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CT Construction Digest Thursday September 26, 2019

Large employer winners reflect Connecticut economy
Dan Haar
We can see a remarkable sweep of the state’s commerce in the top three winners of the Hearst Connecticut Media Top Workplaces contest among large employers. If that’s a sign of broad strength, or at least potential, then other employers with hundreds of people on their payrolls may take notice, to the benefit of the state.
Finishing as No. 1 in 2019, for the second year in a row, is Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties, one of the region’s largest residential real estate brokerages — a unit of the corporation headed by Warren Buffett.
O&G Industries, of Torrington, comes in at the No. 2 position among large employers, bringing heavy construction, quarrying and mason materials — including several retail locations — to the top tier of Top Workplaces. O&G’s three-person leadership group, all in the Oneglia family, won this year’s top leadership awards among large employers.
Indeed, the online employment and staffing firm, rounds out the top three at No. 3. Indeed won the contest in its first year, 2016.
For all three companies, Connecticut in 2019 presents a challenge along with opportunity. Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices — and William Raveis Real Estate, Mortgage & Insurance, another winning company in the large employers category for 2019 — must navigate a housing market that’s largely flat in the state, in contrast, for example, to fast-growing Massachusetts.
They do it by making communications and analysis tools available to agents and staff, and by maintaining flexible working conditions.
O&G faces two challenges in public-sector spending. First, the state and municipalities are building many fewer new schools because the number of students is decreasing. And second, the debate over tolls vs. borrowing to finance the next generation of bridge and highway upgrades is having the effect of tamping down state spending.
O&G nonetheless added people in 2019 compared with 2018. The family-owned, diversified company is in the transition from the third-generation leadership to the fourth, with four family members in mid-career preparing to take over from their three forebears.
“Let the fourth generation take it over now, and they’ll take it to the next level,” said David Oneglia, the president.
Indeed has shown consistent growth of jobs in Connecticut since the company, a subsidiary of a Japanese corporation, was founded with ofices in Austin, Texas and Stamford in 2004. Indeed recently passed the 1,000-person mark locally — in sales, client service, finance and human relations — and has said it will reach 1,700 in about a decade.
Indeed faces many of the same challenges it solves for countless other employers.
“We are in a tight labor market, and employers need to be aggressive to both attract and retain talent. Employer branding has become more important — employers are looking to showcase the unique aspects of their workplace, opportunities for growth that are available to employees, and the impact that a company’s work has in the world,” said Dave O’Neill, the Indeed COO, in written responses to questions.
At Indeed, he said, “We’ve found the combination of meaningful, engaging work in an enjoyable environment is what really resonates with employees today.”That’s the goal for all thriving companies and the three at the top among large employers represent a great cross-section of Connecticut.

Costco gears up to open in East Lyme on Nov. 14
Mary Biekert
East Lyme — After months of clearing, blasting and building, officials from the Costco big box store under construction off Interstate 95 confirmed Tuesday the date that the wholesale club will officially open
“It took a little while to nail down the exact date, but yes, it is happening on Nov. 14,” Joe LaCerva, general manager of the East Lyme Costco, said Tuesday morning. He added, “We are very excited to be here in East Lyme.”
As part of recent preparations leading up to the store’s opening, the wholesale chain has placed large blue and red brand signs along the side of its newly constructed building off Exit 74 — which can now clearly be seen from the highway — and also has opened a membership sign-up center at Route 161’s Midway Plaza so as to “offer a space to sign up before the building opens and to avoid those lines,” LaCerva said.
The center is open seven days a week, and offers prospective customers the opportunity to speak to representatives about membership options, as well as potential employment. As part of the sign-up period leading up to the store’s opening, Costco is offering pre-opening incentives for new members, LaCerva said.
He said those interested in signing up can either purchase a Gold Membership for $60 annually or a $120 Executive Membership, which gives buyers 2 percent cash back on all their purchases, as well as other bonuses. Shoppers must have a membership to make purchases at Costco.
LaCerva also stated that those who have a membership have a money-back guarantee. Both annual memberships will extend through November 2020 and allow members to immediately make purchases online with their membership cards before the East Lyme store opens.
He said the store will hire more than 230 employees in coming months, with more than 160 to be brought on by November. He said most employees will be hired from the surrounding area and those interested can fill out an application on the Costco website before coming in to interview at the membership sign-up office.
When asked how membership sign-ups have been coming along, LaCerva said that while the office has been busy, he expects sign-ups to pick up steam come October, when Costco starts sending out mail blasts to surrounding area residents.
Developers building the more than 158,000-square-foot store, as well as the 680-lot parking lot and 18-pump gas station, broke ground in March, and have moved quickly to clear 14.7 acres of land, install underground pump-station and holding tank equipment, and reconfigure roads throughout the Exit 74 interchange area to accommodate an expected higher amount of traffic once the store opens.
As construction has ramped up over the last couple of months in the Exit 74 area, and as roadwork faced delays in August, town officials, the project’s developers, town police and contractors worked together to help alleviate traffic issues in the area. On Tuesday, while speaking by phone, First Selectman Mark Nickerson said that “we may still struggle with a little more traffic than what we are used to” once the store opens but “we are ready for it.”
LaCerva said the DOT confirmed that road construction will be finished by opening day.
“We are excited for opening day,” Nickerson said.
“It’s been nearly 20 years,” Nickerson said. “The Zoning Commission had this land zoned for a planned development, including retail and residential components, for over 20 years. So we are glad. There were many stops and starts for different projects trying to come in over that time. So the fact that the Costco building is up now and they are putting the finishing touches on it, is great.”
“It will be a new chapter,” he added.
The store is being built as part of a larger development plan known as Gateway Commons, which is being jointly developed by The Simon Konover Co. of West Hartford and KGI Properties of Providence, and which was approved by the town in 2015. The Costco store will close out the second phase of that plan. The developers also are moving forward with constructing 120 condo-style rentals over the next year to complete an existing 280-unit residential development at Exit 73 known as The Sound at Gateway Commons.
A possible commercial addition also was included in the Gateway Commons masterplan, but developers have not yet outlined what might be placed there and it may take them years to determine that as the Department of Transportation plans for bigger changes at the Exit 74 interchange, Newton C. Brainard, vice president of development and acquisition for The Simon Konover Co., said last week.
Nickerson said Monday that tax revenue generated from the Gateway Commons plan, once fully built, could amount to more than $2.5 million. The first phase of the Sound at Gateway Commons apartments generated more than $756,000 for the town in 2018, assessor Diane Vitagliano said Tuesday, and Costco is expected to generate about $400,000 in taxes.
Another $350,000 is expected to come from phase II of the Sound at Gateway Commons apartments, while another million may come from the additional commercial properties to be built in the last phase.

$10M spruce-up underway at Wallingford’s Gaylord Specialty Healthcare
Matt Pilon
Wallingford long-term care hospital Gaylord Specialty Healthcare is in the midst of a major renovation of two wings built back in the 1950s and 1970s.
Gaylord has mapped out $10 million in modernizing improvements to 100 inpatient rooms located on four floors in its Lyman and Hooker wings.
The hospital is installing new ceiling-mounted patient lifts and smart televisions in each room. It’s also installing new toilets, sinks and window blinds, and rearranging some of the “headwall” medical fixtures at the head of patient beds to meet more modern standards.
It is also renovating and rearranging nurse stations, staff rooms and storage areas located outside the patient rooms.
“That is the standard we really want to apply to our more dated facilities,” Knapp said.
The older rooms are generally tighter on space, which can make it more difficult for providers to maneuver, particularly if a patient has visitors.
Rearranging available space and getting rid of large shelving and other furniture installed decades ago, when patient stays were longer, will free up valuable inches for reconfigurations, Knapp said.
While Gaylord isn’t knocking down walls or resizing the rooms, the project still presents an intricate puzzle, she said, since the hospital must also continue to conduct its business.
Work on the first floor of Lyman began in March and is expected to wrap in October. Next up will be the first floor of Hooker, which is expected to take until April. Branford’s O,R&L Construction is the main contractor for the project.
As of right now, redoing two floors will exhaust Gaylord’s budget. Since last year, the hospital has raised $5.3 million toward the $10 million price tag, mostly from private donors, with an $890,000 assist from the Governor’s Nonprofit Grant Program.
“We can do the first two floors and are actively raising money to complete the other two,” Knapp said.
She hopes to cover more fundraising ground as soon as possible, and with that in mind, Gaylord has organized a “hard hat” tour and reception on Thursday afternoon to show off the work that’s been completed thus far.

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