Gumdrop Garners Grant
BRIDGEPORT — Gumdrop Swap has received a $12,500 grant as one of five winners of the Eileen Fisher 2012 Business Grant Program for Women Entrepreneurs. Through Gumdrop Swap, proprietor Gabby Fludd makes available new and gently used children’s and maternity consignment clothing that can be purchased with either cash or earned points known as “gumdrops.” More than 1,600 applicants in and outside the U.S. vied for the awards, given to wholly female-owned companies that demonstrate community commitment through social consciousness, sustainability, innovation and economic and environmental health. Fludd and the other award recipients will be recognized at a two-day Eileen Fisher conference in New York City this spring.
Downtown Chipotle To Open
NEW HAVEN — A Chipotle restaurant will open in New Haven in January, and the new downtown eatery is hiring. Between 25 and 30 employees are being sought, according to Chris Arnold, communications director for the Mexican-themed establishment. This is in keeping with other Chipotle restaurants throughout the country, he says. Chipotle specializes in burritos, tacos and other Mexican grill/prepared food. For information about available jobs in New Haven as well other Connecticut locations, visit jobs.chipotle.com.
Lee To Consult for NHPD
NEW HAVEN — Henry C. Lee is adding yet another title to his impressive resume. The New Haven Police Department announced that the internationally recognized forensic expert has been named the department’s lead forensic consultant. Lee has been an investigator with such high-profile cases as the O.J Simpson and Michael Skakel murder trials, JonBenet Ramsey’s death and Elizabeth Smart’s abduction. Lee is credited with solving more than 8,000 cases in 46 countries, according to NHPD. He co-created the University of New Haven’s Forensic Sciences program and heads the university’s Henry C. Lee Institute of Forensic Science, which trains students pursuing careers in crime investigation. Also named after Lee is UNH’s Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice. State positions Lee has held include Connecticut State Police chief emeritus (2000 to 2010) and commissioner of public safety (1998 to 2000).
PB Commits To Hire Vets
STAMFORD — Pitney Bowes has established a jobs pipeline especially for military veterans and their families. The Stamford-headquartered company has dedicated a portion of its website to helping former armed-services personnel and affiliates find work with the technology-solutions worldwide business. Pitney Bowes’ 29,000 employees around the globe include 200 recently hired through the 100,000 Jobs Mission initiative, through which dozens of prominent companies have pledged to collectively hire 100,000 veterans. More than 28,000 veterans and family members have been hired through the program since Sept. 30 of this year, according to administrators. For more information about jobs at Pitney Bowes, visit pb.com/careers. For general information, visit 100000jobsmission.com.
Sandy Workers Sought
HARTFORD — Approximately 120 temporary jobs in connection with Hurricane Sandy cleanup, repair and reconstruction needs are available to unemployed Connecticut residents. The positions are being funded by a federal grant provide to the state. The grant stipulates that the temporary positions be filled by people who became unemployed as a result of the hurricane or unemployed before the storm and do not currently receive unemployment benefits. “In addition to temporarily hiring those who have been dislocated or are unemployed, this federal grant will assist the state and our cities and towns in rebuilding in the wake of this devastating storm,” said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in a statement. For more information, visit ct.gov/dol and click on the Storm Sandy Temporary Employment Opportunities link.
Jobs Data Mixed
WETHERSFIELD — November saw less unemployment and more jobs than the previous month, the state Department of Labor reports. The unemployment rate fell two tenths of a percentage point, to 8.8 percent, and the number of nonfarm jobs increased by 300, according to preliminary estimates jointly assembled by the labor department and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The figures are “encouraging” in light of the crippling effects of Hurricane Sandy, said Andy Condon, director of the state DOL’s Office of Research. Condon voices concern, however, about a declining workforce. “[T]he continuing trend of civilian labor force decline driven primarily by previously working individuals’ causes concern that we are seeing a fundamental shift in the demographics of Connecticut’s workforce,” Condon states. “We will be watching carefully to see if this trend continues or is a temporary movement.” Sectors showing the greatest job gains were professional & business services (1,100), other services (800) and construction (700). Those with the biggest job losses were manufacturing (minus 1,200), financial activities (down 600) and information (minus 500).
Employers are reminded that while the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act (a/k/a Obamacare) will be adopted in full in 2014, parts of it become effective in 2013. Now is the time for business owners and managers to educate themselves about their duties and responsibilities so they can incorporate the new mandate, notes the Connecticut Business & Industry Association (CBIA), the state’s largest business group.
“Kind of a hodgepodge of different regulations goes into effect,” says CBIA Assistant Counsel Jennifer Herz, whose focus is health-care policy. It is confusing to a lot of folks, and that’s one of our concerns.”
Many smaller companies, which might not have the resources to devote to examining minute details of the new law, may be especially apprehensive, according to Herz.
“I think it [implementing new policy] is sometimes very overwhelming for small employers.”
But there are certain requirements, leading up to PPACA’s complete implementation next January 1, that employers should be conscientious about addressing in upcoming months, says Herz.
For example, by March 1 of this year employers must offer employees written information about the PPACA-instituted state health insurance exchange, eligibility for tax credits and employer contribution.
Also, businesses that file at least 250 W-2 forms must include on each employee form the value of group health plan sponsored by the employer, beginning with the 2012 tax year.
In addition, employers should take note that as of January 1, 2013, the maximum amount that can be held in a Flexible Spending Account is $2,500 (the amount will be adjusted for inflation in upcoming years).
CBIA is reaching out to help companies understand the new policy by offering webinars, workshops and other assistance, including a private discussion with company managers. She encourages businesses to take advantage of CBIA as an information resource.
“I would certainly be happy to talk to groups,” says Herz, who has an insider’s view of the inner workings of government and policy formation and implementation. Although she was in private practice before joining the CBIA staff, her professional experience prior to that includes clerkships with the General Assembly and with the state Elections Enforcement Commission.
“CBIA certainly is here to help anybody,” Herz says. “We really want to be able to help as many businesses as possible.”
BRIDGEPORT — A regional program that places the long-term unemployed into stable work situations has been so successful it will expand nationally. Beginning in January, the Platform to Employment (P2E) program will launch in Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas and San Diego, the first of a total of ten sites at which P2E will be replicated. P2E serves unemployed workers who have been without a job for at least six months. Emphasis is placed on résumé writing, interview preparedness, self-marketing and other areas, and behavioral health services and financial counseling are also available. P2E is a collaborative effort of the WorkPlace, AARP Foundation, Citi Community Development (CCD) and Walmart Foundation. The latter provides support for services geared especially toward veterans returning to the civilian workforce. CCD focuses its resources on underserved and low-income communities, and AARP advocates for workers age 50 and over.
NEW HAVEN — A missed opportunity turned into a business bonanza for Alex Koenisberg, whose team won first place in the Startup Weekend New Haven competition last month.
“I wanted to go to a Warrior Dash,” recounts Koenisberg, referring to an obstacle race that has attracted fans and participants at sites throughout the country. Koenisberg, who lives in Coventry and works in Hartford, wanted to know when an online discount for a WD event in his area would be offered.
“I kept checking and checking,” he says. He ended up missing it. That’s when the light bulb went on.
“I realized there was no one offering an alert” for similar special discounts, says Koenisberg. He saw an entrepreneurial opportunity that led to the creation of SnagIt Deals, which alerts users daily to deals in their region.
The idea — which came to fruition over a flurried weekend of planning, projecting and presenting a variety of business concepts — was the one judges considered the best.
“I’m enthralled by it — it was a rush,” said Koenisberg shortly after the win was announced at Gateway Community College. An event coordinator for the MetroHartford Alliance’s HYPE Initiative, Koenisberg has “always been fascinated by entrepreneurship” but didn’t think he’d embark on his own business venture quite so soon. Startup Weekend was an unexpected catalyst for Koenisberg and teammates Marina Batt and Nick Bereza.
“Startup Weekend is a great avenue,” Koenisberg says. “It really pushes you into taking that next step.”
The second place winner was A Good First Step, which provides access to those in need of legal information and services. Taking third-place honors was Musicians Vault, which facilitates virtual collaborations among musicians. Among the prizes were free legal and auditing services.
This is the second year for Startup Weekend New Haven, the local arm of a global effort that seeks to support and develop entrepreneurship. The nonprofit Startup Weekend organization is headquartered in Seattle.
“It’s a great opportunity to go forward,” notes Batt.
That holds even for those who don’t win.
“We were looking for progressive people. We wanted to [have] a better chance of finding the technical people we needed,” said Michael Abernathy about the reason he came all the way from St. Louis to participate in New Haven’s Startup Weekend. Even though his team and their product — a system Abernathy developed to detect fraudulent checks at the time of deposit — didn’t win first, second or third place, Abernathy said the event was worth it.
Teammate Hasan Ansari, a first-year MBA student at Yale, agreed.
“This entire weekend was not about winning,” Ansari said before the judges’ decisions were announced. “It was about becoming friends and working together. We believe this is a model that can work. If we don’t win, we can refine it more. It doesn’t die here.”
NEW HAVEN — Interested in pursuing a green career path? Then you might be interested in the Green Professional Building Skills Training program. Presented by partners Energize Connecticut, United Illuminating and Connecticut Light & Power, instruction is based on Connecticut Green Building Council guidelines. The program is designed to increase the number of green jobs in the state and provide building professionals with basic knowledge about green practices. To learn more visit ctgbc.org/events.
HAMDEN — If it seems to many Connecticut employees as if they’re shouldering more of the burden for health care costs, that’s because they are, according to a Quinnipiac University professor who cites a nationwide survey. And although the 3.3-percent rise in those costs for Nutmeg State workers is below the 4.1-percent national average, the impact is still sobering, says Angela Mattie, associate professor of management and chair of health-care management and organizational leadership at Quinnipiac’s School of Business. “Health-care costs in general continue to rise,” she observes. “This data indicates that more health-care costs are being shifted to the employee. We need to strive for better value in our health care system, which includes lower costs and better quality, before we can raise the flag or hang the report card on the refrigerator door.” For more information about the data in the survey, titled Mercer’s 20012 National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans, visit mercer.com/press-releases/1491670.
WETHERSFIELD — Workers who became unemployed because of Hurricane Sandy might be eligible for Disaster Unemployment Assistance. The program is available for those hardest hit by the hurricane including, in Connecticut, residents of Fairfield, Midddlesex, New Haven and New London counties, as well as the Mashantucket Pequot Indian Reservation. Benefit payments range from a minimum of $167 to a maximum of $648. To qualify for assistance, a person must be unemployed as a “direct result” of the hurricane, and he/she must not be eligible for any other unemployment insurance from the state. For more information, call the state’s Department of Labor at 860-263-6000.