HARTFORD — Connecticut companies with fewer than 100 employees are eligible for lines of credit and low-interest loans of up to $500,000 through the state Department of Economic & Community Development’s Small Business Assistance Revolving Loan Program. The business must be headquartered in Connecticut, up to date with state and local taxes, and have been in operation for at least a year. Both commercial and not-for-profit enterprises are eligible. Funds may be used for a variety of business-enhancing purposes, among them equipment purchase, site improvements and research and development. For more information phone 860-270-8215.


WETHERSFIELD — In December Connecticut saw 600 more nonfarm jobs and the unemployment rate dropped 0.2 points compared with revised figures for the previous month, according to the state Department of Labor’s Office of Research. These figures indicate that “Connecticut’s labor market has returned to a modest pace toward recovery,” said Andy Condon, director of the office, in its monthly labor market report. “Our declining unemployment rate is particularly good news.”


However, when predicting the 2012 economy, Condon notes industry caution. “[F]orecasts for job growth in 2012 remain cautious and uncertain with most analysts predicting levels much like what we saw this past year,” he said. While the national unemployment rate for December was 8.5 percent, Connecticut’s December unemployment rate was 8.2 percent. The state rate has continued to drop each month since last July, when it stood at 9.1 percent. Between December 2010 and December 2011, the number of nonfarm jobs in Connecticut increased by 9,000. That translates into 0.6-percent job growth over the year. The current level of employment is 1,627,800.



Sectors marking the biggest job-growth increases in December were trade, transportation and utilities, with 0.9 percent, or 2,500 jobs; leisure and hospitality with 0.6 percent, or 800 jobs; and education and health services with 0.2 percent, or 500 jobs. The manufacturing sector lost 1,500 jobs, a 0.9 percent drop that amounted to the biggest decline.

Largest cities show greatest distaff salary gains


The persistent gender gap in salaries, while mitigated from the “59 Cents” differential of the first feminist wave of the late 1960s and early ‘70s, persists.


That gap has narrowed. And in Connecticut cities, it has narrowed more than in other markets nationwide.


In a survey of “Best-Paying Cities For Women,” published in the January 20 issue of ForbesWoman magazine, three Connecticut labor markets make an appearance among the top 15 nationwide for compensation parity between the genders.


The data for the list was derived from the 2010 American Community Survey, which was taken by the U.S. Bureau of the Census.


Among 20 labor markets, the city with the highest average salary for female workers is San Jose, Calif. Connecticut’s largest city, Bridgeport, assumed the No. 4 spot on the list. State capitol Hartford came in at lucky seven, while New Haven placed No. 13 nationwide.


According to Susan McTiernan, a management professor at Quinnipiac University, who is quoted in the article, the information and the Connecticut cities that made the list, came as no surprise.


“Bridgeport is an interesting place: It has two hospitals and people have to be staffed of all different education levels,” says McTiernan. “There are cities throughout the country that require different amount of skills.”


Bridgeport was higher on the list than even larger cities such as Boston, which came in at No. 5, and New York, which appeared on the list at No. 6.


McTiernan, who has also spent the last eight years doing research on women, work and leadership, says that the reason for the different salaries of women in certain cities may be caused by the jobs and businesses in the area. According to a from McTierrnan in the ForbesWomen article, “Connecticut attracts the financial services.”

Before now Rich Meyers had never considered hiring an intern. The owner of Sterling Printing & Graphics in Milford says his business needs had been met without assistance from a student apprentice. That might change, however, given an increasingly competitive commercial environment.


“It’s not a bad idea,” says Meyers about establishing a student internship. “I might consider an intern with some skills having to do with businesses trying to [market] on the Internet,” an area he’d like to pursue but in which he has little knowledge. An intern with social media marketing skills would be of value to him, and the real-world experience would benefit the student, Meyers says.


“It’s a way to maybe foster growth on both sides.”  


But a New York court case could lead managers like Meyers to think twice before offering internships. The case involves two former unpaid interns who are suing Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc., for what they claim is deserved pay for duties performed during production of the Academy Award-winning film Black Swan. Their chores — even menial tasks they performed — benefited the company, and that’s not allowable for commercial enterprises, they argue. The case tests the U.S. Department of Labor’s guidelines for internship programs under the Fair Labor Standards Act, updated in 2010. According to the guidelines, an unpaid internship must benefit the intern, should be similar to training received in an educational setting, and must not immediately benefit the employer, among other criteria.


“It has to be for the benefit of the intern, not the employer,” emphasizes Eric Glatt, one of the two plaintiffs. Both are graduates of Wesleyan University; Glatt holds additional advanced degrees. “Our argument is, whether you want to call it menial or not, if the work is necessary for successful completion of the project” it should be paid, says Glatt, who currently lives in Brooklyn. He says businesses should not profit from unpaid labor and should halt the practice of what he claims is using interns as free substitutes to fill low-level employee positions. “We want to bring it to an end,” he says.

So, does that mean such businesses should not provide unpaid internships?


“Unpaid is okay, as long as it’s purely educational,” says Jill Ferrall, assistant dean for career development at Quinnipiac University’s School of Business. However, Ferrall prefers paid internships.


“I always encourage employers to provide some sort of pay, even if its minimum wage,” she says, adding, “This year I’ve seen a decrease in requests for unpaid interns. They still come in, but it’s not as heavy as in the past.”


Whether that has something to do with the federal internship guidelines is unclear. But Ferrall has seen ongoing patterns. She’s never seen unpaid internship openings for accounting or computer information systems majors, she says. More common are unpaid internships in advertising and marketing. This could simply be a matter of “supply and demand,” she notes.


Advertising and marketing is “a very sexy area,” Ferrall notes, “and the demand [for internships] is very high.”

Students are encouraged to take on at least one, and possibly two or three summer internships, Ferrall adds.

She believes internships are valuable to both the student and the employer.


“It’s a win-win,” she says, “a great ‘try before you buy’ opportunity. Over 12 weeks, it’s really like a 12-week interview” during which a company can teach an intern the corporate culture and see if the student is a hard worker and shows initiative. The student gains experience, insight and, perhaps, a job following graduation. Ferrall notes that for Quinnipiac’s accounting majors, for example, the rate of conversion — the proportion of students who end up working for a company at which they interned — is more than 70 percent.


Ultimate benefits for both parties aside, it’s probably better for commercial businesses to pay their interns, says Ferrall.

“Human nature is that if you’re getting paid, even if it’s minimum wage, you’ve got a little more drive,” she says, “and the student makes [the internship] much more of a commitment.”


And, possibly, less cause for a legal gripe.

STRATFORD — One of the functions of Food Automation Service Techniques’ newest product, Kitchen Brains, is to increase labor efficiency, according to company Vice President Christian Koether. In a press release Koether touted Kitchen Brains as a smart tool that takes much of the guesswork out of preparing food and noted that the product already has been installed in 350 Kentucky Fried Chicken stores in the UK. The device uses customized data to advise staff on needs such as cooking start times, maximum food-hold times, inventory upkeep and the status of various restaurant operations. It also allows for remote tracking, whereby a manager can monitor workflow while off-site.



NEW HAVEN — Contractors soon will be needed for renovation work at the city’s Tower East senior housing complex. The New Haven Jewish Federation Housing Corp., which oversees the downtown complex, has received a nearly $2.6 million federal grant to convert 14 existing residential units into assisted-living units, according to the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development. The funds were made available through HUD’s Assisted Living Conversion Program.  


ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Connecticut ranked sixth among states in highest compensation paid to government employees in 2010, according to information recently released by the Rochester, N.Y.-based Center for Governmental Research. The nonprofit reports that the gross average pay for Connecticut state workers was $51,186. That compares with $56,179 for the top-ranked New Jersey. Listed between the two were New York, California, Alaska and Maryland. North Dakota, averaging pay of $33,895 per state worker, was 50th. The figures are based on CGR’s analysis of U.S. Bureau of the Census information.