With the motto, "New Milford -- We're open for business," Chad Yonker opened the October panel discussion of the Economic Development Corp.

Mr. Yonker is the corporation's vice chairman and owner/chairman of GoodWorks Insurance in New Milford.

"We recognize New Milford as a great location to do business," Mr. Yonker said.

He added that the EDC goal is to assist existing small-business owners, while promoting the town as a site for new business investment.

The Economic Development Corp. was established in the spring by the Town Council. Its 15 board members, many of the large stakeholders in New Milford's business community, serve in appointed positions.

The corporation is a nonprofit, not a government entity.

"You have made a significant investment in the town, and we want to help you grow your businesses," Mayor Pat Murphy told the 100 business people attending the Oct. 24 panel.

The EDC is part of a three-pronged effort by the town to foster economic strength in the community. As part of its strategy, it interacts with the town's 15-member Economic Development Commission.

The third "prong" in the system is a Development Service Team, which meets with business owners for informal discussion before resources are spent on land-use applications and building or expansion plans.

"We serve as a voice and liaison with the business community," said Nicholas Gazetos, ECD chairman and executive vice president of the Savings Bank of Danbury.

"If someone needs business help, we act as a sounding board," he said. "We are a source of information about financial opportunities for starting or expanding a business."

Also seated on the panel is Fernando Rosa, deputy director of HEDCO Inc., an alternate source of financing for small businesses.

"Each client is looked at on an individual basis," Mr. Rosa said. "If you are working with a bank or other financial institution, we may be able to step in and cover the balance of the financial exposure they're willing to take.

"Say you need $300,000 and the bank will cover $200,000," he said. "We may be able to cover that additional $100,000."

If a deal is too small for a financial institution, HEDCO may step in. Founded in 1975, HEDCO already works with three clients in New Milford, Mr. Rosa said.

To obtain information on small business growth, contact the Economic Development Corp. at 860-355-6081 or call Economic Development Supervisor Luigi Fulinello at 860-355-5001.