areas including the call center, software development and management, he said.
Members of the food service staff were already feeling the effects by calling the kitchen and dining facilities ''huge'' with big smiles on their faces.