Explains incentives for small businesses

[Editor's Note: The following is an open letter to New Milford residents and businesses from Luigi Fulinllo, the town's economic development director].

Small businesses continue to be the backbone of vibrant local and state economies.

While this has long been acknowledged publicly by the state, there has traditionally been a major gap in the incentive opportunities available for large and medium-size businesses and those available to small businesses.

Fortunately, thanks to bi-partisan efforts during the past several years, there are more opportunities than ever for small businesses in Connecticut.

The changing landscape began to occur in 2010 with Governor Rell's signing of bi-partisan jobs legislation that resulted in the creation of a low-interest loan program and a job creation tax credit program specifically targeting small businesses.

Gov. Malloy furthered the state's financial commitment to small business by signing new bi-partisan jobs legislation in October 2011.

As a result, the Small Business Express Program was established which provides low-interest loans, job creation incentive loans and matching grants. The legislation also resulted in an increase in the value of job creation tax credits available to small businesses that are hiring new full-time employees.

As of March 21, 2013, the Small Business Express Program has provided $82 million to 622 businesses statewide.

The state's commitment to increasing access to capital and to providing incentives for small business is significant and will continue thanks to recent efforts by the legislature and the governor.

On March 8, Senate Bill 801: An Act Making Manufacturing Assistance Act Funds Available for the Small Business Express Program was signed into law. As a result, an additional $60 million was approved enabling small businesses to continue to access these programs.

Although these strides have been important, the state has also recognized entrepreneurs can benefit from more than just financial assistance.

In 2012, the launch of Connecticut's Innovation Ecosystem, a public-private partnership, created a support system for entrepreneurs statewide.

Connecticut's Innovation Ecosystem is aimed at assisting startups and small businesses with growth potential.

The focus is on companies in bioscience,information technology, energy and the environment, photonics and applied optics, advanced materials and manufacturing and engineering. A few areas where they provide assistance are idea validation, mentoring, prototyping and access to capital.

For small businesses in need of technical assistance, but that don't fall into those categories, there are opportunities for them as well. The Connecticut Small Business Development Center is a statewide program that provides technical assistance to startup and existing businesses.

The Small Business Development Center can assist with starting a business, government contracting, international trade, opportunities for minority, women and veteran entrepreneurs, in addition to a host of other business advisory services.

Recently, it was announced the University of Connecticut would be the new host for the Small Business Development Center. There will be a total of 11 service centers assisting businesses throughout the state.

I applaud the state's continued investment in small business and I strongly encourage it to continue.

Luigi Fulinello is the economic development director for New Milford and the president of the New Milford Economic Development Corp. For information, email lfulinello@newmilford.org or call 860-355-5001.