If you talk with John J. Daniels and his business partners--his wife Michele Daniels, his high school friend, David Verrillie, Jr., and his college friend James F. Cavadini-- you can tell right away they have one great business idea after another.
They have opened Grow Home Organics, an organic garden and outdoor kitchen supply store in Guilford. They have created and are selling a grill that can do everything from sear a steak to bake bread. By pooling their savings and retirement funds, they came up with start-up capital. They even have an enthusiastic landlord, Jeff Hocking, who gave them a good deal on their business location in Guilford.
What they didn't have is money to expand. And so when John Daniels, who lives in North Madison with his wife Michele and their five children, got an email recently about a new state program that provides grants to small businesses to help them expand and create new jobs, he knew it was just what he needed. He pursued the opportunity and in June of this year, receieved more than $80,000 that will allow him to create three new jobs, including one manufacturing job.
The Small Business Express Program, which started up in January has distributed more than $25 million in loans and grants to more than 180 Connecticut companies, helping to retain 1,400 jobs and helping to create more than 700 new job, according to the state Department of Economic and Community Development, which administers the program.
A wide variety of companies in the state have received Small Business Express loans, including those in the retail, manufacturing, construction, information technology and aerospace business.
TrueNorth Capital Partners, a financial advisory firm in Norwalk specializing in mergers and acquisitions and restructuring, is upgrading its office equipment and relocating to a new space with its grant. Relevance Partners, LLC of Stamford invested in an upgrade of their flagship software program. Angler Industries, Inc., a manufacturer of industrial lubricants and cleaners in Sterling expanded their laboratory, office space, and warehouse, enabling the company to increase production to meet growing sales. Those are just a few examples.
Candidates for the grants and loans are evaluated in several areas, including return on investment, number of jobs created, the cash flow of the business and its ability to support debt, how long it's been in business and whether the business owners have matching funds in place.
Sen. Ed Meyer, D-12th, who helped pass the legislation with bi-partisan support, stopped by the Grow Home Organics location in Guilford Wedneday to help celebrate the grant. He said Grow Home Organics is an ideal Connecticut business for a variety of reasons, including that they are creating manufacturing jobs, and that they are green jobs.
Daniels said he and the other company managers were confident that their outdoor cooking system product would do well. But they wanted to expand the manufacturing operation and they wanted to do that here in Connecticut. To do that, they needed a CNC plasma cutter and a showroom where customers could browse their products and give the company feedback about the outdoor cooking system.
With the help of the sate funds, the greenhouse and showroom facility are nearing completion, they have launched a website, and they have prototyped a second product, which is a fire place rotisserie. Daniels said he expects to hire between three and five people over the next year, in both production and sales.
One immediate hire he hopes to make is a skilled welder. He notes that the construction on his grill products are welded, not tacked together with nuts and bolts, and so hiring a skilled welder is essential.
That's exactly the kind of outcome the program is designed to encourage, said Adam Joseph, who works with Meyer. "Small business drive our economy. The idea is to make a direct investment so taht they can retain jobs, grow jobs, and grow their operations so we can get the economy going again," Joseph said.
Joseph said there are other programs available through the state to help small business, including the Step Up Program, which is designed to encourage hiring by providing grants of up to $12,500 over six months to companies hiring new employees. "The idea is that the state will help with the cost of hiring and training new employees," Joseph said. Yet another program rewards business that hired people who were previously unemployed with tax credits of up to $500 a month for three years, or, if the unemployed person is a veteran or disabled person, up to $900 a month.
"These are the kinds of programs that will eventually turn Connecticut around, " Joseph said.
Daniels agreed and said he and his business partners are thrilled to be able to expand their business now. "It made all the difference in the world," he said.