Watrous Street is a busy place these days in East Hampton. If the completion of the Airline Trail wasn’t enough for the narrow stretch of road perched above the Village Center, the activity at a building next to the trail simply adds to the good news.
That is where Bevin Bros. Manufacturing and PSI Plus are setting up shop, as least until a new factory is built, so they can get on with the business of making bells and cylinders.
And the state is doing its part to make sure they do.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced on Wednesday that the state’s Small Business Express (EXP) program will support the two companies that were destroyed in a fire during the early-morning hours of May 27.
“Connecticut has a proud history as the home of the Bevin Bell factory, and we are putting our economic development tools to work to assist Bevin Brothers and P.S.I. Plus in their effort to rebuild here in Connecticut,” Malloy said in a press release. “We are fortunate that these two companies will persevere despite this terrible fire — there is a lot of work ahead, but the state is stepping up so their employees can get back on the job as soon as possible.”
The Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD), which administers EXP, will provide $100,000 in matching grants to each company. Bevin Bros. will use its grant to purchase machinery and equipment so that its employees can begin producing bells as soon as possible. PSI Plus plans to purchase new equipment and fund renovations at the same facility.
“It’s one small piece of what will be needed to put these companies back together again,” said Matt Bevin, the owner of Bevin Bros. Manufacturing. “It literally represents just a very small percentage of what is needed but the fact that we are already spending monies as part of our recovery, that the state is willing to come along side for a portion of that, is greatly, greatly appreciated. A lot of people have worked hard to make this happen and to make it happen so quickly and we can not express enough gratitude for it. It’s fantastic.”
Bevin Bros. Manufacturing is the last bell manufacturer in the country and has been making bells in East Hampton for 180 years. PSI Plus, a manufacturer of high pressure specialty gas cylinders since 1991, was a tenant in the factory complex.
“I think it’s great. I’m glad the state was able to come through and help them out,” said Jeff Jylkka, East Hampton’s acting Town Manager. “I’m really pleased for them. I think everyone is anxious to see them get back up and running and making bells and making cylinders.”
There is a possibility of other state assistance down the road, but this grant was designed for the short-term to help get the companies back on their feet.
“This was the one we thought had the best chance for them getting a grant. That was really through Bevin, it wasn’t through us, that grant,” Jylkka said, adding he wasn’t sure what other possibilities Bevin might be exploring. “We still have to sit down and talk with the Brownfields [Redevelopment Agency] folks and take a look and see if there are any grants through the EPA or DEEP for some help with the cleanup [of the original site].”
The building on Watrous was once home to the American Thread Company and the Artistic Wire Company, among others. Over the last 40 years or so it has been primarily rented to various local businesses and as a warehouse.
For the foreseeable future, it will take on a new life manufacturing bells and cylinders.
Any individual, group or business is reminded that donations can be made through the web site www.keepthebellsinbelltown.com.