Latino Businesses: It's a "C" Grade for Malloy


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By Wayne Jebian
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy delivered an address over breakfast at the 2013 Business Opportunity Expo at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, saying that his main focus for the state’s economy was to deliver “not words but actions.”  He told the diverse crowd of entrepreneurs, “For a long time, we sat back and said ‘as long as we use the right words, as long as our intent is good enough, that should be a passing grade.’ ”
The Expo was organized by the Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Council, so Latino business owners were on hand to give their opinions on whether the governor himself should receive a passing grade. CTLatinoNews received the full range of responses, from fans of the governor to others who refused to speak, perhaps making it clear that their silence was inspired by good manners, as in “if you don’t have anything nice to say … .”
“He gets a C grade,” said Ed Rodriguez, president of Penmar industries, a Stratford-based supplier of tape, packaging and labels.
Why a C? “He has only done as well as people have done in the past, which is, at best, average,” Rodriguez said. “I think he should do what he says he’s going to do. I mean, if you’re going to talk the talk, then walk it. And if you say you’re going to improve small business conditions, then, by gosh, do just that.”
Rodriguez had some very specific suggestions.
“The governor can do three things: access to capital, access to opportunities and access to decision-makers. We don’t have enough access to opportunities, and we don’t have enough access to capital. The perfect example is DAS (the Connecticut Department of Administrative Services), and how much business is given to minority businesses from this state. So if he can’t open the gates of opportunity to small business owners, how are we supposed to prosper?”
Rodriguez and Malloy do agree on at least one thing, that his administration could be doing more. Malloy spoke about working with the Black and Latino Caucus to give a greater share of DAS contracts to minority businesses.
“We have to do substantially more; we have got to hold people’s feet to the fire,” Malloy said.
Ron Ojalvo Oren, CEO of Orbit design in Meriden, said the governor should focus on the manufacturing base.
“He should save manufacturing in this state, which built this state for many years. Right now manufacturing is leaving the state,” he said. “He should borrow from the book of Rick Perry, of Texas. He’s trying to steal business from Connecticut through incentives, and businesses are moving to Texas. Governor Malloy needs top take that one page from his book and bring it to Connecticut. That would help.”
While Malloy acknowledged in his speech that Connecticut needed to be competitive with other states, he told the audience that’s become more of a sport.
“On the economic development front, we have changed the whole toolbox,” he said. “We have decided that, yeah, we want big folks to be successful; we want to take whatever jobs we can from other states — that’s become a sport in this country lately — but we are doing a lot more with respect to small businesses. We have a program that we think is going to be emulated in a lot of other states, the Small Business Express program.”
After his speech, Malloy was asked to be in a family photo by Grace Cafe, president of C&C Janitorial Supplies of Newington, who was there with her husband, Martin, and their two sons, Kenneth and Martin Jr. The Cafe family’s company has seen some of their business come from DAS contracts and has also benefited from credit extended through the Small Business Express program.
“This has helped our company tremendously. I think we’re on the on the right track,” she said.
However, when pressed, Cafe revealed that in spite of the Malloy Administration’s best efforts, her company was still struggling to reach critical mass, to grow to the point where they could supply and service larger companies. “It’s very difficult for small businesses to expand and do business with large facilities,” she said.
Patricia Molina, media director for Bauzá & Associates, a communications firm based in Hartford, pointed out a fatal flaw on Connecticut’s business environment that had little to do with the governor, but had a direct impact on Latino companies and consumers. In a nutshell, private organizations and government agencies alike weren’t connecting with the marketplace because they weren’t recognizing its diversity. “Thirty-seven percent of Connecticut’s audience is multicultural; usually, organizations’ budgets for marketing does not match that share,” she said. “Audience composition is changing; it’s no longer white-only. We need to learn to speak and connect with people in a way that respects their backgrounds, their culture, their language.”
Updated: 12:01