Small business program receives financial boost


capital_webHARTFORD — The Small Business Express Program is getting an infusion of $60 million to keep it rolling.

The popular assistance program is close to exhausting the initial $100 million the legislature and Gov. Dannel Malloy had authorized to capitalize it.

The legislature unanimously approved a bill Wednesday to replenish the program using $60 million in general obligation bonds that had been previously authorized under the Manufacturing Assistance Act. The governor’s office announced Malloy will sign the legislation into law.

Additionally, the State Bond Commission is scheduled to make $40 million of this money available when it meets Wednesday. The governor chairs the panel.

State Sen. Joseph Crisco (D-17) hailed approval of the funding.

“Connecticut’s small businesses have always been an integral part of our state’s economic engine so it’s important to support the innovation and job creation that occurs in small businesses with this supplemental funding,” Crisco said in a statement.

The Small Business Express Program provides money for capital investment and hiring to Connecticut businesses with 100 or fewer employees. It was launched last year.

The program provided $67.2 million in loans and grants to nearly 500 businesses in its first year. The administration said this assistance is helping recipients retain 4,616 jobs and create another 1,738.

As of Jan. 1, state officials were reviewing applications from 271 other businesses seeking an additional $38.3 million in assistance.

“With limited state funds available we have to be creative and nimble to invest wisely where we can realize the greatest return — this particular example of economic development funding has shown itself to be a terrific stimulant for participating small businesses,” Crisco said in a statement.

This state aid has leveraged approximately $40 million in private investment, according to the state Department of Economic and Community Development.

The legislation approved Wednesday redirects $60 million that had been authorized under the Manufacturing Assistance Act for small business development to the Small Business Express. The bill specifies that DECD must spend these bond proceeds according to the rules of the Small Business Express Program.

Eligible businesses can use the money to acquire machinery and equipment, construct facilities or make leasehold improvements, cover moving expenses, or meet working capital needs

A bipartisan jobs bill approved in the fall of 2011 established the program. It consists of two loan programs and a grant program. One loan program offers maximum loans of $100,000; the other has a $300,000 ceiling. Grants range from $10,000 to $100,000.

No recipient may receive more than $400,000 in assistance.

The program is open only to companies with 100 or fewer employees that have operations in Connecticut and have been registered to conduct business here for 12 months. They also must be in good standing with all state agencies and be current on state and local taxes.

State Rep. Lezlye Zupkus (R-89) described the funding as a “fresh move” for the state when it comes to small businesses.

“For too long Connecticut’s legislature has stood in the way of small business growth, imposing regulation after regulation and fee after fee,” Zupkus  said in a statement. “This fresh move to again supply businesses with the this kind of assistance sends the long-overdue message that the legislature is, in fact, coming around — that people here are beginning to recognize that small employers are the backbone of our communities and our state’s economy.”

Elio Gugliotti contributed to the article.