Proposed wholesale garden, home supply warehouse may bring up to 56 jobs to Cromwell

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Arett Sales of Bristol, a wholesale distributor of lawn, garden, home and holiday items, has proposed building a 356,000 square-foot warehouse on a 29-acre parcel of land at the County Line Drive industrial park in Cromwell. Photo: Cassandra Day / Hearst Connecticut Media

Town officials are hailing the announcement that an Indiana company intends to build a 356,000-square-foot distribution warehouse in the town’s Northern Tier business park.

“For me, this is a very proud day,” Mayor Enzo Faienza said after Scannell Properties announced its intention to build the warehouse on a 28.77-acre parcel of land between Route 3/Shunpike Road and Interstate 91. The property has water, sewer, gas and electricity capabilities.

Scannell will buy the land, construct the building and then lease it to Arett Sales, which supplies some 6,500 products to “mom and pop shops,” officials said, and hardware and garden center stores. Arett has operated a distribution center in Bristol since 2000.

But, company officials say, that facility no longer meets its needs. The lease on the Bristol facility expires in November 2018.

Cathy Schappert, Arett’s chief financial officer, said the company wanted to remain in Connecticut. Cromwell is offering Arett a seven-year, 100-percent tax abatement to help lure them to town.

The Economic Development Commission met Thursday, reviewed Scannell and Arett’s presentations and then voted 4-0-1 to approve the abatement proposal. Commission member Robert Jahn abstained.

“I don’t have a problem with this whatsoever,” EDC Chairman Richard Nobile said as he prepared to cast his vote. “I am 100 percent in favor of this. I think this will be a good marriage. You’re exactly what we’ve been looking for.”

The abatement would apply only to the building, officials explained Thursday. The town will still get personal property taxes and taxes on the land on which the building stands.

Those taxes should yield $55,000 a year in revenues to the town, Town Planner Stuart Popper told the commission. At present, Cromwell receives $2,000 in taxes on the parcel of land, he said.

Arett will save an estimated $315,000 in taxes over each of the next seven years if the abatement proposal is adopted. Assessor Shawna M. Baron and the town’s director of finance must review the abatement proposal before it can be presented to the Town Council for action.

A special meeting of the council has been scheduled for Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Scannell has built two similar distribution warehouses in South Windsor, one totaling 300,000 square feet, and the other, a 200,000-square-foot facility, according to Scannell’s development manager Daniel Madrigal. In all, the 27-year-old company has warehouse facilities in 25 states, Madrigal said.

“This is our first project south of Hartford,” Scannell told the commission.

And it may not be their last. The seller has additional land in the Northern Tier, Madrigal said.

Arett is a fourth-generation family-owned business that Executive Vice President Noah Chesbrough’s great-grandfather began as a hardware store in New Rochelle, New York, in the 1940s, he told the commission. In 1951, Chesbrough’s grandfather converted the company into a distribution business and moved the company headquarters in Pennsauken, New Jersey, across the Delaware River from Philadelphia.

The company employs approximately 150 employees, 45 of whom work in the Bristol facility, Chesbrough said. However, “that building doesn’t meet our needs anymore,” according to Schappert.

“We’ve been a good tenant and a great citizens for Bristol, but it’s time for us to move on,” Schappert said. “We want to stay in Connecticut. Connecticut is where we need to be, and this location (Cromwell) makes a lot of sense for us.”

The company anticipates employing 32 to 56 employees in Cromwell, “some of whom will migrate from Bristol,” Schappert said.

“We believe long-term this will be an economic benefit for Cromwell,” he said. “We have an option to expand with another 45,000 square feet, (on the property).”

“Working with Cromwell, to date, has been terrific,” Madrigal said. “This community understands the economic process and how to put them together, and they will push it.”

Popper, who functions as economic development coordinator as well as town planner, has been the town’s point man in the discussions with Scannell and Arett. Those talks “have been underway for more than a year,“ Town Manager Anthony J. Salvatore said Friday.

“Scannell came to us … and then we put them in contact with the planning office,” Faienza said. “I want to commend Stuart for his outstanding performance and for being a key part of our being able to bring (Arett) to town.”

In addition to Popper, Faienza thanked Salvatore “for his role in helping to put this project together. This shows the town is open for business, and I see it as a gateway to the future,” Faienza said.

Speaking about the abatement proposal, Faienza said it has to be viewed in light of “today’s economic climate in the state. You can’t just look at the new, but you must look at the larger picture for the future economic development of the town, he said, adding, “There is competition all around (the state) to get projects like this.”

“We’re not losing anything and we’re gaining a great business,” the mayor said. “This is a win-win for the town, and it will pave the way for future development.”