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Connecticut Unveils Initiatives to Strengthen State’s Small and Minority-Owned Businesses, Manufacturers

  • Governor Ned Lamont announces update to Connecticut’s small and minority-owned business program
  • Change aims to better align state and federal definitions of small business enterprises and open up federal procurement opportunities for Connecticut businesses
  • Lamont also announces the release of $8.3 million for initiatives to support Connecticut manufacturers

Summary by Dirk Langeveld

Connecticut has updated its small and minority-owned business program to better align state and federal definitions of small business enterprises, and has also approved more than $8 million in funds aimed at strengthening Connecticut’s manufacturing sector.

Governor Ned Lamont announced the changes to the small and minority-owned business program Thursday during a visit to Freeman Companies LLC, a land development, engineering design, and environmental services firm based in Hartford. The updates follow legislation, signed into law earlier this year, to modify the definition of a small business enterprise to better conform with federal guidelines.

The goal of this change is to avoid conflicting definitions at state and local levels. Lamont said it also increases opportunities for small and minority-owned businesses in Connecticut to competitively pursue federal procurement opportunities.

“Connecticut is a great place to do business, and we continue to take steps to make it easier for our small and minority owned businesses to work with the state, and grow and thrive here,” said Lamont. “Our hope is that every small step we take can help build opportunities for more residents and entrepreneurs. My message today is simple – join us and participate in this program. We know that the bigger the bench of experienced businesses we have to collaborate with, the more successful we can be in serving our residents.”

Josh Geballe, commissioner and chief operating officer at the Department of Administrative Services, said the update helps to eliminate barriers, confusion, and paperwork in the small and minority-owned business program. Currently, there are approximately 2,457 businesses certified in the program, including 1,367 qualified as minority-owned businesses.

Rohan A. Freeman, founder and president of Freeman Companies LLC, said participation in the small and minority-owned business program has been vital to the business’s success. He said the program has opened opportunities for business and project work while providing a range of technical support to help guide the company’s growth.

“As an active SMBE [Small and Minority Business Enterprise], we see our peers whose growth is limited only by their ability to complete paperwork and navigate the public process,” said Freeman. “The state’s initiative to streamline these essential processes offers these small and minority firms an achievable pathway to success.”

Participating businesses will need to register with the Federal System for Awards Management System at The State Small Business certification application will include a verification method to ensure the business has been registered in this system.

Manufacturing funding

Lamont announced separately that the Connecticut Manufacturing Innovation Fund Advisory Board has voted to release $8.3 million to support workforce and technology initiatives. The funding was approved through the Manufacturing Innovation Fund, which received $20 million in the two-year budget approved earlier this year.

“Connecticut continues to make smart investments in its economic future,” said Lamont. “We know the critical role manufacturing plays in our economy when it comes to jobs, exports, innovation, and productivity. These new programs demonstrate the comprehensive approach we are taking to ensure our manufacturing base is positions for success over the long-term.”

A total of $3.7 million will go toward new initiatives, including:

  • Grants or stipends to cover up to half the wages for summer engineering interns, who must be Connecticut residents; the initiative seeks to retain Connecticut graduates with engineering degrees to pursue full-time work at manufacturers in the state
  • Matching grants of up to 50 percent to assist manufacturers with assessments for Industry 4.0 digital upgrades and cybersecurity improvements
  • Hiring a third-party vendor to establish a two-year program to connect innovators with manufacturers who can help bring their products to market
  • An advertising campaign to increase awareness of and enrollment in the Connecticut’s advanced manufacturing training programs
  • A comprehensive website, to be developed and maintained by Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development and Department of Administrative Services, to address issues specific to the state’s manufacturers such as workforce needs, access to capital, marketing, environmental issues, and technical support
  • Regional career fairs to promote manufacturing job opportunities

Other funds will bolster existing programs, including $2.1 million for the Manufacturing Voucher Program, $1.5 million for the Incumbent Worker Training Program, and $1 million for the Apprenticeship Program.

Colin Cooper, Connecticut’s chief manufacturing officer, said that $57.4 million in Manufacturing Innovation Fund allocations made through the end of fiscal year 2020 have been matched with $99.5 million of private and third-party capital.

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