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Escape From Milford! Solar Firm Moves To City
by Thomas MacMillan | Mar 12, 2013 4:20 pm
Posted to: Business/ Economic Development, Wooster Square
No more fighting highway traffic in bad weather. No more working in a sidewalk-less sea of strip malls. No more fretting about suburban crime or contributing to climate change.
A company called “Sunlight Solar” has said good-bye to all that—by moving from Milford into New Haven.
Sunlight Solar, a solar panel company with offices in New England and the Pacific Northwest, has over the past week opened up shop at 90 Hamilton St. after more than eight years off the Post Road in Milford. The company’s new digs are next to an I-91 on-ramp and the Vandome night club.
The move means the company’s employees—most of whom live in New Haven—can commute to work on foot or by bike, reducing pollution and fossil fuel usage, just as the solar panels they install on homes and small businesses do.
What’s more, the company now has a fenced-in parking lot for its vans and Priuses and easy access to the highway. Plus, it is now just short walk from restaurants and coffee shops in Wooster Square.
Sunlight Solar’s trajectory from the suburbs to the city fulfills a city-planning goal nearly five decades old, said Tony Bialecki, deputy economic development director for the city. In the 1960s, as I-91 divided Wooster Square, planners designed Hamilton Street to compete with the suburbs as a site for commercial ventures, he said. It was meant to be part of an “industrial ring” around the city’s “core,” he said.
Sunlight Solar’s move is part of a larger, nationwide trend of people choosing to live and work in cities, Bialecki said. He hopes to see more evidence of that trend as the city works to redevelop the River Street area as commercial and industrial center.
“I’ve been looking for a place for two years,” said Dan Britton, the director of operations at Sunlight Solar. He needed good access to the highway; Sunlight Solar works all across the state. And he wanted a place with a fenced-in parking lot, because Sunlight Solar vans were broken into in Milford.
He found everything he was looking for in New Haven, Britton said. “Now we can walk over to Wooster Square.” Milford, on the other hand, was like L.A.: “To go anywhere, you have to drive.”
“We think of ourselves as a sustainable company,” said Rachel Oxman, the head of sales and marketing.
That green ethos was hard to sustain while working in Milford. Not that the employees didn’t try. One worker, project manager Annalisa Paltauf, doesn’t own a car. She commuted by bike year-round from Westville, cycling seven miles each way everyday on the Post Road.
“She’s fit,” Britton said. Several other employees biked, too, including Britton. He said it would take him 30 to 40 minutes to get from East Rock to Milford by bike. But he would drive if the weather was bad, and then sit in traffic at the end of the day as cars backed up on the highway.
In Milford, there was “no community,” Britton said. “Here, we can have relationships with other businesses.”
Despite the fact that they worked in Milford, most of Sunlight Solar’s employees live in New Haven. Oxman said she moved down from Hartford after taking the job a Sunlight Solar four years ago. “It didn’t even cross my mind to get an apartment in Milford,” she said. “New Haven is such a neat city to live in.” She now lives around the corner in Wooster Square, and walks to work.
Most of Sunlight Solar’s employees are between 25 and 35 years old, Britton said. New Haven is the best place to live in Connecticut for people that age.
Britton said solar energy is a difficult industry for long-term economic prediction. The industry “lives and dies by incentives in the state.” State programs offer subsidies for solar panel installation, and legislative changes can create a “boom and bust” rollercoaster. That said, “the market looks pretty good for the next 10 years,” Britton said.
Britton said the building Sunlight Solar is renting on Hamilton Street doesn’t yet have panels on the roof. But the landlord has submitted application for state incentives.
Tags: solar power, commuting, city planning, Milford-bashing
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Nothing against New Haven, but some of the assertions in this article are a little ridiculous. Milford has a walkable downtown with easy train access. It would have been just as “green” for them to move there. Of course, the rent would have likely been a little higher.
Lack of community in Milford? Maybe because they were on the outskirts of town in a disconnected area and made no attempt to engage that community. Downtown is one of the closely knitted group of wonderful business owners I’ve ever come across.
Lastly, suburban crime? What? That’s about the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. Milford’s crime rate is 1/8th of New Haven. And much of the crime in Milford is from outsiders (read: Bridgeport, Stratford, West Haven, and New Haven residents) and occurs because of its shopping draw. DRASTICALLY lower. If they had set up shop in/near Downtown Milford, I’d guarantee it’d be safer.
Again, nothing against New Haven, and it’s great they’re attracting businesses like this - but some pretty ridiculous points in this article.
This is great news! Sunlight Solar is a wonderful company - they’ve installed both solar electric and solar thermal panels on home in West River; both systems are working great, saving energy as well as helping to make my home and community more sustainable. I’m excited by the example they’re setting for other businesses, and I hope they’ll stick around! Welcome to New Haven!
I grew up in Milford and work in New Haven. I love both places. I understand most of this person’s employees live in New Haven and therefore, it makes a lot of sense for him to be there. However, a few things:
1.) I would argue Milford is as, or more supportive of bikes than New Haven. I bike to work from West Haven occasionally and its terrifying in certain areas after the West Haven boardwalk. Milford, on the other hand is very bike friendly minus the post road which is a travesty.
2.)There is no lack of community in Milford. I can agree that New Haven might have more community activities due to its size; Milford is a tiny city. However, the downtown area and all beach areas have their own flavor. Moral of the story is do not go near the post road. It sucks.
3.) The idea of suburban crime is hilarious. In New Haven, I am sometimes followed by maniacs who threaten my life. During the day! In both West Haven (lesser so West Haven) and Milford you can walk alone at night without a worry (in the majority of areas). The rest of the reasons to move from Milford to New Haven make some sense but this I do not understand.
Glad to see New Haven getting these types of businesses though. Nobody will miss it on the post road and no one probably knew it was there anyways. They will get more attention and promotion opportunity in New Haven. Just had to defend my beloved hometown!
Hooray! WELCOME, SUNLIGHT!! We are so happy to have you!
I’m so pleased that companies like this are coming to central New Haven Let’s get some more like them -
OMG!! As a business owner who’s business is in Milford I am dumbfounded.
Why on earth would anyone move their business from Milford? I can understand an office but a manufacturing business. Ugggghhhh.
As a manufacturing business that left a large CT city to move to Milford, I can attest that Milford is about the most business friendly city in this State; hence, the sheer volume of businesses residing here. We have our employees commute to work on Metro North, the tax and assessor’s office is the friendliest place I’ve ever worked with, and the taxes are LOW!. I wish my business had another 20+ mills to throw to the tax collector, because that is what this guys tax bill will look like (and God help him if he has issues!). New Haven City Hall is a bear to deal with.
And we go for walks on the beach in the summer.
posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on March 13, 2013 12:54pm
Your comments are puzzling to me since they appear to be in conflict with your name. As businesses and industry closed down or moved out of Westville to places like Milford it became more and more of a bedroom community dormitory and less of the self-sustaining, complete town it once was and should be striving to be once again.
Cool beans! I live nearby, and would love to check the place out. Do they give tours of the plant?
@ Jonathan Hopkins:
Not sure what is so puzzling to you? I was commenting on the obvious oddity of this business’s decision to leave a wonderful business community. Clearly I’d love to see more business in Westville but, as I stated originally, the taxes in New Haven are close to double that of Milford on property. As a manufacturer/distributor/installer, this solar company is now doubling its tax by moving to New Haven on all its real property (machines, tools, autos, etc…).
I don’t understand how a business owner of a manufacturing and distribution business justifies being in New Haven based on that alone?
“Suburbs are safer! In New Haven, I am followed by maniacs who threaten my life during the day!”
In 15 years of walking around New Haven at all hours, in all neighborhoods, during the day and at 4AM in the morning, I have never once been followed by a maniac threatening my life. The suburbs are far more threatening, considering the likelihood of being run over by a car like the family in Milford a few weeks ago.
The company’s new digs are next to an I-91 on-ramp and the Vandome night club.
Latin King gang tied to two shootings near New Haven nightclub.
Flannel-wearing man denied access to club, fires shots.
Sunlight Solar Energy is actually just a sales/design and installation company - we do no manufacturing here. Not much to see other than our office.
Our old location in Milford was on the West Haven/Orange border, near Southern CT Gas and Dichello Distributors. Milford is a very green, solar-friendly town and we loved it! However, moving to New Haven is easier for our sales and installations teams to get around the state and it is also easier for employees to get to work (via foot, bike, bus). We all try to practice what we preach, regarding “being green,” and being in New Haven just makes sense for our company.
I just want to stress that we loved being in Milford and love the green community but we are equally as excited to now be in New Haven, which is such a great city (and also has a terrific green community!).
posted by: Church on the Rock on March 16, 2013 7:40am
Welcome to the neighborhood! I look forward to meeting you. Want to “hire” some great kids for one month of the Summer on our dime?