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State officials tout business start-ups, loan assistance during stopover in Meriden

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MERIDEN — State Department Economic and Community Development Commissioner David Lehman touted the launch of new businesses and a new fund for business owners and nonprofits during a stopover in the city on Friday.

Lehman addressed an audience of approximately 75 people at a breakfast at Il Monticello hosted by the Midstate Chamber of Commerce. The presentation emphasized the launch of a new business. Over the past two years he has increased by 40%, adding about 20,000 to the post-pandemic labor market.

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

Applicants will receive support and technical assistance from community lenders, Lehman said. About 50% of the winners are 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 commercial business match program.

Last month, the city council approved the use of federal COVID-19 relief funds to establish a program to encourage the reuse of vacant commercial buildings. A $5 million commercial space upgrade program will enable vacant commercial space owners and business tenants to code-fit buildings or make so-called “vanilla box” improvements. Administered by Meriden Economic Development Corporation, this program requires funding from applicants. For spaces in downtown inner-city areas, the match rate is 25%.

“We want people to know that state program funds can be used for city applications,” Welsh said.

Lehman’s presentation on the economy followed a Connecticut Chamber of Commerce survey released Friday outlining some of the challenges.

A survey of 1,200 businesses found that 85% of employers are having trouble finding and retaining workers. And just 26% of businesses expect the state’s economy to expand next year.

Nearly a quarter (24%) believe tax cuts are a top priority for the state’s next governor and legislature, and 22% say state spending and pension reform are top priorities.

Lehman will reduce the cost of living, encourage expanded housing options, retain and attract recent graduates, open doors to careers in manufacturing and trading, and develop a more competitive business environment. took the initiative.

Lamont, who is running for re-election, has paid off pension debts and made the Rainy Day Fund a priority for his administration.

His opponent, Bob Stefanowski, introduced a $640 million plan on Tuesday aimed at saving businesses from paying off hundreds of millions of dollars they owed to the Connecticut Unemployment Trust.

Stefanovsky’s plan also expands the R&D tax credit, boosts relief for sole proprietorships and certain other small businesses, and eliminates new taxes on restaurant food and heavy commercial trucks, according to the Connecticut Mirror. .

“Connecticut ranks as the lowest state to do business in,” Stefanovsky told the Mirror. “CNBC gave Connecticut’s economy an ‘F.’ Small business owners are struggling with rampant inflation. …The governor is completely immune to people’s pain. ”

Lamont said Stefanovsky’s plan weakens the government’s readiness to withstand the next recession.

mgodin@record-journ203-317-2255Twitter: @Cconnbiz

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