WETHERSFIELD - When local government officials, both Democrats and Republicans, campaigned at election time, economic development through drawing in new businesses in an effort to reduce the tax burden on Wethersfield residents was at the forefront of many of the candidates’ agendas.
But during his State of the Town address given at the Keeney Memorial Cultural Center Jan. 30, Mayor Paul Montinieri highlighted an effort to bolster small businesses that already reside in Wethersfield.
“We are looking to stimulate our businesses that exist-not just bring new businesses in,” Montinieri said to the elected officials-both state and local-and business owners that were in attendance. “In this room, is the heart and soul of our town.”
Montinieri’s statement marked the unveiling of the Wethersfield Growth Initiative, a program being launched courtesy of the state Department of Economic and Community Development to the tune of $17 million in funds allotted toward financial aid for small businesses.
“The idea is to keep them [small businesses] strong, and maybe help them expand and create new jobs,” Montinieri said.
Businesses in town can apply for grants and loans tailored for those purposes, said Ronald Angelo, Deputy Commissioner for the state Department of Economic and Community Development during a presentation given after the State of the Town address.
A job creation loan can provide as low as $10,000 and as high as $30,000 for a 10-year period as incentive for implementing practices that allow a business to hire, according to Angelo. These loans come at a 2 to 3 percent interest rate.
A revolving loan program provides between $10,000-$100,000 for a range of business needs that includes job creation, salaries, and the purchasing new equipment, Angelo said. These also run for 10-year periods, with a 4 percent interest rate.
Also included in the initiative is a matching grant program, which allows a business owner to receive money from the Department equivalent to an amount it spends.
“You have to match it dollar for dollar,” Angelo said.
The good news is the state is trying not to be too strict about where the funding comes from, he said.
“What it can’t come from is other state funding,” Angelo said.
Although an applicant cannot receive both of the loans, it is possible to garner one of them while also obtaining a matching grant, Angelo said.
In order to qualify, a business must be up and running for at least a year, be registered in Connecticut, have no more than 100 employees and be “in good standing with the state,” according to Angelo’s presentation. The program is open to a range of ventures, including nonprofits and sole proprietorships.
Other components of the program include the STEP UP initiative, which is aimed at encouraging business owners to hire new workers, particularly those that are unemployed. The department provides the equivalent of the new employee’s salary for a period, according to Angelo.
“Hiring a new employee is one of the most difficult liabilities a business can acquire,” he said. “This takes some of that for you.”