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In the shadow of Stamford’s skyline, a small business is born

If Stamford is to truly become the “City that Works,” as signs proclaim on light poles and street corners, then it needs the likes of Conor Horrigan — a 31-year-old who’s breathing new life into an abandoned factory and creating 21st century manufacturing jobs.

Ever since the 1960s, when local developers recast much of the city’s downtown as high-end office space, Stamford has been a magnet for big business: Thomson Reuters, Ernst & Young, and banking giants UBS and RBS, which built their North American headquarters here during Malloy’s 14-year stint as mayor.

Recently, the wealth has spread into the South End peninsula. Today, the Harbor Point development project — one of the country’s largest — is rapidly transforming 80 acres of abandoned factories and low-income neighborhoods into a modern cityscape of six million square feet, including 4,000 luxury apartments, office units and retail space.

But the South End also offers a stark picture of the income inequality for which Fairfield County leads the nation. The new, upscale developments are crowding out many long-term residents and corner stores, and even making homeless shelters feel out of place.

These days, when city officials think of Stamford’s future — and when state officials consider the businesses that might actually reduce the gap between rich and poor — they look to smaller entrepreneurs.

“I’m not saying we need six more breweries,” says Laure Aubuchon, Stamford’s economic development director. “But we need six more Conor Horrigans.”

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