State official touts startups, loan assistance during stop in Meriden

MERIDEN — State Department Economic and Community Development Commissioner David Lehman touted new businesses and a new fund for business owners and nonprofits during a stop in town Friday.

Lehman addressed a crowd of about 75 people at a breakfast at Il Monticello hosted by the Midstate Chamber of Commerce. The presentation highlighted new business startups — up 40% over the past two years, adding about 20,000 people to the post-pandemic job market.

He also introduced the Small Business Boost Fund program, a $150 million initiative introduced by Gov. Ned Lamont in July. The fund, aimed at business owners and nonprofits, provides between $5,000 and $500,000 with no fees, a fixed interest rate of 4.5 percent and repayment terms of 60 to 72 months, depending on the size of the loan.

Applicants receive support from community lenders and technical assistance, Lehman said. About 50 percent of recipients will be women and minority-owned businesses.

Thomas Welsh, president of the Meriden Economic Development Corp., was quick to point out that the Boost Fund can be used in conjunction with the city’s $5 million commercial matching program.

Last month, the City Council approved using federal COVID-19 relief money to create a program to incentivize the reuse of vacant commercial buildings. The $5 million Commercial Space Upgrade Program will allow owners of vacant commercial space and business tenants to update buildings or make other so-called “vanilla box” improvements. The program, which would be administered by the Meriden Economic Development Corp., would require a funding match from applicants. For sites located in the city center, the match will be 25%.

“We want people to know they can use state program funds on their 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 found that 85% of employers experienced difficulties finding and keeping workers and also showed that just 26% of businesses expect the state’s economy to expand next year.

Nearly a quarter — 24 percent — thought tax relief should be a top priority for the next governor and state legislature, while 22 percent said government spending and pension reform were the top issues.

Lehman has led statewide initiatives to lower the cost of living, provide incentives to expand housing options, retain and attract recent graduates, expand career paths in manufacturing and trade, and develop a more competitive business environment. climate.

Lamon, who is running for re-election, has also made paying down the pension debt and building the rainy day fund priorities for his administration.

Opponent Bob Stefanowski unveiled a $640 million plan Tuesday that would have been aimed at relieving businesses of hundreds of millions of dollars owed to Connecticut’s unemployment trust.

Stefanowski’s plan would also expand tax credits for research and development, boost relief for sole proprietorships and certain other small businesses, and repeal new taxes on restaurant food and large commercial trucks, according to The Connecticut Mirror .

“Connecticut ranks at the bottom of the states for doing business,” Stefanowski told The Mirror. “CNBC just gave Connecticut’s economy an ‘F.’ Small business owners struggle with rampant inflation. … The governor is completely out of touch with the pain of the people.”

Lamon said Stefanowski’s plan weakens the government’s readiness to weather the next economic downturn.

[email protected]: @Cconnbiz

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