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Check Out Their Dorm Room Now

by Paul Bass | Mar 20, 2012 4:57 pm

(11) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Business/ Economic Development, Newhallville

Paul Bass Photo Mark Volchek recalled the college pad where he and Miles Lasater hatched a company called Higher One. Then he helped the governor and mayor cut the ribbon Tuesday afternoon on a 150,000-square foot shiny new home for their 240 New Haven employees.

The ribbon-cutting took place at Science Park, where Higher One has moved into new offices rather than leaving town to grow. Volchek (at far left in photo) and Lasater (second from right, sandwiched between you-know-who and you-know-who-else) started the company in 2000 while Yale undergraduates; they now provide financial services to students at 770 colleges across the country. They renovated two abandoned former Winchester rifle factory buildings to serve as their new headquarters. (They have another 350 workers at plants in Oakland and Atlanta and on the road.) Higher One is spending $46 million on the project. The state kicked in $2 million and the feds $3.5 million for environmental clean-up; the state also provided another potential $18.5 million in tax credits.

The new Higher One HQ’s gleaming exterior presents quite a contrast ...

... to two buildings right next to it in the same complex ...

... including this one, which the city still hopes that Carter Winstanley and Forest City Enterprises will renovate into apartments, stores, and offices.

In official remarks, Mayor John DeStefano noted the symbolism of the event. Winchester used to employ some 18,000 people in the mid-20th century. Then the jobs left, and the surrounding neighborhoods declined. Higher One represents the new-economy businesses New Haven hopes will create new jobs for people in those neighborhoods and throughout the city. “We still make things. We tend to make things with ideas” now, DeStefano said, adding a plug for his and the governor’s school-reform efforts in order to prepare citydwellers for new-economy employment. Higher One expects to have 368 employees in the New Haven headquarters by 2018.

Architects Barry Svigals (at right in photo) and Jay Brotman connected the six-story two former factory buildings with a modern atrium. It’s meant as a central meeting-place for Higher Oners (who lined the upstairs rafters to watch the ribbon-cutting). A cafe serving free coffee and snacks is on the ground floor. (Can anyone say “Mountain View”?) So is a gym.

Among the hobnobbers at the event were newly elected Alderwomen Tyisha Walker, Delphine Clyburn and Brenda Foskey-Cyrus. The latter represent the adjacent Newhallvile neighborhood; when they ran for office last fall they protested outside Higher One’s building seeking local-hiring guarantees. Welcomed inside Tuesday afternoon, they said hello to Volchek during the picture-snapping post-ribbon crush. “I’m excited about it opening,” Walker said. “I’m more excited about” local people getting jobs at Higher One. The alderwomen are part of a new board majority that has launched a “Jobs Pipeline” working group. And they have a new member serving on it: Higher One’s Miles Lasater.

The event offered plenty of opportunity for high-powered tete-a-tete networking. Budget watchdog Ken Joyner (at right) buttonholed bike-commuting Downtown Alderman Doug Hausladen ...

... while the Chamber’s Susan Godshall checked in with Board of Aldermen President Jorge Perez ...

... and city development chief Kelly Murphy schmoozed with Science Park Development chief David Silverstone.

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posted by: Threefifths on March 20, 2012  5:32pm

Mark Volchek recalled the college pad where he and Miles Lasater hatched a company called Higher One. Then he helped the governor and mayor cut the ribbon Tuesday afternoon on a 150,000-square foot shiny new home for their 240 New Haven employees

Will these employees be able to form a union?From what I see of those people in the pictures,Looks like the start of a corporate plutocracy.

posted by: anonymous on March 20, 2012  5:39pm

“The state kicked in $5.5 million for environmental clean-up and another potential $18.5 million in tax credits.”

Meanwhile, the State also spent about $20 million per year to incarcerate residents living within the immediately surrounding neighborhood. 

Before you gentrify a neighborhood, you have to clear the people out, some way or another.

Good to see investment in broken down buildings, but sometimes you just have to question what other relevant “investments” are being made in your neighborhood (or not being made, as the case may be).

posted by: Curious on March 20, 2012  5:41pm

I’m going to keep posting this until NHI does it….

Why don’t you publish articles on these events BEFORE they happen, so the public can attend?  You have a huge opportunity to increase community awareness and engagement, and you are squandering it.

posted by: Jones Gore on March 20, 2012  6:30pm

The question is whether the people in newhallville qualify for the position that Higher One are hiring for? I would guess not. If they did they would have had jobs before the economy crashed.  Just look at the faces in the crowed!

posted by: Curious on March 21, 2012  11:37am

Anonymous, sometimes you do just have to question things.

I question what your source for the following is:  “Meanwhile, the State also spent about $20 million per year to incarcerate residents living within the immediately surrounding neighborhood. “

Can you post a link to some kind of verifiable source please?

posted by: anonymous on March 21, 2012  1:43pm

Curious, no need to detail a widely known fact. Look up “Justice Mapping” and read http://ctregionalinstitute.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/prisonreportppt.pdf.

$20 million is actually a very conservative and low-ball estimate for the amount spent per year to incarcerate residents from the neighborhood that immediately surrounds Science Park.  Total Department of Correction costs in Connecticut have increased from $500,000,000 to nearly $800,000,000 per year since 2002, when the State most recently mapped the costs by neighborhood. 

Imagine if that $20 million (or $40 million) were used to build good housing and jobs in Newhallville, instead of ship residents out to state prisons.

posted by: BenBerkowitz on March 21, 2012  9:07pm

As co-founder of a growing company in New Haven I am inspired by this story and concerned about the community backlash in the comments at the same time. 

A few questions: Why should Higher One employees unionize if they are treated fairly? Have you heard any indication that they aren’t Why should Higher One do anything less than higher the most qualified people? Why does a company that decided to stay in New Haven deserve this kind of criticism.

Mostly curious why the local union organizers want to target Higher One as their number two priority after Yale New Haven Hospital.  Why not focus on getting the City to higher only in New Haven?

posted by: Curious on March 22, 2012  10:40am

Anonymous, thanks for that.

posted by: Curious on March 22, 2012  10:42am

Ben, because Higher One is an easy target, and right in Newhallville.  Why these alders don’t spend more time getting education and career fairs setting up for their residents, and less time hammering businesses following the usual practices, I don’t know. 

The unions want everywhere unionized, so they can expand their own power.  That’s why it doesn’t matter if the employees want one or not.

posted by: Threefifths on March 22, 2012  11:03am

posted by: BenBerkowitz on March 21, 2012 9:07pm

A few questions: Why should Higher One employees unionize if they are treated fairly? Have you heard any indication that they aren’t Why should Higher One do anything less than higher the most qualified people? Why does a company that decided to stay in New Haven deserve this kind of criticism.

A union gives Checks and Balance.And it helps stop things like this.


Workers Die at Factories Used by Tommy Hilfiger.

http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/workers-die-factories-tommy-hilfiger/story?id=15966305

posted by: Alex Hoffnung on March 23, 2012  1:21pm

@Threefifths

Why does it look like a corporate plutocracy? 

As far as I know, it is very rare that a business is run by the wage-earners rather than the more wealthy business owners. I have trouble understanding how corporate plutocracy can meaningfully refer to a single business rather than a state of affairs in a capitalist economy, for example.

@anonymous
Is there a trend of gentrification in the Newhallville neighborhood? 

It is a difficult process to avoid when there are economic imbalances between groups of people, but I thought that programs like NHS were repairing houses in the neighborhood to keep the current residents in place while improving the neighborhood (please correct me if I am wrong) and that the Jobs Pipeline was meant to prepare residents for the jobs in question.  Of course, this depends on how well the pipeline works and the skill-gap between the people entering the pipeline and the expectations of the corporations hopefully hiring people coming out of the pipeline.

@curious
Is it really the case that the alderwomen are not running job fairs or other relevant activities as part of the jobs pipeline or in some other form? 

It seems to me that representing your neighbors when a new company opens in town by opening a dialogue concerning new hires is a responsible thing to do.

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