MERIDEN — Commissioner for Economic and Social Development David Lehman promoted new business ventures and a new fund for business owners and nonprofits during a break in the city on Friday.
Lehman addressed a crowd of about 75 at a breakfast at Il Monticello, hosted by the Midstate Chamber of Commerce. The presentation highlighted new business ventures – up 40 percent over the past two years, adding nearly 20,000 people to the post-pandemic labor market.
It also introduced the Small Business Support Fund program, a $150 million initiative launched by Government Ned Lamont in July. Aimed at business owners and nonprofits, the fund provides between $5,000 and $500,000, depending on the loan size, with no initial fees, a flat 4.5 percent interest rate, and 60 to 72-month repayment terms.
Lehman said applicants have received support from community lenders and technical assistance. About 50 percent of the buyers will be women and minority-owned businesses.
Thomas Welsh, president of Meriden Economic Development Corp., was quick to point out that the Boost Fund could be used in conjunction with the city’s $5 million business job matching program.
Last month, the City Council authorized the use of federal COVID-19 relief money to create a program to encourage the reuse of empty commercial buildings. The $5 million Commercial Space Upgrade Program will allow vacant commercial space owners and business tenants to bring buildings to code or make other so-called “vanilla cans” improvements. Meriden Economic Development Inc. The program, which will be run by, will require a funding match from applicants. For areas located in the city center in the city center, the match will be 25%.
“We want people to know that they can use government program funds for city applications,” Welsh said.
Lehman’s presentation on the economy followed a Connecticut Business and Industry Association survey released Friday that outlined several challenges.
The survey of 1,200 businesses showed that 85% of employers have difficulty finding and retaining workers, and only 26% of businesses expect the state’s economy to grow next year.
About a quarter -24% – believed tax cuts should be a top priority for the state’s next governor and legislature, while 22% said government spending and pension reform were top priorities.
Lehman cited statewide initiatives to reduce the cost of living, encourage the expansion of housing options, retain and attract new graduates, expand career paths in manufacturing and commerce, and foster a more competitive business environment.
Running for re-election, Lamont also made it a priority for his management to pay off his retirement debt and create a rainy day fund.
His rival, Bob Stefanowski, presented a $640 million plan Tuesday aimed at saving businesses from paying back the hundreds of millions of dollars owed to Connecticut’s unemployment fund.
According to The Connecticut Mirror, Stefanowski’s plan will also expand research and development tax credits, support relief for sole proprietorships and some other small businesses, and remove new taxes on restaurant meals and large commercial trucks.
“Connecticut ranks at the bottom of the states for doing business,” Stefanowski told The Mirror. “CNBC just gave the Connecticut economy an ‘F’. Small business owners are struggling with rampant inflation. … The governor is completely disconnected from people’s suffering.”
Lamont said Stefanowski’s plan weakened the government’s readiness to withstand the next economic crisis.
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