BOZRAH — Fresh from a quick trip Friday up the Thames River in Groton on the submarine USS California to mark the start of "Connecticut's Submarine Century," U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy toured a local firm that's heavily involved in work for Electric Boat and other defense contractors.
Murphy, D-Conn., visited the new headquarters of the Collins & Jewell Company in Bozrah, getting an inside look at work the custom manufacturer does to support defense manufacturers such as EB in its production of submarines.
Company partners Chris Jewell and Brian Dudek chatted with Murphy about operations at the company, which employs 70, before leading the senator on a tour of the 35,000-square-foot plant, which opened last year.
The timing of the visit coincides with Murphy's efforts on Capitol Hill to close a loophole in the 82-year-old Buy American Act, which, he said, has stripped billions in possible revenue and thousands of jobs from the state.
"My emphasis is on making sure all the supply chain going into EB or Pratt and Whitney stays local, stays in this country," Murphy said. "All these big pieces of equipment that wrap around our submarines are being made with parts that come from shops here in Connecticut and here in the Northeast."
Murphy introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act spending bill for the 2016 fiscal year that would require the Pentagon to submit detailed invoices for overseas purchases valued at more than $5 million. The final version of the bill is awaiting President Obama's signature.
In 2014, EB secured a $17.6 billion contract with the Navy to build 10 Virginia-class submarines, like the USS California, over the next five years, a project expected to create 520 direct jobs.
With Electric Boat ramping up to fill the largest Navy contract in history, Murphy said it is essential to ensure the domestic supply chain remains strong during the process.
"We think the loopholes written into the Buy American Act probably cost about 600,000 jobs every year," Murphy said. "As we strengthen the law and require more work to be done in the United States, we're going to create thousands of jobs here in Connecticut. This company is an example of what happens when work stays here in the United States. Not only do they employ 70 people here, but there are hundreds more employed supplying parts that go into the pieces being assembled here."
Jewell said his company has seen excellent growth in its year at the Bozrah location on Rachel Drive, and also is planning to construct another building there.
"We've got all kinds of Eastern seaboard defense work going on right now," Jewell said.
The company had 45 employees a few years ago at its old Norwich location and has since grown to 70, he said.