Chinese firm buys UConn’s West Hartford campus
HARTFORD — A high-tech Chinese company is relocating its headquarters to Connecticut, a move that will help financially beleaguered UConn.
The Seven Stars Cloud Group, which uses artificial intelligence and other technology to create Cloud-based “ledgers” for traders and businesses, on Tuesday agreed to buy the former University of Connecticut campus in West Hartford for $5.2 million and build a new global think tank.
Proceeds from the sale of 58-acre, shuttered school will go into UConn’s capital improvement budget and be used for campus upgrades. The university moved to new buildings in downtown Hartford last fall.
“We are thrilled to have found such a wonderful spot right here in central Connecticut,” said Bruno Wu, SSC’s chief executive officer.
The $238 million investment is expected to create 330 jobs and is aided by a $10 million state loan. The deal is the result of over a year’s worth of negotiations to lure the firm to the state.
“Thanks to our best-in-the-nation workforce, high-quality education system, and forward-looking vision, Connecticut has the potential to be a hub for investment in fintech and other high-tech industries,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said.
“Fintech” is a recently coined term for describing emerging financial technology and how it is used in the financial services sector.
“SSC’s commitment to our state shows that our strategy for recruiting and retaining cutting-edge employers is working,” Malloy said.
The SSC project follows announcement of a new $1 billion, fuel-cell-powered, data center in New Britain intended to expand Connecticut’s digital economy.
The project is expected to generate about 3,000 direct and indirect jobs and $200 million in tax revenue for the state. The venture pairs clean energy with a high-speed data processing and storage.
The $5.2 million sale of the sprawling, pastoral former West Hartford campus comes as UConn absorbed some $300 million in funding cuts by state lawmakers as a new two-year budget was ratified last year.
But the newfound money cannot go directly to students to offset tuition hikes or other expenses.
In a letter to the UConn Board of Trustees, Chief Financial Officer Scott Jordan explained that bond commitments and state law requires that the $5.2 million go to capital improvement projects.
“The proceeds of the sale of the property would be available to supplement the university’s existing capital projects budget, but the proceeds could not be applied for operational matters such as paying operating expenses or replacing funds lost because of rescissions to the state block grant,” Jordan wrote in a letter to the board.
Jordan said bonds for the campus are still outstanding and state statute requires that proceeds from the sale of land by a higher education facility be applied to capital projects.
The sale is contingent on approval by West Hartford and SSC will be responsible for any required environmental remediation.
The UConn Board of Trustees is scheduled to consider the sale on Friday.
SSC is a pioneer in creating and developing cutting edge technology that uses Cloud storage and incorporates AI and blockchain technology to provide digital solutions to trading and other business accounting and production needs.
SSC “leverages artificial intelligence and blockchain technology to facilitate and enable the transformation of traditional financial assets, as well as industrial, media, and consumer assets into digital ones,” according to a press release.
“SSC works with participants across the financial markets and industry verticals to assist in the securitization, tokenization, and trading of a growing number of both liquid and illiquid assets, by enabling asset digitization processes,” according to the release
Asked by reporters what that lengthy description meant, Malloy noted the company’s technology is a modern version of the old “ledger” system used to account for sales, orders and other functions.
“It’s like an old style ledger but does it automatically,” Malloy said. “We are talking about financial and trading operations.”
Wu said the company had multiple choices to relocate its corporate headquarters.
“But it was Connecticut that attracted us, and we very swiftly made our decision,” said Wu, who referred to galleries, nearby shops and the Hartford insurance industry as reasons West Hartford was chosen.
“We look forward to becoming citizens of Connecticut, West Hartford and greater Hartford,” said Wu, who hinted future expansion could involve other parts of the state.
“One thing we can promise is we will use our best efforts to deploy some of the best technologies worldwide on artificial technology in financial,” Wu said. “The digital economy is about to take over and we are at the edge of the transformation in that.”
Wu recalled that Chinese academics and researchers came to Hartford after the Boxer Rebellion in the late 1800s.
“It is here that the first students to ever leave China, the Mission Boys, settled in the late 1800s to study Western science and engineering,” Wu said, referring to Hartford.