It's difficult to put into words the breadth and depth of assistance the State of Connecticut has just provided to manufacturers and other businesses to reduce unemployment and kick-start our economy.

So, let's start with a number: $1,076,475,000.

That's how much -- with interest -- the legislature (acting in a bipartisan and nearly unanimous manner) has pledged to the private sector over the next 20 years in the forms of loans, grants, tax breaks and other incentives to pull Connecticut out of the economic doldrums that have been negatively affecting our state, our region, our country and the globe for more than two years.

At our special legislative session on jobs in October, we passed two significant business investments: one to help launch Jackson Labs' genomic research center at the University of Connecticut hospital campus in Farmington; the other a wide-ranging package of stimulus for state businesses -- particularly those with no more than 50 employees in specialties such as precision manufacturing, business services, green technology, bioscience and information technology.

Not including the Jackson Labs project, the legislature has committed more than $1 billion over the next two decades to job and business growth.

Let me explain just one of the many aspects of this unprecedented investment:

We will make available $100 million over the next two years -- $50 million right now and $50 million after July 1, 2012, -- to provide loans, forgivable loans or matching grants ranging from $10,000 to $ 250,000 to Connecticut-based small businesses and small manufacturers.

Why? Because most private banks are not lending money.

Businesses need access to capital to grow and hire; the legislature is therefore undertaking the duties the private sector cannot or will not.

In deciding who gets a loan, the state will give priority to businesses that create jobs and contribute to our economy exporting products and services, encouraging innovation or adding value, or supporting or enhancing activities important to our economy.

If you're a business with 50 or fewer employees, if you're based in Connecticut, have been registered to do business here for at least 12 months, are current on your state and local taxes, and are in good standing with all state agencies, I urge you to apply for one of these loans or grants.

There's just one catch: If you relocate out of Connecticut within five years of receiving such a loan, we can seek restitution.

That's only fair to the taxpayers who are funding this economic rejuvenation and who hope to benefit from the prosperity it brings to all.

There are many more pieces of this comprehensive legislation that deserve attention, and you will be hearing more about them in the near future.

But let me just say for now that Connecticut is not standing still as other states re-shape themselves for success. I have every intention of ensuring that Connecticut is running at the head of the pack when it comes to business investment and job growth.

Duff represents the 25th district which includes parts of Darien and Norwalk.

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