Torrington Business Owner Elected to Lead National Home Builders Organization

The National Association of Home Builders' (NAHB) new chairman, Connecticut’s Greg Ugalde, calls home affordability across the United States a growing crisis and the most important issue facing the homebuilding industry. Ugalde is president and chief legal officer of Torrington-based T&M Building Co., Inc., one of the state’s largest home builders. Since its founding in 1962, T&M has built more than 4,000 new homes in over 45 Connecticut communities for trade-up and first-time buyers. Ugalde has more than 25 years of experience in the home building industry and was recently elected to lead the national organization.

“Easing the growing housing affordability crisis is the most important issue facing our industry in 2019,” said Ugalde. “This year we will work with policymakers to reduce burdensome regulations that are needlessly raising the cost of housing, exacerbating affordability concerns and holding back a more robust recovery in the residential construction sector.”

According to the organization’s website, NAHB’s members construct about 80 percent of the new homes built in the United States, both single-family and multifamily.  A federation of more than 700 state and local associations, NAHB represents more than 140,000 members.

From 2003-2005, Ugalde was the president of the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Connecticut (HBRA). He was named the local and state Builder of the Year in 2000 and has received numerous industry awards and recognition.

A leading advocate and spokesperson on a broad range of housing issues, Ugalde has served on the HOMEConnecticut Steering Committee, the National Land Use Attorneys Network, the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Affordable Housing and the Town of Burlington’s IWWC and Parks & Recreation Commission. He is also the founder and owner of GFU Investments, LLC, a builder/developer minority-owned business that focuses on urban development and workforce housing.

Ugalde told the Associated Press in a recent interview that Congress needs to reform the nation's housing finance system, because “financing products just has not kept up with today's market place as much as we would like to see.  So we need to revamp the ability to bring more people into the system who really do qualify and can afford a home.”

He also stressed the need recruit more young people to the home building industry, and urged immigration reform. “It's no longer a question of 'Hey, we're going to be taking American jobs.'  That's just not true,” he told the AP.  “We have job openings all over the country that we need to fill, so it's perfectly reasonable to think that we could benefit from an improved immigration system, like many other industries could as well.”

Regulations imposed by government also impact home prices, he pointed out recently: “On average, regulations imposed by government at all levels account for nearly 25% of the price of building a single-family home and over 30% of the cost of a typical multifamily home."

He added: "there's nothing like showing up at a closing table and seeing your new buyers with big smiles and so happy that all their hard work has paid off."

Deju Vu As Advocates for More Vibrant Tweed Descend on Capitol

A public hearing this month on a proposal to “eliminate the restriction on the length of Runway 2-20 at Tweed-New Haven Airport, was, in some ways, deju vu all over again, as advocates for ramping up flights in and out of Tweed came to the State Capitol to urge action. A decade ago, in 2009, supporters of the regional airport came to the Capitol seeking state funds to fuel growth.  This year, the focus is on runway expansion to do the same.  The common thread: economic development.

“To realize the region’s full potential as a destination, the airport must improve its infrastructure to support an expanded schedule of flights to additional destinations,” said Ginny Kozlowsi, then president and CEO of the Greater New Haven Convention & visitors Bureau, in 2009.

This month, she was back at the Capitol, as executive director of REX Development:  “The retention and recruitment of businesses are essential for the economic success of Connecticut.  With the limited flights currently available at Tweed new Haven Regional Airport, it is difficult for companies in Southern Connecticut to access current clients, attract talent and secure more business.”

In testimony this month, Garrett Sheehan, the president and CEO of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce, pointed out that “The ability to bring people to New Haven and efficiently travel to other locations would greatly improve if Tweed New Haven Airport had additional flights and destinations. It is our expectation that expanding the runway from 5600 feet to 6600 feet, within the airport’s existing footprint, will open the door for new commercial service at Tweed.”

Sheehan noted that today “business is conducted on a global scale. The New Haven region is home to thriving manufacturers, biotech companies, tech startups, and other important businesses. These companies have employees that travel regularly and customers and suppliers who need to visit.”

He named the local organizations and businesses supporting what he described as “a better Tweed”: Avangrid, Alexion, Arts Council of Greater New Haven, Arvinas, ASSA ABLOY, Biorez, CA White, CT Bio, CT Tourism Coalition, DISTRICT New Haven, Ferguson & McGuire Insurance, Fitstyle by Shana, Marcum, My Language Link, New Haven Manufacturing Association, Prometheus Research, Radiall USA, Inc., Regional Water Authority, Technolutions, The Outtrim Group, Ulbrich Stainless Steels and Special Metals, and Yale New Haven Health.

One of them, ASSA ABLOY, testified ten years ago, when vice president Jack Dwyer stated:  “A clear function of business travel efficiency is proximity to an airport…and having Tweed as a viable alternative is viewed by our management team and owners as being a factor in our ongoing and future success.”

In its testimony this month, Yale New Haven Health senior vice president Vin Petrini, chief policy and communications officer, pointed out that “Yale New Haven Health is currently the largest private employer in Connecticut with more than 25,000 employees located in nearly every town, city and legislative district in the State. We also have the distinction of being the State’s largest taxpayer having paid more than $300 million in provider taxes last year alone.”

Petrini said “Tweed represents the second most underserved region in the nation,” stating that action on the legislation would unleash a “key linchpin in the economic future of the region and the state of Connecticut.”

Ryan Duques, chairman of Madison’s Economic Development Commission, a tech startup managing partner and the former publisher of 15 Connecticut newspapers, and told lawmakers that “Tweed is vital to the economic sustainability of south-central Connecticut,” adding that “it is our expectation that this change will open the door for new commercial service at Tweed with additional destinations and flights.”

The words of former Southern Connecticut State University president Cheryl Norton a decade ago could easily have been said this month: “a robust regional airport would provide another travel option to our crowded roadways and trains.”

Solar Panels and Historic Preservation Meet in Connecticut

Historic preservation and solar panel would seem like oil and water, but increasingly in Connecticut, the advantages are seen to outweigh the disadvantages. The acceptance of solar comes as technology helps to make systems less obtrusive, and also as more historic preservationists recognize the urgency to address climate change, according to a report in Energy Network News.

About one-tenth of Connecticut’s 3,000 historic preservation cases last year involved solar installations. That’s a significant increase from five years ago, Todd Levine, an architectural historical for the state’s preservation office, told Energy Network News. Of those 300 solar cases, however, only 10 were concluded to have adverse effects, but even in those cases the state office was able to work with stakeholders and ultimately approve them all.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Department of the Interior recommend installing solar panels on the area least visible to the public or on any new addition on the property, like a garage. Typically, historic commissions don’t want panels on the principle facade of the building facing the public right-of-ways. Lower public visibility is preferred, but increasingly, that is not ruling out solar panel installation at historic properties.

At the state level, the historic preservation office has partnered with the quasi-public clean energy agency, the Connecticut Green Bank, to mitigate any adverse effects installs could have on historic properties. Energy Network News reports that they are currently collaborating on a publication they plan to distribute in the coming months outlining best practices on the intersection of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and historic preservation.

Also last year, Connecticut upped the ante on renewables across the board.

A new law approved in 2018 requires that by 2030, 40 percent of the power provided by electricity suppliers in the state flow from renewable sources, double the target for 2020.  Another law approved by the 2018 legislature established a stringent interim greenhouse-gas-reduction goal of 45 percent below 2001 levels by 2030. The state’s 2008 Connecticut Global Warming Solutions Act mandates an 80 percent reduction by 2050.

The state Department of Energy & Environmental Protection explains that the term renewable energy generally refers to electricity supplied from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, geothermal, hydropower, and various forms of biomass. These energy sources are considered renewable sources because they are continuously replenished on Earth.

Currently, Hawaii has the most aggressive clean-energy mandate in the nation: 100 percent by 2045; followed by Vermont: 75 percent by 2032; and California, New York, and New Jersey, which each have a goal of 50 percent by 2030, according to the Council of State Governments.

California set a 100-percent-by-2045 zero-carbon electricity goal in September last year. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed the state set a 100-percent-by-2040 zero-carbon electricity goal in January. Newly elected governors in Colorado and Connecticut are pushing for 100-percent renewable energy mandates, as well, as are their counterparts in Illinois, Minnesota and Nevada, according to Solar Magazine. Connecticut’s legislature is also considering additional steps to encourage renewable energy in the state, the New London Day recently reported.

Hartford as Soccer Hotbed: Surprisingly, Yes

If you are wondering why there is optimism for the success of the Hartford Athletic, the city’s new professional soccer team planning to begin its inaugural season later this month, a peek back at ratings for televised international soccer in the U.S. provides some hints. In March 2016, the Washington Post reported on the U.S. cities with the highest viewership for the Manchester derby between City and United in the English Premier League the previous week.  Topping the ratings was Baltimore, followed by Kansas City, Hartford, Seattle, Columbus, the San Francisco Bay area, West Palm Beach, and Philadelphia.  Yes, Hartford ranked third that week.  The match was the highest-rated Manchester Derby telecast in U.S. history at that time, attracting 1.17 million TV viewers.

Two years later, when NBC Sports reported on the cities with the highest average season-long ratings on Premier League telecast for the 2017-18 season, Hartford was ranked in the top 10.  Connecticut’s Capitol region was outranked only by Baltimore, Washington, Richmond, Providence, Austin, Norfolk and Dallas.

This past Sunday, the top rated U.S. television markets for Manchester United vs. Liverpool, broadcast on NBC Sports Network, once again included the Hartford/New Haven market, at number six.  Leading the way once again was Baltimore, followed by Norfolk, Washington D.C., Milwaukee and Jacksonville.  Boston was seventh, just behind Hartford/New Haven.

Coincidentally, the telecasts are coordinated not in the U.K., but in Stamford, Connecticut, at the massive NBC facility there, which also serves as the command center for NBC’s Olympic coverage.  Approximately 60 work on each match day at NBC Sports’ headquarters, located at 1 Blachley Road on the city’s East Side, the Stamford Advocate reported last summer, just prior to the current season. On and the NBC Sports app, a record 4 million unique viewers watched during the past season, the Advocate reported.

Hartford Athletic, a USL expansion franchise, will kick off its inaugural season with a game in Atlanta on March 9.  The team's home opener is set for May 4. The club announced this week that Trinity Health of New England will be Title Partner and Official Healthcare Provider of Hartford Athletic and featured on both Hartford Athletic’s home and away jerseys.  Dillon Stadium, currently undergoing renovation in Hartford, is slated to be the club’s home turf.


Craft Brewers Look to Continue CT Growth with Legislative Support

After two ill-fated legislative proposals that would have been detrimental to the state’s burgeoning craft brewery industry disintegrated within days amidst a public outcry, the Connecticut Brewers Guild is conveying its eagerness to work closely with state lawmakers.  Their aim: to help the booming industry create even more good-paying jobs, bolster local craft beer production, and to increase direct-to-consumer sales. “In 2012, when the Connecticut Brewers Guild was founded, there were around 12 craft breweries statewide,” said Phil Pappas, the executive director of the Connecticut Brewers Guild. “Now, our state’s booming craft brewery scene has more than 85 operational breweries with many more in the planning stages. These craft breweries -- all of which are independently owned -- employ over 4,600 people statewide, produce more than 166,000 barrels of locally brewed craft beer, and contribute to an overall economic impact of $746 million annually.”

It is those numbers, and the degree of progress in recent years, that drive the conversation, although Pappas points out that although a lot of progress has been made, there is more work to be done to ensure the industry continues to grow and thrive statewide.  On doesn't need to look further than the map of the COnnecicut Beer Trail to see the impact of the industry all across the sate.

“Connecticut’s growing craft beer industry has been helped by state lawmakers providing a relatively healthy regulatory environment,” Pappas said.  “We thank state lawmakers for their support to date, and now more than ever -- in an increasingly competitive state-by-state landscape -- we need a renewed commitment to strengthen our industry, which is a bright spot in Connecticut’s economy.

“Moving forward,” he added, “we hope to work with state lawmakers and others to create even more local jobs, increase local craft beer production, and drive additional direct-to-consumer sales.”

In 2015, MarketWatch—a financial information website—ranked Hartford/New Haven as one of 10 cities that love craft beer the most. Other cities included Portland (Oregon), Cleveland and Washington, D.C. A year ago, Innovation Hartford reported that 2016 data indicated the craft beer industry in Connecticut contributed $718 million to the economy. That year there were 49 breweries that produced a combined 129,825 barrels of craft beer per year.  A year ago, there were 65 breweries operating throughout the state and another 49 breweries are either in the planning and construction phases or set to open shortly.

“We also look forward to working with representatives from the wholesaler, distributor, retailer, brewpub, and restaurant communities, to positively impact our state’s small businesses and economy both today and tomorrow,” Pappas said. “Our Connecticut Brewers Guild members strive every single day to produce the highest quality, best-tasting craft beer in the market. We consistently seek out ways to improve our product, utilize locally sourced ingredients, generate jobs, support local businesses while cultivating fun experiences for customers on-premise and off-premise.”

CT Start-Ups Receive Financial Assist to Spur Development

Six early-stage Connecticut companies now have additional funds to help fuel their growth, after participating in the Entrepreneur Innovation Awards (EIA) provided by CTNext, the state’s resource organization for entrepreneurial support. Following presentations from 10 finalists at the recent event, the judges awarded $10,000 grand prizes to the following Connecticut-based companies:

  • Payball (Norwalk): Developing an easier, digital way for amateur sport organizations to pay officials, event staff and coaches.
  • Peak Performance Leadership (Killingworth): Creating a variation on a rope protection system for military and first responders to increase product lifespan.
  • Raise Green (New Haven): Creating a crowdfunding portal to finance renewable energy and climate solution projects; developed by students at Yale.
  • YouCOMM (Farmington): Developing a patient-caregiver communication system that will replace antiquated call bell systems.

“At its core, Raise Green is a two-sided marketplace that provides people who want to build solar or other types of climate-solution projects with the tools they need to do that and to get it financed,” said Franz Hochstrasser, chief executive officer and co-founder of the start-up. 

According to the University of Connecticut Technology Incubation Program website, YouCOMM is a novel low-cost tablet based communication device to provide effective patient-caregiver communication. The device has 20 need buttons that allow patients to send specific needs to a nurse’s on-call phone.

Two additional companies also received recognition, and funds:

  • Lactation Innovations, a Canterbury company developing a non-invasive sensor that detects the volume of milk a baby ingests and provides feedback to the mother, won the $2,000 Crowd Favorite award.
  • Secure Election Systems of Westport, a startup developing an iPad-sized electronic absentee voting booth, took home the $2,000 Judges’ Favorite prize.

“The EIA Awards continue to showcase some of the most innovative and promising young companies across the state,” said Glendowlyn Thames, CTNext’s executive director. “We are looking forward to following the progress of the companies and wish all the competitors the best as they work to advance their ideas and visions.”

The six Connecticut companies were among 10 startups that presented their project ideas to a panel of judges for an opportunity to secure $10,000 awards to help support business growth.

Last fall, CTNext awarded $54,000 in grants to six Connecticut-based startups.  Receiving $10,000 were:

  • Actively AI – Creating an automated assistant for wellness businesses that handles customer experience and streamlines operations for staff
  • Dualflo – Creating a self-seal technology to eliminate the need for open surgery in cardiopulmonary bypass procedures
  • Encapsulate– Producing an effective chemotherapy solution with a fully automated tumor-on-a-chip pre-prescription analysis
  • Encaptiv– Developing a web-based presentation, sales and marketing software that integrates AI and machine learning
  • Kolb Consultants– Developing a process to manufacture “Ray-Board,” a kickboard with a new shape that distributes the body weight evenly when swimming

In addition, Kolb Consultants won the $2,000 crowd favorite award, while VigorSential took home the $2,000 award for judges’ favorite. VigorSential is developing and testing “MycoZaps,” a low-dose vaccine to control Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis), a bacterium mainly affecting cattle that is resistant to common antibiotics.

CTNext’s goal is to build a more robust community of entrepreneurs and to accelerate startup growth by providing access to talent, space, industry expertise, services, skill development and capital to foster innovation and create jobs for people in Connecticut.

CTNext ( has more than 2,500 members in its network.

Rebranding of Connecticut's Cities Continues: Waterbury Up Next

The latest Connecticut community to go down the re-branding road is Waterbury.  The Prospect-based marketing firm WORX Group presented its marketing concepts this week to the city’s Board of Aldermen, according to reports in the Waterbury Republican-American. In December, the firm proposed two logos and sought public input, including at a series of focus groups last spring.  The underwhelming choices: The proposals were either a stylized “W” or a version of the city’s “brass horse.”  The horse is modeled after the statute atop the Carrie Welton Fountain by the city’s downtown Green. The proposed logo adds two leaves as wings, symbolizing the city’s rebirth. The “W” has an upward-tracking center, representing the city’s rising trajectory.

The lack of enthusiasm – and some outright criticism – for the initial options prompted a new approach, which led to the latest proposal, a stylized multi-colored W with the city’s name underneath, unveiled this week for the city leadership’s approval.

In recent years, Stamford, Norwalk and New Britain are among the Connecticut communities that have undertaken re-branding efforts, including rolling out new logos for the municipalities.   New Britain took steps to redesign the city’s Main Street bridge over Route 72 with architectural features promoting a beehive theme, as highlighted in the logo launched in 2017, and New Britain began to use the new logo and tagline on signs, letterhead, brochures and its website.

In Waterbury, the local marketing firm has been paid to $81,500 to develop marketing concepts and is proposing a $180,000, one-year, contract that would include a new website, social media, email marketing and other related initiatives. The website and social media campaign would include job openings, available properties, recreation opportunities, local eateries, upcoming events, health care resources, stories on city infrastructure projects and features stories on key city figures and business success stories, the newspaper reported.

The U.K.-based creative agency Canny, which chronicled city rebranding efforts around the world, has pointed out that “Creating a single brand for a city helps highlight its offerings and interactions, allowing it to appeal to both tourists and residents alike.”  The site also notes that “good city branding can make a place seem desirable, but bad city branding can have the opposite effect.”