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Author: Christine Schilke

State Announces $150m Program to Assist Small Businesses

State Announces New $150m Program to Help Small Businesses

Public-Private Partnership Will Support Organizations in Historically Underserved Communities

Governor Ned Lamont announced the launch of the Connecticut Small Business Boost Fund, a public-private partnership that provides low-interest loans to small businesses and nonprofits in Connecticut. Businesses can now apply for loans ranging from $5,000 to $500,000.

The program is aimed at helping small businesses and nonprofits, particularly those in low-income and historically underserved communities, with access to flexible working capital. The loans have a fixed, 4.5% interest rate and are available to eligible small businesses and nonprofits with operations in Connecticut that have 100 or fewer full-time employees and annual revenues of less than $8 million.

The state is making a foundational investment of $75 million into this public-private partnership,  with the other $75 million coming from private banks, including CMSC Corporate Investor M&T Bank.  The goal is for the fund to become self-sustaining as more private funds are invested. 

Small businesses and nonprofits can apply online at CTSmallBusinessBoostFund.org, and if they qualify, they will be matched with a lender. Once matched, the participating lender will assist the business owner throughout the application process. This lending model has previously found success in programs based in California, New York, and Washington state.

The fund works with and through local community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and lenders that have decades of experience serving historically under-resourced and underbanked communities. The following CDFIs are participating in the program, including CMSC Corporate Investor Capital for Change:

  • Ascendus
  • Capital for Change
  • HEDCO
  • NDC Community Impact Loan Fund
  • Pursuit
  • Southeastern CT Enterprise Region (SeCTer)

It is administered by the National Development Council (NDC) with funding arranged by Calvert Impact Capital. In addition to funding from the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD), initial funding has been provided by Citizens Bank, M&T Bank, and First Republic Bank.

“We consider this program to be a one-stop shop for small-business owners,” DECD Commissioner David Lehman said. “What separates the Connecticut Small Business Boost Fund from other loan programs is that it offers support and guidance services, in addition to the financial assistance, that helps put recipients on the path to success.”

“At M&T we recognize that small businesses are the backbone of our local economies, especially in underserved and diverse communities,” Michael Weinstock, M&T Bank regional president for Hartford, said. “That’s why we’re proud to be joining the Connecticut Small Business Boost Fund to support small businesses and nonprofits that too often lack access to affordable, flexible credit. Our focus as a community bank has always been on providing resources that financially empower our customers. This partnership is another important action we are taking to further that mission.”

For more information and to apply, visit CTSmallBusinessBoostFund.org.

About Connecticut Main Street Center

CMSC is the expert resource for developing and sustaining vibrant downtowns that fuel our state’s prosperity. Our mission is to assess, educate, convene, and advocate to develop and grow our traditional downtowns, village centers, and urban mixed-use neighborhoods. We provide education and training, resources and technical assistance, and function as the statewide champion for downtowns and Main Streets of all sizes.

CMSC is supported by its Founding Partners, Eversource Energy and the Department of Economic & Community Development (DECD). CMSC is also supported by its Growth Partners, UIL Holdings and the State Historic Preservation Office. More information is available at www.ctmainstreet.org

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CMSC’s Carl Rosa Receives State Citation for Years of Service

CMSC’s Carl Rosa Receives State Citation for Years of Service

CMSC’s Field Services Director, Carl Rosa, recently received a State of Connecticut citation recognizing his years of service with Main Street Waterbury (a CMSC member community), where he served as CEO for 17 years.

Known as “Mr. Main Street” in the Waterbury community, the citation recognizes Carl for bringing the Brass City Brew and Que Fest to the downtown and improving the business environment for downtown merchants. The award also notes his, “Waterbury spirit was very evident in his work. His wisdom and experience from Main Street Waterbury will surely be a huge benefit to Connecticut Main Street Center.” 

Carl was presented the award by Rep. Ronald A. Napoli, Jr., 73rd district, Sen. Joan Hartley, 15th district, and Rep. Geraldo C. Reyes, Jr., 75th district during a recent event at Signature’s Restaurant in downtown Waterbury on May 25th.


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Making the Most Out of Your Street Lights

Making the Most out of Your Street Lights

by Penn Globe

Downtown streetlights have historically had a singular purpose; light our streets and make residents feel safe.

But what if lights could deliver more than lighting? Today’s forward thinking planners and managers believe they can and should. Streetlight poles can provide both a signature aesthetic and a growing list of functional deliverables.

When considering poles and street lights for a downtown project, the design and decision making team should dive deep into the potential needs and wants of their community. Aesthetics is typically always at the top of the concern list and establishing a municipal signature standard is paramount. Perhaps a town is considered a historic location and wants retain an old world feel. Other towns may be creating an ultra-contemporary center and want lighting that reflects that vision.

For some projects, something as simple as the aesthetic addition of an unusual color or adding small decorative components may be all a streetscape needs to give that unique element. One must also consider the appearance, the signature, and the statement that a downtown center wishes to make. By following the old adage of “keep things simple”, cities and towns may have a way to use their street lighting as the town’s statement piece and signature style – and one that does not come with a significant increase in cost.

The University of Connecticut is a perfect example that showcases the impact of both a custom finial and dual banner arms to add both identification and character to the campus landscape. It is often over-looked how transformative and impactful something a small as changing a finial can be. Municipal street lighting invites thinking beyond one-size-fits-all options.

Given that style and function matter in equal measure, municipal designers would do well to challenge themselves by avoiding standard selections out of a product catalog. Street lighting is something that invites creativity, including but not limited to, overall style, color, or decor and functional accessories.

Hanging flower pot brackets, way-finding signage, flag banner brackets are a few functional and simple options that bring character and add an element of attractiveness to any streetscape. Banner brackets create a sense of community and are a lively colorful visual addition. Electrical outlets located discreetly at the top of posts make holiday displays a simple installation and provide a clean appearance.

Function jumps to an entirely new level when municipalities begin the journey to create unique placemaking locations for city residents. Placemaking is about community, a warm feeling and designing a destination. Unusual, yet functional, streetlight options are a natural fit in this space. A designer can add discreet speakers for broadcasting music by local musicians. An electrical outlet can also be installed at the bottom of the post so street vendors have easy access to power. A sense of community can also be an important part of building a successful downtown space. Many towns struggle with fundraising for their downtown improvement or revitalization project. One common fundraising tactic is selling dedication bricks that become a statement and a reminder of the community members that come together in the name of beautification and community. The exact same fundraising method can be done with street lights, except instead of bricks, the poles can be donned with dedication plaques. 

In recent years, the conversations have been building around developing lighting installations to include SMART technologies. By utilizing the existing real estate of light fixtures and poles, these types of technologies have aided cities both large and small in regard to infrastructure, transportation, safety, and even economic development. Today, it is common to see cameras incorporated into local street lights. Depending on the class and style, these cameras are able to monitor and collect a wide array of information including, but not limited to, facial recognition information, car and pedestrian counters, and even dangerous object detection. WiFi is more often than not required for lighting projects that include video surveillance, but that brings us to another technology that is embedded within streetlights and poles these days. WiFi access is becoming increasingly popular in public spaces, so why wouldn’t we expect to see it coming to more downtown areas?

This is a valuable and requested resource by many residents of cities, regardless of size, and is also a benefit to local businesses who can utilize that access for advertising and increasing foot traffic at brick-and-mortar stores. Yes, many of these SMART technologies may be considered “too much” for a small town but there are other technologies and solutions that do not break the bank and still provide a range of possibilities.

It may not be an initial thought most would have, but the incorporation of speakers to a street light allows for both communication and community. Take the city of Waterbury, Connecticut for instance and their inclusion of speakers to their new light fixtures and poles. The city now has an alternative way that local businesses are able advertise in between ambient music being streamed daily along a downtown street. It also serves as an alert system for the area. Speakers are multi-purpose but above all assist in creating the type of environment that people really want to be in. While these advancements open up a world of possibilities and invaluable information to city officials, not all of these types of add-ons are always initially financially feasible. Municipalities would be advised to request “future-proofing” so that if, and when, funds are available, the streetlight can become SMART without costly fixture removal and reinstallation.

The possibilities are all there and can almost be considered endless when it comes to designing the street lighting element of a placemaking project. The key to it is having a creative and malleable team of engineers, designers, and decision makers who value the importance of creating the type of downtown spaces where residents and visitors alike truly want to be and want to keep coming back.


About the Author

Since 1877, Penn Globe has been America’s premier outdoor lighting company. Today, we enjoy working with the best customers, our cities, towns, colleges and universities each of whom entrust Penn Globe with their vision. Penn Globe is dedicated to honoring our history while focusing on future lighting innovations. Our talented and progressive team is passionate about authentic outdoor lighting individually designed for each customer, all with energy saving and sustainable features, manufactured to exacting customer specifications.

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Press Release – CT Main Street Center Welcomes Michelle McCabe as New Executive Director

CT Main Street Center Welcomes Michelle McCabe as New Executive Director

Press Release – July 5, 2022

Media Contact: 
Christine Schilke
Communications & Strategy Director
860-280-2356
christine@ctmainstreet.org 

(Hartford, CT)Connecticut Main Street Center (CMSC) is excited to introduce Michelle McCabe as its new Executive Director, effective July 5th.  Ms. McCabe takes over from Kimberley Parsons-Whitaker, who has served as CMSC’s Interim CEO for the last year after Patrick McMahon’s departure in late July 2021.

Ms. McCabe brings several years of non-profit management experience to CMSC, coming from HomeBridge Ventures, a non-profit focused on holistic workforce development and re-entry programming for formerly incarcerated individuals, where she has served as Interim Executive Director since last October. Prior to that, Ms. McCabe spent seven years as Director of the FEED Center with The Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport. In the course of this work, she built multiple programs from the ground up, leading strategic planning and fundraising efforts, and guiding boards and staff through organizational change. Her experience also extends to successful public/private collaborations, community engagement, and policy advocacy.

Ms. McCabe is expected to lead CMSC through a time of growth, helming a recently doubled staff of six. Her experience in program development and strategic planning will be especially useful as CMSC continues to expand its educational and technical assistance programming, member assistance offerings, and looks to take a larger role in championing statewide policies that benefit Connecticut’s downtowns and Main Streets.

As a resident of Fairfield (a CMSC Main Street community), Ms. McCabe has an appreciation for the many benefits a vibrant downtown offers, as well as CMSC’s role in building local capacity for successfully managing a downtown. “I love how a great downtown invites you in with a charming main street, restaurants, shops and entertainment venues. I can’t wait to begin working with CMSC’s staff and Board to replicate and grow this kind of magic, and to help people better understand the powerful economic and social impacts that happen as a result of well-managed downtowns, both for the community individually and the state collectively,” said Ms. McCabe.

CMSC’s Board and staff are equally enthusiastic for her to begin. Ms. McCabe was selected after an extensive search led by CMSC’s Board of Directors. “We’re very much looking forward to welcoming Michelle into the fold and working with her to bring our long-term goals to fruition,” said Ryan Bingham, CMSC’s incoming Chair and Senior Director of Government Affairs/Lobbyist at Sullivan & LeShane, Inc. “Our board and staff were committed to finding the right person to lead CMSC and we’re confident we’ve done just that.”

“The staff and Board have spent the last year putting together an excellent team of professionals to help our downtowns,” said Ms. Parsons-Whitaker, CMSC’s Interim CEO. “Finding Michelle was the last piece of the puzzle, and we’re enthusiastic about seeing all that we can accomplish with a full team and a clear direction.”

CMSC will be holding a series of regional events in the summer and early fall to introduce Ms. McCabe and the rest of the CMSC staff, including the three staff who recently joined in December and February.  

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About Connecticut Main Street Center

CMSC is the expert resource for developing and sustaining vibrant downtowns that fuel our state’s prosperity. Our mission is to assess, educate, convene, and advocate to develop and grow our traditional downtowns, village centers, and urban mixed-use neighborhoods. We provide education and training, resources and technical assistance, and function as the statewide champion for downtowns and Main Streets of all sizes.CMSC is supported by its Founding Sponsors, the Department of Economic & Community Development (DECD) and Eversource Energy. CMSC is also supported by its Growth Sponsors, UIL Holdings and the State Historic Preservation Office. More information is available at www.ctmainstreet.org

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CMSC Honors Outgoing Board Members, Welcomes New

CMSC Honors Outgoing Board Members, Welcomes New

Susan Decina & Matt Kaufman Join CMSC Board; Ryan Bingham Takes Over as Chair

CMSC recognized four Board members for their years of service during our Annual Meeting in June.  Incoming Chair Ryan Bingham also recognized outgoing Chair Mike Andreana for his years at the helm, leading the organization through a time of transition and growth.

The Board members recognized for their service are:

Shelly Saczynski 
  • Shelly (pictured above) was first elected to the CMSC board in 2007 and served three terms. She took a year off, then came back! She served as Chair of the Board from 2009 to 2013 and Chair of the Governance Committee from 2019 to 2021. Shelly’s many contributions to CMSC can be summed up in comments from two long-time leaders of the organization:
    • CMSC’s founding CEO, John Simone, said: “I believe Shelly stands out as having provided us with the most Wisdom, Wealth and Work. She always wanted to know what our most important priorities were and how she and the board could best help in addressing them.  She was committed equally to the well-being of her fellow board members and our staff.”
    • In the words of former CMSC Board member Kim Healey, “Shelly is thorough, inquisitive, rational, disciplined, dedicated, and ALWAYS shows up. She is the “go-to” person for non-profits when they need confidential, clear eyed advice.”
    • We agree, CT Main Street Center is a better organization because of Shelly!
Randal Davis
  • Randal served on the Board for five years, from 2017 to 2022.
  • He was elected to the CMSC Board when he was Special Advisor to former CT DOT Commissioner James Redeker. In this capacity, Randal was an important liaison between a changing DOT and our Main Street Communities – especially as Complete Streets and Transit Oriented Development became priority areas on Main Street.
  • Randal continues to serve the people of Connecticut, and is currently the Deputy Director of Development Services for the City of Hartford.
  • He also serves as the Vice Chair of the Board for Partnership for Strong Communities
  • Over the years, he has consistently been a voice of calm reason, asking the important questions, and providing CMSC with wise guidance.
Diana Deng 
  • Diana served on the Board from 2016 to 2022, and as our Board Secretary from 2017 to 2022.
  • She was recently promoted to Assistant Director of Real Estate Development at CIL, whose vision is “that all people will have access to quality housing that enhances independence in neighborhoods of their choice”
  • She also formerly served as Policy & Communications Analyst for Partnership for Strong Communities.
  • In addition to her Board roles, Diana supported CMSC by championing the necessity of quality housing choices in vibrant communities, an important priority area for CMSC.
Toni Berlandy
  • Toni served on the Board from 2016 to 2022.
  • As a Community Relations Specialist for Eversource Energy, Toni served as an effective liaison between CMSC and Eversource and the Eversource Foundation.
  • She is responsible for developing and maintaining a relationship with thirteen municipalities in Northern Central Connecticut
  • Toni has been an effective champion of CMSC’s mission and work, conveying our impact to Eversource leadership. This was critical in securing our historic funding support from the corporation.
Michael Andreana
  • Mike served as Chair of the CMSC Board of Directors from 2018 to 2022.
  • He has been invaluable to our organization, having led us through what was perhaps the most challenging – and rewarding – time in our history as we faced the Covid pandemic and its ripple effects.
  • Mike is always kind, thoughtful, and analytic. He’s a great listener, and always acts in the best interest of the organization.
  • In his capacity as an attorney, Mike was the principal drafter of Connecticut’s 2015 new Tax Increment Financing statute and has assisted in the creation of more than a half dozen TIF districts in Connecticut.

Two New Members Join CMSC Board

In addition to recognizing our outgoing Board members, we also welcomed two new members: Susan Decina from the CT Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) and Matthew Kaufman from Hartford Healthcare

Susan Decina
Economic & Community Development Specialist, State of CT DECD

Susan has extensive project management experience with DECD programs including the Small Business Express Program, Urban Act, and the Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP). She also has significant experience working with partners in the area of Small Programs, including the CT Small Business Development Center, Connecticut Main Street Center, Middlesex County Revitalization Commission, and Business Industry Foundation of Middlesex County, Inc. Formerly, she worked with the Office of Brownfield Remediation & Development and was the Director of Planning for the Town of Portland. She also served as Assistant Planning Director for the City of Danbury.

Matthew Kaufman
Regional VP of Operations, Hartford HealthCare – Eastern Region

Matt is responsible for hospital operations at Backus Hospital, Windham Hospital and the Plainfield Emergency Department.  He was the Regional Incident Commander during the Covid-19 Pandemic, responsible for developing regional testing and vaccination centers including the mega vaccination site at Foxwoods Casino. He also facilitated the annual regional capital planning process. He was formerly the Director of Service Line Development and Director of Clinical Integration at Piedmont Hospital, Atlanta GA. 


About Connecticut Main Street Center

CMSC is the expert resource for developing and sustaining vibrant downtowns that fuel our state’s prosperity. Our mission is to assess, educate, convene, and advocate to develop and grow our traditional downtowns, village centers, and urban mixed-use neighborhoods. We provide education and training, resources and technical assistance, and function as the statewide champion for downtowns and Main Streets of all sizes.

CMSC is supported by its Founding Partners, Eversource Energy and the Department of Economic & Community Development (DECD). CMSC is also supported by its Growth Partners, UIL Holdings and the State Historic Preservation Office. More information is available at www.ctmainstreet.org

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P.O. Box 270, Hartford, CT 06141 | 860.280.2337