Winsted facility to benefit from $6m loan to Danbury parent firm

By David Kreschevsky, Republican American

The state is set to loan $6 million to a Danbury manufacturer with a facility in Winsted to help it remain in Connecticut and add jobs.

The loan comes just 20 months after the same company declined $3 million to keep jobs that were later cut.

In a news release Thursday, Gov. M. Jodi Rell said she expects the State Bond Commission to approve a $6 million loan for The Barden Corp. of Danbury, which makes precision bearings and operates Winsted Precision Ball at 159 Colebrook River Road in Winsted. The bond commission is set to meet Dec. 10.

In the release, Rell said the loan will "help the company renovate and improve its Connecticut facilities in Danbury and Winsted and purchase new equipment and machinery." The release adds the company currently employs 430 people and expects to add 70 new jobs in the next three years.

"Barden was seriously considering moving its operations to South Carolina until the state offered to help with this renovation," Rell said in the release. "That would have meant the loss of more than 400 good-paying jobs — not to mention the 70 new jobs the company expects to create in the next three years."

In April 2009, the Connecticut Development Authority, a quasi-public agency, offered Barden $3 million in financing and a $300,000 sales-and-use tax exemption. At the time the aid was announced, Rell said the money would "enable the company to retain 462 jobs and add 19 workers."

However, according to a spokesman from the state Department of Economic and Community Development, Barden never accepted that aid.

"The company never took CDA's assistance," said Jim Watson, DECD spokesman.

CDA officials did not return a call seeking comment.

Not accepting the CDA's aid meant Barden had no obligation to retain or add jobs, Watson said. Since then it has shed 32 positions.

Watson said the state's new $6 million loan offer comes as part of a written agreement listing specific jobs goals.

"That is established in a binding contract with the company, called an assistance agreement," he said. "There are certain milestones and contractual obligations they will have to meet."

Watson added that while the company committed to adding 70 jobs over three years, the only job total that matters to the DECD is "the numbers after three years is up." By adding 70 positions, Barden would increase its total employment to 500 workers, or 19 more than would have been required in last year's rejected deal.

Peter Enright, who in January will become chief executive officer of Schaeffler Aerospace, a division of Barden's parent company, Schaeffler Group, issued a statement via e-mail Thursday.

"This action taken by state officials signifies the value of maintaining jobs in Connecticut, and Barden commends such efforts," the statement said. "The funds will be used to modernize facility infrastructure, making our operations more efficient and environmentally friendly. Additionally, new state-of-the-art, computer-controlled machinery will be purchased, affording our Barden and Winsted operations the opportunity to efficiently expand business. This allows us to maintain competitiveness in the global market in which we compete."

The statement notes the company is no longer considering relocating to "lower cost areas such as Mexico," and has "already hired more than 80 skilled technicians and engineers in Connecticut." Enright did not say whether all 80 of those hired are part of Barden's current 430-member staff, or whether some of them are part of the additional 70 jobs to be added.

Information was not available Thursday about how many people work at the Winsted facility.

According to its Web site, Barden was founded by Theodore Barth and Carl Norden in 1942 to make precision ball bearings for the Norden bombsight, which was used on U.S. Navy and Army Air Corps bombers during World War II. In 1991, Barden was acquired by Fischer Aktein-Gesellschaft in Germany, which a decade later was acquired by Schaeffler Group. Winsted Precision Ball is a Barden subsidiary.