Dems Seek To Expand Access To Jobs Bill | Connecticut Public Radio

Dems Seek To Expand Access To Jobs Bill

Jan 27, 2012

Connecticut Senate Democrats say they want to tweak the jobs bill that passed in last fall’s special session, in order to make it more effective for businesses. WNPR’s Harriet Jones reports.

Senate leaders chose the shopfloor of a successful Connecticut manufacturing business to make this announcement, Adchem Manufacturing Technologies in Manchester. Senate President Don Williams.

“I don’t think we do the job we should to lift up the companies and the innovators and the creative CEOs right here in Connecticut who are doing their best to sail against the wind in this economic time, create jobs and move our economy forward.”

The provisions in last year’s jobs bill aimed at small business were offered to companies with 50 employees or fewer. That’s created almost a catch 22 for those companies who reach that mark. Michael Polo is President of Adchem says he currently has 48 workers and he wants to expand.

“We’re one of those companies that’s right on the bubble. We’ll be hiring through the end of the year possibly seven to ten. So in one fell swoop we could be out of the running for the programs that we’re talking about.

The legislators now want to expand access to the loans, grants and training incentives included in the bill. Senator Gary Le Beau is co chair of the commerce committee.

“One of the things we’re proposing here is to increase that definition from small from 50 to 100. And that’s going to allow 2,600 new companies to apply for this great program.”

The lawmakers say most of the $180 million that was earmarked for small business help last fall has not yet been put to work, so they don’t anticipate that the expansion would create new costs for the state. Senator Steve Cassano, whose district includes Manchester says they’ll be helping a sector which is already primed for expansion.

“Eleven to twelve percent growth among small manufacturing companies for the last three years in the state of Connecticut, and it’s going to get better. They cannot fill positions. There are literally hundreds of positions available and we don’t have the skilled people to fill those kinds of spots. And one of the things this legislation does is provides training and assistance to bring those people in and get to work.”

One of the other fixes proposed is to expand the Step-Up program which gives financial support for training and hiring new employees. Senator Beth Bye.

“This is one of our biggest challenges in Connecticut is making sure we have the workforce to meet the needs of our manufacturers. Because if we don’t, those jobs will go elsewhere. And we would hate it to be that we lose manufacturing jobs because of a workforce issue when Connecticut has such a great reputation for a high-quality workforce.”

The changes would aim to prevent discrimination by employers against the long term unemployed. They would also make incentive grants available to companies that employ veterans returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Senator Carlo Leone is co chair of the veterans committee.

“We’re going to have a huge influx of veterans coming back and they’re going to need some extra support when they’re coming back to re-tool and re-career and look for employment. The most important thing is – they fought for their country; they shouldn’t have to fight for their jobs.”

The legislators also say they want to create an active Connecticut Made marketing campaign to spur revenue for in-state businesses. And they’d like to add to the state’s new focus on the 11 billion dollar tourism industry with a program they’re calling Connecticut’s Treasures to promote the state’s destinations. Senate Democrats say if they can move bills to enact these changes many could take effect on or before July 1st this year.

For WNPR, I'm Harriet Jones.