The Retail Market
Hartford Metro has three major regional malls. Westfarms Mall in West Hartford / Farmington on the west side, The Shoppes at Buckland Hills in Manchester on the east side and Chrystal Mall in Waterford in the southeast corner of the state. Both Buckland Hills and Chrystal Mall have significant big box activity surrounding each mall. Buckland Hills has one of the largest concentrations of total retail of any market in New England. Retail peripheral to Westfarms is limited and is therefore highly sought after.
Secondary regional corridors exist in Enfield along I-91 at exits 48 (Route 190) and 49 (Route 220) just south of the Massachusetts border in the northern portion of the market, along the Berlin Turnpike (Routes 5 & 15) in the southern portion of the market, and in the eastern part of the state along I-395 at exit 21 (Route 12) in Lisbon and at exit 41 (Route 101) in Killingly.
The west side of the Hartford Metro market is considered the better income area and has resulted in the development of the highly successful Blue Back Square mixed use development adjacent to the historic West Hartford Center. The route 44 corridor in Avon, also on the west side, serves as a strong community corridor for the high income residents of the Farmington Valley. The other large pocket of high income in Hartford Metro is in the Town of Glastonbury on the east side of the market. This strong community corridor has a mix of junior boxes and specialty retail.
Community retail corridors also exist at Bishop’s Corner (Route 44 and North Main Street) in West Hartford; in Bloomfield at the intersection of Route 218 and Granby Street; in Bristol along Route 6; in Southington at exits 31 (Route 229) and 32 (Route 10) of I-84; in Vernon along Route 83 north of I-84; along Washington Street (Route 66) in Middletown; along Route 372 in Cromwell; in Windham / Willimantic along the Route 6 corridor, and in Litchfield County along Route 202 in New Milford as well in Torrington.
Grocery operators in the market are Stop & Shop, Shop Rite, Big Y, Price Chopper, Walmart Supercenter, Stew Leonard’s, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Aldi, Save-A-Lot, Price Rite, Highland Park Market and Best Market.
The Hartford area has a long history of being known as the “Insurance Capital of the World”. Hartford is one of the oldest cities in the United States. It was founded in 1635 by Pastor Thomas Hooker who led about 100 people to the area from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It soon became an important trading center and developed a thriving port on the Connecticut River. Over the next century Hartford’s economy grew as a result of its’ strategic location along the Connecticut River.
Merchants became increasingly worried about the risks associated with their trade. Fires, storms, and accidents had always been a concern, but it was the piracy threat that was perhaps the biggest problem for many of these businessmen. After piracy in the New World had been more or less contained for many years it increased again along the US Eastern and Gulf coasts and in the Caribbean by the early 19th century. Barbary pirates were still active along the northern and western coasts of Africa. In the Far East, powerful Chinese pirate fleets were flourishing by this time.
In 1810, a group of Hartford merchants, whose main concerns were piracy and fire at their warehouses, pooled their money together and formed the Hartford Fire Insurance Company. Other insurance companies soon followed to cover a wide variety of events. The Aetna Insurance Company was set up in Hartford in 1819 and the Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Company (now Mass Mutual) started in 1846. Phoenix Insurance was founded as the American Temperance Life insurance Company in the city in 1851. Travelers Insurance Company was established in 1864 and the Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company started in 1866. These companies garnered a strong reputation for paying out on claims. With large claims resulting from major fires in New York City in 1835 and 1845 as well as in Chicago in 1871, insurance companies in other cities were failing to pay out on claims, while the Hartford based insurers made good on their policyholder’s claims. As a result, the city’s insurance industry expanded nationally and internationally and Hartford eventually became known as the “Insurance Capital of the World”.
Today all of those early Hartford area insurers formed in the 19th century still operate in the Metro Hartford area and provide a large talent pool which has drawn other insurers to the region as well. In addition to Aetna, The Hartford, Hartford Steam Boiler, Phoenix, Mass Mutual and The Travelers, other significant companies in the sector with large employment presence in the region include Voya Financial, Cigna, United Healthcare, Prudential, Lincoln Financial and XL Group.
The other major industry which has historical roots in the Hartford region and still flourishes today is that of manufacturing. In the late 1800’s Hartford was considered to be a vibrant place of invention. It was the Silicon Valley of its day as a result of it being one of the birthplaces of mass production starting in about 1850. Part of what helped make Hartford a prime place for innovation was that the Connecticut River first established it as a trading post, which created a merchant class that became wealthy from river trade. In those days there was no Wall Street for the wealthy to invest, so they became what we know today as “venture capital investor” by partnering with local inventors. This combination of capital and innovation made Hartford the manufacturing capitol of the country in the late 19th century. From the beginning of the 1790s through the 1930s, Connecticut had the highest per capita patenting rate of any state in the country. With its ready access to capital, it became a mecca for inventors. When people talk about “Yankee Ingenuity” this is why.
Much of the success for innovations in manufacturing can be tied to one man, Samuel Colt. Many consider Samuel Colt to be to the 18th and 19th century what Bill Gates is to the 21st century today – they both changed entirely the way businesses were operated. In 1836, Connecticut born Samuel Colt received a US patent for a revolver mechanism which enabled a gun to be fired multiple times without reloading. Although Colt struggled initially, by the 1850s the Colts Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Company was at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution. And the Colts Armory became the world’s largest private armament factory. He was one of the first to employ advanced manufacturing techniques such as interchangeable parts in an organized production line. In the 1860s the Civil War led to a surge in demand as Colt supplied the Union Army. By that time, Samuel Colt had become one of the wealthiest men in America.
Samuel Colt’s perfection of the precision manufacturing process that enabled the mass production of products using interchangeable parts, created a variety of industries in the region that adopted these techniques and made Hartford the center of production for a wide variety of products. Colt was the leading firm in the country for these manufacturing techniques. The university system of today did not exist at that time. It was the apprentice system. Colt employees would learn how to run the machines and as they gained knowledge, many would go out and start their own firms using the same techniques in different industries. Similar to how the Silicon Valley works today. From guns, rifles, typewrites, sewing machines, bicycles, and early automobiles, Hartford became the place for anything that had to do with precision metal working. But, perhaps more important than that, were the feeder industries that were needed to make the tools that were necessary to create all these end products. This created a machine tools industry, which made the machines that made all the other machines function.
This ecosystem of major manufacturers and feeder industries providing parts and service still exists in Metro Hartford today. Pratt & Whitney, founded in in Hartford in 1860 to manufacture machine tools for the makers of guns and sewing machines for use by the Union Army during the Civil War, is now Metro Hartford’s largest manufacturer, with a local supplier network of over 2,500 Connecticut companies. Likewise, Colt Defense, the company founded by Samuel Colt, still manufactures small arms weapons systems for individuals, soldiers and law enforcement from Metro Hartford. Stanley, Black & Decker, a Fortune 500 company headquartered in New Britain, can trace its roots back the mid 1850’s and Samuel Colt’s industrial revolution.
Today, the Advanced Manufacturing Cluster, led by aerospace and defense, is the second largest in Metro Hartford, second only to the Financial Services (Insurance) Cluster. Other companies that make Advanced Manufacturing so significant to the region include Kaman Aerospace, UTC Aerospace, General Dynamics Electric Boat, Henkel, Lego, Otis Elevator, Stanadyne, and Barnes Group.
The third industry cluster which the Hartford Metro region has focused on for growing future jobs is the Health Sciences Cluster. The area is in a unique position, one that is unlike any other region in the nation, to grow its’ young Health Sciences Cluster. The $300 million investment being made in Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine on UConn Health Center’s Farmington campus coupled with the state’s strength in advanced manufacturing, particularly biomedical devices and research and development; state stem cell investments at the University of Connecticut Health Center; and the relative concentration of insurance companies – creates a complete ecosystem where personalized medicine and other health R&D products and services can be tested and then brought to market. The state’s Bioscience Connecticut initiative launched in 2011 links the state’s bioscience and research facilities at UConn’s Storrs campus, its Health Center in Farmington, and Yale University in New Haven. Other ongoing capital projects and program investments at the UConn Health Center will help position the region as a leader in biomedical research.
No discussion of Hartford Metro’s economy would be complete without the mention of ESPN, headquartered in Bristol, and the iconic brand in today’s sports crazed world. Started in 1978, by Bill Rasmussen and his son Scott when they were fired from the Hartford Whalers, ESPN launched on September 7, 1979 beginning with the first telecast of what would become the channels flagship program, SportsCenter. Taped in front of a small live audience inside the Bristol studios, it was broadcast to 30,000 viewers. Today, ESPN is the worldwide leader in sports media, with 90 million viewers worldwide. Although ESPN is still located at the same site in Bristol that the first broadcast took place in 1979, much has changed. The ESPN campus now looks like a NASA facility when you drive up, with its 20 massive satellite dishes, 123 acres of land with nearly 1,000,000 square feet of buildings, and nearly 4,000 employees.
Area colleges and enrollment
|University of Connecticut||Storrs||21,100|
|Central Connecticut State University||New Britain||8,500|
|University of Hartford||West Hartford||5,200|
|Eastern Connecticut State University||Willimantic||4,500|
|Connecticut College||New London||1,900|
|University of St. Joseph||West Hartford||1,200|
|U.S. Coast Guard Academy||New London||1,000|
|Mitchell College||New London||800|
|University of Connecticut – School of Law||Hartford||425|
|University of Connecticut – School of Medicine||Farmington||390|
|Foxwoods||Resort & Casino||Mashantucket|
|Pratt & Whitney||
HQ – Aircraft Engines
|East Hartford / Middletown|
|The Hartford||HQ – Financial Services||Hartford / Windsor|
|General Dynamics Electric Boat||Submarines||Groton|
|Aetna||Insurance – Health||Hartford|
|Mohegan Sun||Resort & Casino||Uncasville|
|UTC Aerospace||Aerospace and Defense||Windsor Locks|
|Cigna||HQ – Insurance – Health . Disability / Life||Bloomfield|
|ESPN||HQ – Sports Media||Bristol|
|The Travelers||Insurance – Property and Casualty||Hartford|
|United Healthcare||Insurance – Health||Hartford|
|Voya Financial||Financial Services||Windsor|
|Stanley Black & Decker||HQ – Tools, Hardware and Security Products||New Britain / Farmington|
|Barnes Aerospace||Commercial and Military Aviation Components||East Granby / Windsor|
|Kaman||HQ – Aerospace & Industrial Systems||Bloomfield / Middletown|
|The Lee Company||Precision Fluid Control Products||Westbrook / Essex|
|Stanadyne||HQ – Fuel Systems||Windsor|
|Data Mail||Full Service Direct Media Marketing||Newington / Windsor|
|Lego Systems||HQ – North America – Toy Products||Enfield|
|Connecticare||HQ – Insurance – Health||Farmington|
|Rich Products||HQ – Food Production and Distribution||New Britain|
|Frito Lay||Food Production – Snack Foods||Killingly|
|MacDougall Walker Correctional Institution||Prison – CT State – Maximum Security – Men||Suffield|
|Lincoln National||Financial Services||Hartford|
|Otis Elevator||HQ – Elevator / Escalator Systems||Farmington / Bloomfield / Bristol|
|Triumph Engine Control Systems||Fuel and Engine Control Systems for Commercial and Military Aerospace||West Hartford|
|DealerTrack||Software – Automotive Dealership Management||Groton|
|Gerber Technology||HQ – Technology – Software and Hardware Systems||Tolland|
|The Siemon Company||HQ – Copper and Fiber Cabling Systems||Watertown|
|XL Group||Insurance – Property and Casualty||Hartford|
|Legrand Wiremold||Wire / Cable Products and Systems||West Hartford|
|Turbine Components for Aerospace, Marine and Power Generation||Manchester / Berlin|
|Cobin Russwin||Door Hardware and Locking Systems||Berlin|
|Trumpf Group||Machine Tools, Lasers and Technologies for Industrial Manufacturing||Farmington|
|Henkel||HQ – North America – Adhesive Technologies||Rocky Hill|
|Chubb Executive Risk||Insurance – Executive and Professional Liability||Simsbury|
|Rogers Corporation||Engineered Materials for Power Electronics, Printed Circuits and Advanced Foams||Killingly / Woodstock|
|Ahlstom Nonwovens||Composite Fiber Based Components for Autmobiles||Windsor Locks|
|United Technologies||HQ – Aerospace, Defense and Building Systems||Farmington|
|Osborn Correctional Institution||Prison – CT State – Medium Security – Men||Somers|
|C&S Wholesale Grocers||Distributor – Grocery Products||Windsor Locks|
|Connecticare||Insurance – Health||Farmington|
|Yarde Metals||HQ – Metal Fabrication||Southington|
|Connecticut Spring and Stamp||HQ – Precision Springs and Metal Components||Farmington|
|Jacobs Vehicle Systems||HQ – Engine Breaking Systems||Bloomfield|
|Brooks Brother Group||HQ – Retails – Men’s Clothing||Enfield|
|TTM Technologies||Printed Circuit Boards and Electro Mechanical Technologies||Stafford|
|BD Medical||Biomed – Injection Molded Syringes||Canaan|
|The Phoenix Companies||HQ – Financial Services||Hartford|
|Carwild Corp||HQ – Biomed – Medical Absorbent Technologies – Contract Manufacturer||New London / Mystic|
|Hartford Correctional Center||Prison – CT State – Maximum Security – Men||Hartford|
|American Red Cross||Regional HQ||Farmington|
|Valassis||Full Service Direct Media Marketing||Windsor|
|Barnes Group||HQ – Global Manufacturer – Aerospace and Industrial||Bristol|
|Pepperidge Farm||Bakery and Production Facility – Bread, Rolls, Stuffing and Croutons||Bloomfield|
|Allied World Assurance||Insurance and Reinsurance||Farmington|
|Carrier||HQ – HVAC Systems||Farmington|
|Dyno Nobel||Industrial and Mining Explosives||Simsbury|
|Enfield Correctional Institution||Prison – CT State – Medium Security – Men||Enfield|
|Ensign Bickford||HQ – Explosives for Aerospace and Defense; Pet Flavoring Additives||Simsbury|
The Jackson Laboratory
|Biomed – Genomic Research||Farmington|
|Stag Arms||Firearms||New Britain|
|Associated Spring||Industrial and Automotive Springs||Bristol|
|Magellan Health||Insurance – Health – Managed Behavioral Sciences||Avon|
|Hartford Steam Boiler||HQ – Insurance – Equipment||Hartford|
West Hartford Center and Blue Back Square
West Hartford Center has been the hub of commercial activity for the Town of West Hartford since the late 1700’s but it has never been more vibrant than it is today. With its organic buildings and tree lined sidewalks, The Center is what newly built lifestyle centers wish they could be.
But that was not always the case. In 1974, the 870,000 square foot, two level, Westfarms Mall opened in the southwest part of the town. With its better regional interstate access, convenient parking and three department stores, many at the time predicted that Westfarms’ opening would usher in the death of West Hartford Center. Most of the national and regional chain stores that had been located in West Hartford Center for decades relocated to Westfarms.
As the 1980’s approached West Hartford Center had quietly redefined itself as the place for quality local merchants, most of whom were not welcome at Westfarms. At that point, The Center, as it has been known since colonial days when almost all social, business and religious activities took place there, had regained some of its relevance but not all of its glory. Year by year that changed with the quality of tenant improving over the next few decades so that by the late 1990’s West Hartford Center had once again become “The Center”.
In the early 2000’s, with West Hartford Center flourishing again, plans were beginning to expand the traditional boundaries of The Center to include several adjacent parcels that were deemed underutilized, including a car dealership, a VFW post and vacant land owned by the Town. After a town wide referendum vote, the mixed use Blue Back Square began construction in 2006 and opened in 2008 with 220,000 square feet of retail space, 200,000 square feet of office space, 48 loft style apartments, 59 condominiums and two 500 space parking garages. Many of the types of retailers that had exited West Hartford Center in the 1970’s and 1980’s now wanted back in. From the multi-screen cinema and large format retail that is in Blue Back; to Whole Foods Market, which had opened in 2006 on another former car dealership adjacent to Blue Back; to the most extensive collection of restaurants in the state, the combination of West Hartford Center and Blue Back Square is now a regional destination for dining and shopping.
West Hartford Center and Blue Back Square have become one of the best examples in the country of how new buildings can be combined with existing historic structures to create a live, work and shop environment that appears as if it has always been there. Surrounded by some of the best demographics in the Hartford Metro area, the addition of Blue Back Square to West Hartford Center has made both areas symbiotic and has not only increased the trade area from local to regional but it has raised the quality of the tenant mix to a very high level that would not have been attainable if each area were independent. With a total of over 200 merchants and restaurants, approximately 25% in Blue Back and 75% in The Center, the combined districts have allowed a mixture of both national and local retailers and restaurants to thrive in an environment that is unlike anywhere else in the state.
Bartaco - West Hartford Center
Crate and Barrel - Blue Back Square
Farmington Avenue - West Hartford Center
Zohara - West Hartford Center
|Hartford Metro Population
|New London County||274,000|