A map of the United States hangs in the offices of JayStar Group in Norwalk. Push pins dot union strong areas like California and the northeast, as well as Washington D.C., Hawaii and Alaska, showing where the compliance solutions company has clients. Owners Dave Roger and Bob Stevenson said Monday they hope to need a bigger map as they set their sights on Canada.
Until then, they are thrilled to be expanding their presence locally on East Avenue, thanks to the assistance of the Small Business Express Program, which is helping them increase their staff of 16 fulltime employees by about 50 percent. JayStar received a $100,000 matching grant from the Department of Economic & Community Development through the Small Business Express Program.
"Small businesses like the JayStar Group are at the heart of our economy, both here in Norwalk and all across Connecticut. JayStar is a particularly innovative software firm in a specialized market, and it's great to see them expanding to take on new clients from all across the country," said state Sen. Bob Duff (D-Norwalk), who visited JayStar with state Rep. Larry Cafero (R-Norwalk) Monday to tout the Small Business Express Program.
"The Small Business Express program has been a great success these past two years, supporting thousands of jobs statewide, including more than 100 right here in Norwalk. It's been a bipartisan effort from the start, and it shows what good can come of both parties working together to get our economy going again."
The terms of grant that JayStar received from the DECC stipulate that the company will match the amount with their own money and put it back into the business.
Last week both legislators voted to extend the Small Business Express program by re-directing previously authorized funds from other state programs. The bill authorizes $60 million in general obligation bonds for EXP, increasing its total bond authorization by 60 percent, from $100 million to $160 million.
The JayStar Group, Inc. is a 10-year-old company, which provides software and back office accounting, compliance and membership management services to labor unions all across the country. The company plans to hire eight more employees.
"JayStar Group is immensely proud and grateful to be receiving this assistance from the State of Connecticut," Stevenson said. "This is a great program that will help us to grow our company and create many more local jobs right here in Norwalk."
Stevenson led a brief tour around JayStar where programmers work on customized solutions as well as membership / dues / grievance management systems; LM-2 Preparation systems and accounting systems.
"They are working on fixing bugs and testing. Our biggest client right now is the Communications Workers of America," said Sara Sikes, a specialist in sales and marketing who is an original member of JayStar and instrumental in developing its customer base.
The Communications Workers of America represents 600,000 workers in telecommunications, printing and news media, public service, health care and other industries.
"So that's been an enormous project," Sikes said.
Another noteworthy project took place in January--the US Airline Pilots Association launched the JayStar web-enabled membership/ dues/grievance management system as a further development of its JayStar provided solutions.
"Your story is exactly what we had hoped for. To have a small business of which there are thousands in the state of Connecticut...grow their business, in your case by 50 percent," Cafero said. "To higher eight more people is just huge. When you think of the thousands of small businesses under 20 employees and the fact they could hire two or six or eight more people and put them on the ground in less than a year, that's how we are going to turn this state around and grow jobs."
Created in 2011, Small Business Express provides matching grants and deferrable or forgivable loans to Connecticut-based businesses with fewer than 100 employees. Grant and loan amounts range from $10,000 to $300,000; eligible businesses can use the funds to acquire machinery and equipment, construct facilities or make leasehold improvements, cover moving expenses, or meet working capital needs.
As of Jan. 25, EXP has helped Connecticut companies to create or retain 7,011 jobs in fields as diverse as manufacturing, retail, financial services, hospitality and tourism, construction and healthcare. In Norwalk alone, and not including the JayStar Group, seven companies have participated in the program, creating 38 new jobs and retaining 64 more.
For information, visit www.ct.gov/ecd/cwp/view.asp?a=3931&q=489792 or contact Michelle Peters of the Department of Economic & Community Development at 860-270-8052 or via email at Michelle.Peters@ct.gov.