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Small Biz Woes: From the Front Lines of the Economy

State Sen. Len Fasano and State Rep. Dave Yaccarino listen to citizens’ concerns in North Haven about the high cost of doing business in the state and also the effect the economy has had in private lives.

If you want to get a first-hand account on how small businesses are being squeezed, listen to North Haven native Bruno Suraci, Jr., who heads Suraci Metal Finishing Corporation in New Haven. He says the high cost of utilities and following regulations has turned his company of 137 employees down to a workforce of 23. 

Suraci came stopped by a forum, hosted by state Sen. Len Fasano (R-34) and state Rep. Dave Yaccarino (R-87) at the  on Washington Avenue, with a businessman’s concerns on his mind.

He told the legislators on Friday that a number of his customers have left the state, and that, given the high cost of utilities and also the cost of compliance with regulations largely from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, layoffs were necessary.

He said that were he to move 89 miles to New Jersey, the difference in the cost of utilities alone would make a substantial difference in his company’s revenues.

“I’m a Connecticut native,” said Suraci, who, now living in Durham, acknowledged that he did not want to relocate his family to another state.

The gross receipts tax, which includes a percentage charged on the wholesale price of gasoline, also came under attack at the forum. 

Also known as the oil company tax, that percentage joins federal and state taxes that consumers pay at the pump—and businessmen like Suraci pay for diesel fuel.

Descent to Homelessness

 “We need to look at the efficiency of everything,” said Joan Hunt, a North Haven resident who observed after the session that she is still working—this, as a cataloger in Yale University’s Sterling Memorial Library—at the age of 75. 

She remarked that in North Haven recently hosted a group of homeless men, just as the had two months earlier. Abraham’s Tent provides shelter to up to 12 men who otherwise would need beds at the New Haven nonprofit community Columbus House. 

“Most of them had jobs,” observed Hunt, somewhat wide-eyed over the situation the men now face. 

Legislators Listen

Concerns about the economy and its consequences for both businesses and private lives also filtered throughout the remarks of the two legislators.

Before the meeting began, state Sen. Fasano conceded he has received telephone calls from constituents—one, a highly trained pharmacist--who have been out of work for years. He also acknowledged that there are persons in the state whose lives, eroded by the challenging economy, are hanging by a thread. 

Fasano said he thought the jobs bill that the General Assembly passed in the last session, which extended tax credits to manufacturers’ who hire select groups, should have applied to industries across the board.

He also acknowledged the difficulties that small businesses, which create the largest number of jobs in Connecticut’s economy, continue to have in obtaining credit.  He said he voted against last year's legislation that provided nearly $300 million in state funding to Jackson Laboratory, which plans to build a billion dollar laboratory at the UConn Health Center in Farmington. 

The laboratory expects to create roughly 300 direct jobs over the next 10 years. Yet, Fasano said, far more jobs would have been created had the state extended that sum to a number of small businesses.

“It takes time,” said state Rep. Yaccarino, who spoke to the residents about the investments the state needs to make in fields such as education and also alternative fuels—investments, he said, that will benefit the economy down the road.

North Haven's Outlook

First Selectman Michael J. Freda, who attended the forum, termed himself upbeat about the economic climate in the town of North Haven itself.  He noted that the town’s grand list had grown by $15 million, and he said that the town’s unemployment rate stood at 6.9 percent—a figure well below both the state and national averages.

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