April 11, 2024

Community Investment Fund secures $900,000 for the Swift Factory in Hartford’s North End

The thunderous sound of a youth drumline crashed Tuesday through the refurbished halls of the Swift Factory in Hartford’s North End, where Sen. Doug McCrory celebrated a nearly $1 million state investment in establishing a new workforce hub.

McCrory, a Hartford Democrat who serves on the board of the Community Investment Fund, helped secure $900,000 to offset the cost of a roughly $5 million project to expand operations at the formerly abandoned factory, which has become a beacon of opportunity in a long underserved community.

“You don’t have to go somewhere else to get trained and then come back here,” McCrory said during Tuesday’s press conference. “All that is going to take place right in our neighborhood. We love our community. We understand that we want to stay here … What we need — we want to keep it here, and this project does that.”

The old gold leaf factory was a fixture of the neighborhood from the late 1800s until it closed its doors in 2005. For years, the 80,000 square foot facility stood empty and fell into disrepair. That changed after the building, and two adjacent homes, were donated to the North Hartford Partnership.

The campus now serves as a multipurpose hub for local entrepreneurs, offering kitchen and office space as well as services like an early childhood education program run by the Capitol Region Education Council.

“Everybody in this space, thanks to Senator McCrory for helping us with this grant, we all together make this space successful and thriving,” Brenda Watson, executive director of the North Hartford Partnership, said. “I get two or three calls a week from people wanting to start their own business and run it out of this factory.”

The roughly $5 million project funded by the CIF grant is slated to begin next April and be completed by the end next year. The expansion is expected to serve more than 950 disconnected, working age adults in the Hartford area, facilitate the creation of more than 42 new jobs, and create 100 before and after-school child care spots.

The halls of the Swift Factory are now lined with rooms where local business owners grind premium coffee beans or prepare vegan Jamaican food for sale.

Others give community organizations a place to work or — in the case of Hartford’s Proud Drill Drum and Dance Corp– a place to practice. The drumline and dance corps provides the community’s young people constructive opportunities to showcase their talent and, as of this month, they are based out of the Swift Factory.

During Tuesday’s event, Terry Starks, the group’s founder and CEO, called the state investment in the Swift Factory “a game changer” for her organization and the kids it serves.

“We’ve been everywhere in this community — everywhere,” Starks said. “One minute we’re here and the next we’re there and we’ve never had a home. This has been a miracle because what are the chances of somebody telling you, ‘We just got a million dollars to renovate the place?’”

On Tuesday, the young people of Hartford’s Proud danced, drummed and stomped their energetic routine on the wooden floors of the old factory. McCrory joked that the Swift facility was about to get a lot louder.

“That’s why we do this work,” McCrory said. “This organization– they’re going to have a home to practice and play, right here in their own neighborhood.”

Posted by Hugh McQuaid