Gov. Dannel P. Malloy toured a series of small businesses throughout the state on Monday to tout the success of Connecticut's Small Business Express Program, a program administered by the Department of Economic and Community Development that offers grants and matching loans to Connecticut companies with 100 or fewer employees.
“Small businesses are the backbone of Connecticut’s economy, and putting in place the tools to increase their competitiveness is critical for economic growth,” Malloy said in a statement prior to his visit to Atlantic Canvas and Awning on Hilliard Street in Manchester.
Atlantic Canvas and Awning, which manufactures tarps and awnings for residential and commercial uses, was Malloy's first stop on the day; the governor also toured small businesses in Hartford, Meriden and Stamford. After getting a brief tour of the business, Malloy spoke with owners Nick Repay and Justin Laraia about how the grants helped Atlantic Canvas and Awning expand. The business, which now has a total of nine employees, received a loan of $50,000 and a matching grant of $10,000, which supported the creation of three new jobs and allowed the company to retain four. Atlantic Canvas and Awning was also able to invest in a new truck and several new sewing machines as a result of the grant and loan.
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"It lets us take on more work and also hire more people to run the sewing machines," said Laraia. "…It's allowed us to hire six people now over the last year and a half full-time."
Malloy said he would like to see the Connecticut General Assembly continue the Small Business Express Program and would like to see an additional $100 million allocated over the next biennial budget to continue and expand the program.
“Through programs like EXP and First Five, we are making it clear that we support business and industry, we will fight for every job in Connecticut, and we will be innovative in responding to the needs of business," Mallloy said. "This is why I’ve asked the legislature to allocate $100 million to continue the EXP program for an additional two years - this program works to strengthen our economy and create jobs.”