Connecticut's slow recovery from the economic recession is hampering the state's construction industry even as firm in other New England states and the nation begin to thrive.

From July to August this year, Connecticut ranked 49th out of 50 states in construction job creation, according to the monthly report from the Associated General Contractors of America.

As of September, Connecticut had 52,100 construction jobs, a loss of 1,100 jobs (2.1 percent) from September 2011, according to the AGC report dated October 30. The only area of the state that gained construction jobs was Fairfield County.

Connecticut's economy is hurting worse than other states because Wall Street investment hasn't played as big of a role in the state since the downturn started in 2007, Anirban Basu of the accounting firm Marcum told the Hartford Business Journal. Coupled with a reputation for having an unfriendly business environment, Connecticut has lagged behind states such as Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont in obtaining the private investment needed to stimulate construction.

"There are other New England states considered to be more business friendly, and that attracts more private investment," Basu said.

 Bank underwrote $14M in 7(a) loans in FY 2012


NEW HAVEN — First Niagara Financial Group has been recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Connecticut District Office as one of the recipients of the organization’s 2012 Eagle Award for Top Dollar 7(a) Lender in Connecticut.

The 7(a) loan program is the SBA’s primary lending program to help start-up and existing small businesses secure financing when they might not be eligible for business loans through traditional lending channels.

“First Niagara has built upon the success of its predecessor, NewAlliance, by working closely with the SBA to offer 7(a) loans to businesses throughout the state,” said SBA District Director Bernard Sweeney. “Small-business growth is vital to Connecticut’s economic recovery, and we’re pleased that First Niagara is playing a leading role in that recovery by offering this product to small business owners.”

In 2010, First Niagara’s predecessor, NewAlliance Bank, recorded $6 million in 7(a) loans to Connecticut small businesses. First Niagara continued to grow its SBA business following its acquisition of NewAlliance. As a result, First Niagara’s SBA loan total rose to $8,040,000 in 2011 and, in 2012, the bank saw dramatic growth to more than $14 million — an 83.5-percent increase over 12 months.

SBA lending in Connecticut totaled nearly $229 million during the federal government’s 2012 fiscal year ending September 30.

“The exponential growth of our SBA lending business is a strong indicator of the strength and resilience of small businesses in Connecticut, and across our footprint,” said First Niagara SBA Department Manager Chris Earle. “First Niagara is proud to be the top dollar lender for SBA 7(a) loans in Connecticut, and we look forward to continuing to provide small businesses in the region with products and services that meet their needs and allow them to thrive in the state.”

Locally, Harty Press, a family-owned, 100-year-old commercial printer and mailer in New Haven, secured SBA financing from First Niagara in May and moved all of its operational accounts over to the bank as well. “From early conversations through our closing, the loan process was completely transparent and every person and department we dealt with at First Niagara was responsive and professional,” said Harty Controller Bob Graham.

In addition, Trumbull dentist Jason Oberhand was able to acquire a dental practice with more than 4,000 patients and 11 staff as a result of SBA funding from First Niagara. The practice, Jason Oberhand ,DDS Family Dentistry, opened in July.

 ORANGE — Worth Avenue Capital, LLC has closed a $200,000 commercial loan for Porch & Patio, a retail distributor of patio furniture and other household products with stores in Orange and Brookfield. This latest round of financing is the third transaction that Worth Avenue has closed for Porch & Patio within the last two years.

The loan was funded by a Connecticut based community bank. In each instance, Worth Avenue says it was able to obtain a commercial loan for the client with improved terms and conditions than the previous transaction. Specifically it was able to obtain a conventional bank balance-sheet loan for Porch & Patio that was used to pay off a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan with another lender.

As part of this transaction, Porch & Patio was able to obtain additional working capital as well as reduce its cost of capital. In addition, Worth Avenue says it was able to close this transaction within just a few weeks from start to finish as opposed to an SBA loan closing which can typically take up to several months to close.

With offices in Guilford and Westport, Worth Avenue Capital specializes in arranging debt financing for small businesses as well as handling bank workouts for small businesses.

 GUILFORD — Worth Avenue Capital is expanding into Fairfield County. The commercial lender, which specializes in debt financing for small businesses and real estate investors, has opened a second office, at 191 Post Road West in Westport. According to company principal Michael M. Ciaburri, “Since many of our clients and commercial lending partners are located in Fairfield County, I decided that it made sense to have a physical presence in that area and the opening of our Westport office will allow us to be more accessible to our clients and partners and enable us to expand our footprint more rapidly."

 NORTH HAVEN — Connex Insurance Services, a division of Connex Credit Union, has acquired CPM Insurance Services. Connex Insurance Services was founded in 2010 to offer credit union members insurance products and services.

Based in Cheshire, CPM is a full-service, independent insurance agency providing personal and business insurance products. CPM’s founders Frank Pellegrino and Dave Qerim will continue as agency principals. All current CPM employees will continue and clients will continue to be served without interruptions to service, the company said.