Government official promoting startups, helping with loans during layover at Meridian

Meridian – State Department Commissioner for Economic and Community Development David Lehman announced the start of a new business and a new fund for business owners and nonprofits during a layover in the city Friday.

Lehman addressed a crowd of about 75 at a breakfast at Il Monticello hosted by the Medium Chamber of Commerce. The presentation highlighted new startups — which have increased by 40 percent in the past two years, adding about 20,000 people to the post-pandemic job market.

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

Lyman said applicants receive support from community lenders and technical assistance. About 50 percent of the beneficiaries will be women and minority-owned businesses.

Thomas Welch, president of Meriden Economic Development Corp. , indicating that the Boost fund could be used in conjunction with the city’s $5 million business matching program.

Last month, the city council authorized the use of federal COVID-19 relief funds to create a program to stimulate the reuse of vacant commercial buildings. The $5 million commercial space upgrade program will enable vacant space owners and commercial tenants to upgrade buildings to code level or make other improvements called “vanilla box.” The programme, which will be managed by Meriden Economic Development Corp. Funding match from applicants. For spaces located in the inner city downtown area, the match will be 25%.

“We want people to know they can use state program money for their city applications,” Welch said.

Lehman’s presentation on the economy follows a Connecticut Association of Business and Industry survey on Friday that identified several challenges.

The survey of 1,200 companies found that 85% of employers had difficulty finding and retaining workers and also showed that only 26% of companies expect the state’s economy to expand next year.

Nearly a quarter – 24% – think tax relief should be the main priority for the state’s next governor and legislature, while 22% said government spending and pension reform were a top priority.

Lehman addressed statewide initiatives to lower the cost of living, stimulate expansion of housing options, retain and attract recent graduates, broaden pathways to jobs in manufacturing and crafts, and develop a more competitive business climate.

Lamont, who is running for re-election, has also made paying down pension debts and building a rainy day fund a priority for his administration.

His opponent, Bob Stefanovsky, presented a $640 million plan Tuesday that aims to spare companies hundreds of millions of dollars owed to the Connecticut unemployment fund.

Stefanovsky’s plan would also expand tax credits for research and development, strengthen the exemption for sole proprietorship and some other small businesses and eliminate new taxes on restaurant food and large commercial trucks, according to The Connecticut Mirror.

“Connecticut is ranked at the bottom of the states for doing business,” Stefanovsky told The Mirror. “CNBC Just Gave Connecticut’s Economy” F. “Small business owners suffer from rampant inflation. … the ruler is far from the pain of the people.”

Lamont said Stefanovsky’s plan weakens the government’s willingness to withstand the next economic downturn.

mgodin @record-journal203-317-2255 Twitter: @Cconnbiz

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