Norwalk, Stamford Gain New Businesses, Taking From Each Other

Octagon Inc., a sports and entertainment marketing and talent management agency, is relocating its headquarters to the Shippan Landing complex in Stamford. The company, which is moving from Norwalk, has signed an 11-year lease to occupy 57,009 square feet across the entire third floor and a section of the second floor of the property at 290 Harbor Drive along the Stamford waterfront. The move apparently comes without state financial incentives, and comes months after another corporate citizen made the reverse move – from Stamford to Norwalk – with a boost from state incentives.  Less than 15 miles and 15 minutes apart, two of Fairfield County’s leading cities are experiencing the corporate version of “Trading Places.”

Crius Energy, through its wholly owned subsidiary Regional Energy Holdings, announced plans last year to move its headquarters from Stamford to Norwalk, placing 200 jobs in the city and committing to add 225 more over the next four years, according to an announcement in May from the Governor’s Office.

Officials said the company – launched in Connecticut – has become one of the largest independent energy retailers in the United States, supplying electricity, natural gas and solar energy products to more than 900,000 customers across 19 states and the District of Columbia, including 100,000 in Connecticut. According to officials, Crius also has operations in Florida, Texas and Australia.  They had outgrown their Stamford facility, which led to plans for a $29 million project in Norwalk, to include the renovation of 48,000 square feet of an existing building. 

To encourage the move, the state Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) said it would provide a 10-year, $8 million low-interest loan to support the project, funding that can be used for fixtures and equipment and leasehold improvements. Crius is also eligible for up to $2 million in tax credits through the Urban and Industrial Sites Reinvestment Tax Credit Program, as well as a $100,000 grant to train employees, according to state officials.

The Crius Energy website points out that “Although based in Connecticut, many members of our leadership team have relocated great distances to become a part of Crius Energy. Together, they bring more than a century of combined industry and functional expertise as well as a deep-rooted passion for transforming the retail energy sector.”

It was a year and a half ago, in May 2015, that the first lease signing was announced for the then newly-renovated five story, 185,000 s/f office building within the 17-acre Shippan Landing waterfront office park in Stamford. That tenant was Stamford-based Workpoint, a provider of co-working environments geared to the needs of media firms along with independents and professionals.

Published reports indicated that since being acquired in 2012 by George Comfort & Sons in a partnership venture with Angelo Gordon & Company, the six-building, 758,000 s/f office park, formerly known as Harbor Plaza, saw an extensive repositioning and modernization program, which was then nearing completion. Workpoint leased a total of 15,173 s/f, including a 1,000 s/f multicamera studio with green screen, control room, and editing facilities on the building’s second floor, according to published reports at the time.

“Shippan Landing continues to be the preferred destination for some of the nation’s top creative companies and we are pleased to welcome Octagon to our tenant roster,” said Peter S. Duncan, president and CEO of George Comfort & Sons.  Among Octagon’s many clients are household names from the sports world - Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors, members of the World Series champion Chicago Cubs and other major league players, current and retired, and Olympic gymnast Simone Biles.

Shippan Point offers what the company describes as “truly is the best business location in the Stamford area,” with “spectacular grounds and magical stretching views.”

Back in 2013, the state Bond Commission approved $1 million in borrowing to help an emergency home repair company move its headquarters from Stamford to Norwalk.  The bonding was aimed at assisting the HomeServe USA Corporation in relocating its headquarters as part of an agreement to create 130 jobs and maintain another 109. In addition to a $1 million grant, the company was also eligible for a $3 million, partially forgivable, loan and up to $5 million in tax credits, local media reported.  The company’s customer call center is located in Tennessee.

And last May, the State Bond Commission approved $22 million in grants and loans for the world's largest hedge fund despite what press reports described as bipartisan complaints that the wealthy company can afford the move without state incentives.  The commission voted 7-2 to award the package to Bridgewater Associates, a financial industry powerhouse operated by Greenwich billionaire Ray Dalio, one of the nation's wealthiest individuals.

At the time, state officials indicated that the financial package helped to prevent the company from potentially relocating from Connecticut to nearby Westchester, N.Y.  The money was expected to be used to renovate and expand the firm's Westport headquarters, along with operations in Wilton and Norwalk, published reports explained. In addition to the loan, Bridgewater was said to also be eligible for two grants: $3 million for energy-efficiency upgrades and $2 million for job-training efforts.  The state apparently initially offered Bridgewater $130 million in loans and grants but the amount was scaled back after the company scrapped plans to build a new corporate complex in Stamford, south of I-95, in the face of local opposition, reports indicated.