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Connecticut to Invest in Minority and Women-Led Businesses

The state is receiving $119 million from the U.S. Treasury’s State Small Business Credit Initiative and will invest in supporting women and minority entrepreneurs as well as businesses that focus on cleaner energy and climate resiliency.

(TNS) — Connecticut is receiving nearly $120 million under the U.S. Department of the Treasury's existing State Small Business Credit Initiative, which the state will use to support women and minority entrepreneurs as well as startups with business plans that address the environment.

Connecticut Innovations will use the money to launch two new venture funds — the " Connecticut Future Fund" which will support entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds, and a "ClimateTech" fund that will provide money to businesses that focus on cleaner energy, manufacturing and climate resiliency.

Dating back more than a decade, the State Small Business Credit Initiative got a massive infusion as part of the American Rescue Plan created by Congress to provide an economic boost for the ongoing recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Connecticut received the maximum award it had been allocated.

Speaking Monday afternoon during a press conference held online, Gov. Ned Lamont said it was an opportunity to help businesses grow.

"Near-term, the American Rescue Plan kept a lot of our businesses including small businesses, minority-owned businesses, going during an incredibly tough time," Lamont said Monday during an online press conference convened by the Treasury Department and the White House. "But now let's turn this into an opportunity to help some of these companies grow and expand."

"Talent is widely distributed — but opportunity is not," Lamont added. "Not every entrepreneur has to look like Zuckerberg or Gates. There's a lot of amazing ideas out there. ... This is going to allow us to pay special attention to under-served communities, minority entrepreneurs, who otherwise might not get that opportunity."

During the Monday press conference, Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo referenced a visit to Connecticut last year when he toured businesses in Hartford and Middletown.

"During the peak of the pandemic, minority-owned small businesses were hit the hardest," Adeyemo said Monday. "Capital is the key to any small business' growth."

Having received periodic infusions of taxpayer support over the years, Connecticut Innovations is under the umbrella of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, but DECD does not actively manage Connecticut Innovations operations and investments.

Connecticut Innovations has focused the majority of its investments in recent years on information technology and life sciences companies, though making targeted investments in clean-energy businesses. Last year, Darien-based Greenworks Lending was acquired by the Nuveen affiliate of TIAA, with Greenworks financing solar installations for commercial buildings and other clean-energy projects in more than two-dozen states.

Earlier this month, portfolio company Budderfly announced $500 million in funding for the Shelton firm's business taking over commercial utilities payments and implementing green upgrades to extract savings on energy bills.

Matt McCooe, CEO of Connecticut Innovations, compared the green-tech sector to life sciences in the amount of time many companies require to get a product to market, given the slow but accelerating pace of investment in climate mitigation.

"There's so much urgency around climate-tech — from a global-warming perspective, from a clean-water perspective, from an energy-storage perspective," McCooe told CTInsider Monday afternoon. "A lot of it is really hard to do."

Connecticut Innovations has also been increasing its emphasis on businesses led by women and minority entrepreneurs. Earlier this month, it approved a $2 million investment in AmplifyHer Ventures, a Greenwich fund whose founder Tricia Black was the seventh employee at Facebook leading sales. AmplifyHer is focusing its investments on startups that have women in their founding teams.

Under earlier State Small Business Credit Initiative awards, Connecticut Innovations has invested $14 million in 14 companies, according to spokesperson Lauren Carmody. Those companies have gone on to raise nearly $400 million in total investments.

(c)2022 the Connecticut Post (Bridgeport, Conn.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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