WETHERSFIELD – A February bounce in workforce activity seemed to point to the weather – as opposed to the economy – as the culprit for the prior month’s slump, according to the latest data from the Department of Labor’s Office of Research. Following a January decline, Connecticut added a total of 800 non-farm jobs in February. In addition, the unemployment rate dropped to seven percent, down 0.2 percent from the previous month. “February’s job report seemed to confirm that weather was partly responsible for January’s sharp decline as we saw recovery in several of the industries that stumbled,” explained Andy Condon, director of the Office of Research, in a release. “The continued decline in Connecticut’s unemployment rate driven by growing household employment signals that we continue on the path of job recovery.” The gain puts the state at 1,653,400 nonfarm jobs as of February. That includes an addition of 10,300 jobs since February 2013. While the monthly net job gain was good news for Condon, there was a clear public-/private-sector distinction. The private sector increased by 2,700 positions, while the government supersector declined by 1,900 jobs.

 STAMFORD — Ladies Who Launch of Southwest Connecticut will present a talk by Linda McMahon on successful entrepreneurship from 6 to 8 p.m. March 20 at Safavieh, 230 Atlantic Street. McMahon, of WWE fame, will discuss the highs and lows of her entrepreneurial journey in the professional wrestling arena. She is also a two-time former U.S. Senate candidate. In association with Ladies Who Launch, McMahon has agreed to fund $4,000 in scholarship money for female entrepreneurs. For more information, visit ladieswholaunch.com.

 CHESHIRE — The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety & Health Administration has cited Artbeats Inc. for “repeat and serious” violations of workplace safety standards at its Cheshire facility. The company, which manufactures reproductions of prints and paintings, faces $56,430 in proposed fines following an inspection by OSHA's Bridgeport area office begun in December in response to a worker complaint.

Inspectors found several hazards similar to those cited in June 2010 at the company's Waterbury facility. These hazards include failing to provide a program to ensure workers are trained to power down and lockout industrial saws prior to conducting maintenance; provide a chemical hazard communication program and training on the risks and safeguards associated with chemicals, such as paints and gels; and prevent usage of unapproved electrical equipment in areas that generate and accumulate combustible wood dust. The conditions resulted in the issuance of eight repeat citations, with $53,460 in proposed fines.

Artbeats Inc. has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet informally with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission.

 HAMDEN — In an effort to stay ahead of the curve as it trains students to enter the job market, Quinnipiac University will introduce a brand new area of study in business analysis beginning this autumn. The 33-credit master of science in business analytics program will be offered online only. It will consist of seven core courses and four electives.

The new addition is a “unique program,” according to Richard McCarthy, professor of computer information systems at Quinnipiac. “It combines statistics, technology, marketing and financial analysis into one unified approach. The program fills a need that is missing in that there are so many jobs that have become dependent on information analysis.” Susan McTiernan, associate dean for graduate programs for Quinnipiac’s School of Business, noted that the school “monitors what the market needs” to determine offerings for its graduate programs.

“The new program in business analytics will fill a genuine need for well-trained individuals with the skills required to manage large amounts of data and leverage it for organizational success,” McTiernan said. The program provides advanced study in statistical methods, data management and business intelligence and analytics for current and aspiring business professionals, said McTiernan. She added that studies indicate demand for skilled business analysts growing in the next five years.

 HARTFORD — There's a push by a number of GOP legislators to encourage students educated at Connecticut colleges and universities to remain in the state to launch their professional careers. The effort to stanch the so-called "brain drain" and help the state’s business community benefit from the minds it educates is now being considered by the General Assembly.

Dubbed An Act Concerning the Learn Here, Live Here Program and Business Creation, the proposal (a/k/a House Bill 5275) would allow college graduates to establish a "Learn Here, Live Here" savings account to establish a new business. It also would open the door for informational programs for first-time homebuyers. The "Learn Here, Live Here" program would be established by the Commissioner of Economic & Community Development, with assistance from the Board of Regents of Higher Education and the Commissioner of Revenue Services, according to the bill.

The proposal was cosponsored by State Sen. Art Linares (R-33) and State Reps. Melissa Ziobron (R-34), Tony Hwang (R-134) and Christopher Davis (R-57).

“We want to do all we can to get college graduates to stay in Connecticut after graduation,” said Linares in a statement. The Westbrook lawmaker can identify with the law’s target group: The 25-year-old senator is a young entrepreneur, having established his own solar-energy business at the tender age of 19.

“We also want to do all we can to get them to consider starting businesses of their own,” added Linares. “Allowing young people to make these investments in their futures will help them pay for start-up costs associated with the establishment of a new business. This proposal sends the message to young people that their state wants them to be innovators and entrepreneurs.”

“Connecticut has found success in creating incentives for first-time homebuyers, so why not try it with start-up businesses to encourage entrepreneurship? ” said Davis in a statement. Added the 27-year-old East Windsor Realtor: "We think this would be a great way to encourage young people to stay in Connecticut, to put their educations and skills to work right here, and to create private-sector jobs in the process. Our goal is to not only slow down the Connecticut brain drain, but to reverse it. Want Connecticut graduates to stay [in the state]? Let’s start providing them with great reasons to stay.”

The proposal would allow students graduating from colleges or technical schools in Connecticut after January 1, 2015 to deposit a maximum of $2,500 each year into the “Learn Here, Live Here” account. Over the next ten years, the funds would be available for withdrawal in order to establish a new company in Connecticut.

The bill was referred to the Joint Committee on Commerce on February 20, and a public hearing was held shortly afterward.


 NEW HAVEN — Landing a new job could present barriers that have nothing to do with actual work performance. These include purchasing a uniform, securing child care or finding reliable transportation, according to the WorkPath Fund. A new initiative that seeks to help families address ancillary job-related needs and their costs, the fund offers a one-time grant paid directly to a vendor. The fund is a collaborative effort of the Connecticut Commission on Children, Liberty Bank Foundation, Workforce Alliance and four additional state workforce investment boards. Together they raised $105,500 from 11 nonprofit organizations to launch the fund. The maximum amount for any single grant is $1,000. To be eligible for a WorkPath Fund grant, families must not be eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

“We know that when families have been out of work, they have often used up their savings and don’t have the money needed to cover costs associated with starting a new job,” said Jennifer Heath of the United Way of Greater New Haven, one of the supporting nonprofits. “One of the United Way’s areas of focus,” Heath added, “is to help improve families’ financial stability. This investment will help people get back to work so that they can support their families and contribute to the economy.” The fund stems from legislation passed in 2010 by the Speaker’s Task Force on Children in the Recession that focuses on supporting parents with dependent children during periods of high unemployment and economic downturns. Working parents in need of assistance may apply for a grant by contacting CTWorks Career Centers at 203-624-1493.

 If you’re looking to launch a profitable franchise, you might get some help from MSNMoney.com, which has announced results of Entrepreneur’s 35th annual Franchise 500 ranking. Some on the list are usual suspects, while others may come as a surprise. Of its top-ten list, probably the only surprise that Dunkin’ Donuts brings is that it is at the bottom of the list. The popular coffee and doughnut fast-food eatery has 10,833 locations worldwide, and continues to expand both within and outside the U.S. It will take a substantial investment to start a franchise, however, notes the financial website. MSNMoney estimates start-up costs to launch a Dunkin’ Donuts are between $294,000 and $1.5 million, depending on locations and market.

At the top of the list is Anytime Fitness, a much smaller franchise, with 2,425 locations. And start-up costs are estimated to be between $56,300 and $353,900. The 24-hour gym is successful because it caters to clients, reports MSNMoney.com. The clubs “focus on people and culture. The company carefully selects its employees and treats them well, committed to the idea that a workplace should develop and challenge, not be stagnant and boring. Clients, meanwhile, appreciate the convenience of 24-hour accessibility to the small gyms — typically 2,500 to 5,000 square feet – whose staff and personal trainers take an interest.”

Others among the top ten franchises, according to MSNMoney: No. 9 Pizza Hut, No. 8 Denny’s, No. 7 Servpro, No. 6 7-Eleven, No. 5 Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches, No. 4 Supercuts, No. 3 Subway and No. 2 Hampton Hotels.