The world's largest hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates of Westport, announced an ambitious expansion plan Wednesday that includes building a new headquarters and nearly doubling its staff in the next decade, all with generous state help — up to $115 million of forgivable loans, grants and tax credits.
The company's staff expansion and its plan to build a $750 million headquarters near the Stamford waterfront is the latest in the state's large-scale economic development program, originally called the "First Five." This is the largest financial incentive offered to a company by the state under the program.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said he hoped Bridgewater's choice of Stamford, instead of moving to New York or New Jersey, would influence other hedge funds, many of which have offices in Fairfield County or New York City.
"What I expect the industry to do is sit up and take note of what this outfit is doing," Malloy said. Bridgewater's decision "signals to the rest of the world that Connecticut is strengthening its leadership position in the very competitive financial services sector."
Bridgewater manages about $130 billion in investments for pension funds, university endowments, charitable foundations, foreign governments and central banks. It presently employs about 1,225 employees in five buildings in and around Westport. Its plan is to expand to 2,000 employees over a decade and move to Stamford by 2016.
The state's incentive package for Bridgewater is by far the largest for a First Five company so far, as is Bridgewater's investment. Christopher P. Bruhl, CEO of the Business Council of Fairfield County, compared the Bridgewater coup with Silicon Valley's landing a digital giant. Bridgewater's founder and chief investment officer, Ray Dalio, is the highest paid hedge fund manager in the world, pulling in $3.9 billion in 2011.
"This is a historic trigger for the continued growth and evolution of an industry," Bruhl said. "This is like being where Google is, like being where Facebook is."
The $750 million Bridgewater investment in a new headquarters is larger than all the previous projects combined, according to Catherine Smith, commissioner of the state's Department of Economic and Community Development.
The state is offering Bridgewater a $25 million, 10-year forgivable loan at 1 percent; a $5 million job training grant; a grant of up to $5 million for the building's alternative energy systems; and up to $80 million in urban and industrial reinvestment tax credits.
The new headquarters, to be in Stamford's Harbor Point development, would include 750,000 square feet of space in two buildings, according to Greg Jensen, co-CEO of Bridgewater.
"The proposed campus will house all of our employees and be designed to facilitate creativity, collaboration and help reinforce Bridgewater's distinct culture which has been so instrumental to our success," Jensen said. "This environment is going to be great for us; our culture is critical to us. We need to be in one place."
The planned buildings were described as energy-efficient and sustainable and would open to the city's waterfront. Trees would be planted to "reforest" the land with the goal of creating a "park-like campus." There would be public access along the waterfrotn.
"This is an exciting moment for Stamford. This is an opportunity that brings great luster to Stamford as a financial center," said Malloy, a former mayor of Stamford.
The project is subject to city approvals. A working boatyard will need to be moved to make way for the hedge fund campus.
The seven other companies already in the First Five program are: Cigna in Bloomfield, ESPN in Bristol, NBC Sports in Stamford, Alexion Pharmaceuticals in New Haven, CareCentrix in Hartford, Sustainable Building Solutions in North Haven and Deloitte in Stamford.
The First Five program "is picking up steam. It's no longer the First Five, it's the First 15," Malloy said, speaking at Deloitte's Stamford office last month.
"While we're making progress, and 22,500 private sector jobs is progress, I'm not satisfied," Malloy said during his announcement adding Deloitte to the program.
The private sector has added 22,500 jobs in the past year and a half, since Malloy took office, but the state's overall job growth was a tepid 13,900 over that time, because state and local governments have been cutting positions in the wake of the recession.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times