Local business leaders hear promising message

Things are looking up for the state in economic terms.

So said economist Nicholas Perna recently to a gathering of about 100 people at the New Milford Economic Development Corporation's "Spring Fling" at Candlewood Valley Country Club.

He reported Connecticut is among the leading New England states for economic growth, stating the state's economy grew by 1.6 percent during 2014 with 27,000 new jobs.

"The strength of the U.S. economy is pulling Connecticut along," Perna said. "The national economy grew by 2.3 percent last year.

"The gross domestic product grew by 2.5 percent," he added. "We should have another year or so of that kind of growth."

With some three million new jobs created nationally last year, he explained, consumer spending increased while wages did not. The increase in spending came from new workers having the ability to buy, he said.

Perna noted the country is not experiencing inflation as it pulls out of the what is generally termed the Great Recession.

That said, he believes the federal government wouldn't mind a bit of inflation.

If wages were to start to rise at a slow pace as U.S.-based corporations' European profits increase, he said, the economy "will take off."

Perna believes the European nations are also on the path of economic recovery, which would strengthen their exchange rate, in the process boosting U.S. corporations' profit margins.

"We don't have an increase in wages or high-capacity earnings in business yet like we did coming out of past recessions," he said.

Perna said he believes the state will come out of its fiscal funk, but needs to stop giving lucrative tax incentives to attract business to the state while raising taxes on other businesses and driving them out of the state.

In New Milford, the Economic Development Corporation is charged with infusing the town with business capital.

Speakers at the corporation's inaugural "Spring Fling" included state Business Development Director Barbara Fernandez and Fernando Rosa of the Hartford Economic Development Corporation, a financial institution offering micro-loans of $1,500 to $150,000.

Fernandez spoke of several loan-and-grant programs that can help area businesses expand and grow.

"The state has a Small Business Express that is funded with $100 million this year and $100 million for next year," she said. "Companies with 100 employees or less are eligible for grants and loans."

She urged business owners to apply.

Fernandez cited two matching-grant programs: Connecticut Manufacturing Innovation Improvement grant offers up to $50,000 to buy equipment and train employees and the Connecticut Manufacturers Innovation Fund Incumbent Numbers Program offers $100,000 annually for employee training.

For more information about the New Milford Economic Development Corporation, call 860-355-5001, email lfulinello@newmilford.org or visit www.newmilford.org.

stuz@newstimes.com; 203-731-3352