Twelve exhibitors promoted their businesses at tables and elected officials were prominent among those attending the 10th annual Monroe Means Business at The Waterview Thursday night, but a lower turnout seemed to reflect the nation's sputtering economy.
"It's down a little bit," said Lee Hossler, chairman of the Monroe Economic Development Commission, which sponsors the event. "I think it's because of the uncertainty with the election."
However, Hossler still believed it was a good turnout overall.
Monroe Means Business was also held on the same night when incumbent Joseph Biden and Paul Ryan faced off in the nationally televised Vice Presidential Debate.
Catherine Smith, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, was the featured speaker.
Among those attending Monroe Means Business were First Selectman Steve Vavrek, State Rep. DebraLee Hovey, Land Use Dir. Scott Schatzlein, Zoning Enforcement Officer Joseph Chapman and several members of the EDC, Planning & Zoning Commission and Town Council.
Some members of the business community included John Kimball, Bernie Sippin and Remo Tartaglia.
Every speaker focused on the economy.
Vavrek said, "Guess what? The economy isn't just bad in Monroe, it's across the state with all the taxes and regulations we have in Connecticut. The one good thing we have is the speaker here tonight."
The Monroe EDC and Chamber of Commerce have done a lot, but must continue to do even more, according to Vavrek.
The first selectman used three glasses of water to illustrate his point that people have to stay positive and do things better. The tallest glass was half full. Vavrek said there is networking as he poured water from a smaller glass into it. And Facebook and linked in, he added, pouring more water from another glass.
"There are things you can do to make a half filled glass overflowing, but we have to be positive," Vavrek said. "We don't have to make a mouse trap, we have to make it better."
Investing in Small Businesses
When Catherine Smith spoke, she told the audience about ways she and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy are trying to jump start business growth and job creation in Connecticut.
"We have a great state," Smith said. "The governor and I came back from a trip to China. Remarkably, Connecticut has a place in Chinese knowledge, because of our educational institutions. let's think about the things that are really working in this state and how to make them better."
Smith said it's critical to educate people to come out of school with the skills state companies are looking for. The three most vibrant sectors of Connecticut's economy is medical, insurance and advanced manufacturing and aerospace, according to Smith.
The state ranks fifth in the nation in the number of scientists and engineers, she said. Connecticut companies also do well in exports with strong relationships with Canada and northern Europe.
While the government itself cannot create jobs, Smith said it can promote a positive environment for economic growth.
She went on to speak briefly about a number of state programs. Among them were, First Five, assisting projects that create 200 jobs within two years; the Small Business Express, a short-term program with $100 million available to lend to small businesses at a time when banks are holding back; and Step Up, which subsidizes training for companies that decide not to hold off on hiring new employees.
Department of Economic and Community Development also offers technical assistance.
"The strategy is pretty simple," Smith said. "What's working? What's not working? What do we need to build upon and fill in the gaps."
The following are all of the businesses and organizations leasing a table at this year's Monroe Means Business:
- Newtown Savings Bank
- Connecticut Basement Systems
- Efficient Lighting & Maintenance
- Lexco Security Systems
- Wells Fargo
- Monroe Chamber of Commerce
- Main Street Family Chiropractic Center/Dr. Sharon Weicman
- Atherton & Associates
- Edward Jones Investing
- Kimball Group
- People's United Bank
- The Waterview