State leaders stopped in at , a North End metal rack manufacturing company, Wednesday to highlight important new legislation helping small businesses expand and hire more workers.
, (D-Wethersfield), (D-Middletown) and Labor Department Commissioner Glenn Marshall joined Rina Bakalar, executive director of the Office of Workforce Competitiveness; Royal Display owner Rick Wright; and Jeff Pugliese, director of government affairs for the ; at the Main Street plant.
Since 1943, it has manufactured design, wire and sheet metal forming, and does welding, assembly and powder-coat finishing — all on-site.
Around the conference room sat remnants of nearly 70 years of popular culture, holding long discontinued Bigelow Teas, saw blades, bias tape, guitar decals — even KISS motorcycle tank protectors.
The plant owner spoke about his recent Step Up grant which paid for a new employee's training. "His addition has already helped increase business," said Wright, who's owned Royal Display for 15 years.
Wright conveyed his pleasure with the Subsidized Training & Employment Program, that provides subsidies and grants to help businesses hire more people.
"What’s great about it is, it hits the target right at the ground floor, it doesn’t go through a level of bureaucracy," Wright said. "It happens very quickly. I had about two weeks and I had the contract I needed to do this. It allowed me to hire a person who I couldn’t have hired without the support at this stage in the business."
So far, 73 new jobs at 50 companies across Connecticut have been created, according to Marshall.
"We feel it will be the most important program that came out of the special jobs session," Marshall said, "because there was an emphasis of taking care of the big businesses. You heard of First Five. (Gov. Malloy's plan that offered incentives to the first five companies to create 200 or more jobs in Connecticut) When you look at it, 90 percent of all registered businesses in Connecticut have 25 or less employees."
Two hiring incentives are offered, a scaled six-month wage subsidy and small manufacturing training grant that provides up to $12,500 over six months.
Step Up will provide $20 million to help state businesses hire more employees such as customer service representatives, machine operators, carpenters, tool grinders and process engineers who make between $10 and $28.85 per hour.
Legislators will also advocate for passage of Senate Bill 1, which includes legislation that would expand Step Up and the popular Small Business Express Program.
"We have pending legislation at the Capitol to make this program better," Doyle said. "The focus is, we want to increase the eligible companies. Right now, it’s 50 employees or less, we are going to hopefully get the Senate bill passed, raising it to businesses with 100 employees or under, so that’s a new definition of small business."
Marshall said as he toured small businesses across the state, "we ran into many, many businesses that were right on the cusp … a lot of the companies that we ran into that had in excess of 50 were looking to grow."
The bill would also encourage business owners to hire post-9/11 combat veterans returning from service overseas.
"We have double the state average for unemployment for returning veterans and we’re going to have 6,000 additional veterans returning in the next six months," Marshall said. "They fought to protect our freedoms, now we have to step up and take care of them."