State Program Helps Norwalk Company Grow
NORWALK — JayStar Group is looking to expand with an office presence in Washington, DC, and extended services into Canada.
But Norwalk will always be home for the software and consulting company. JayStar recently received a matching grant through the state’s Small Business Express Program. JayStar expects to hire eight new employees by the end of the year. The news was celebrated on Monday morning at the company’s offices on East Avenue.
“This seed money will help with some additional product development and marketing,” Dave Roger, company president, said.
JayStar Group provides software and regulatory consulting to organized labor.
Roger gave a tour of the company’s office on Monday to state Sen. Bob Duff, D-25, and House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-142.
“But the corporate headquarters will be here?” Duff said upon learning of JayStar’s expansion plans.
“You’re standing in them,” Roger said.
The Small Business Express Program, part of the 2011 Jobs Special Session, is administered through the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD). To date, seven Norwalk businesses have received grants or loans through the program. According to Duff’s office, 38 news jobs and 64 retained jobs have resulted from the Norwalk grants.
“Sometimes the best part of what we do is seeing things like this,” Duff said Monday. “We can’t always see the results of the things we do, but this is tangible stuff.”
The results of the Small Business Express Program prove that putting an emphasis on small businesses is the way to stimulate the state’s economy, Cafero said, even as some of the area’s larger employers choose to leave the state. Northrop Grumman will leave Norwalk by the end of the year, shedding hundreds of jobs.
“No one wants to see any jobs go. You pick up eight here and 16 there and 300 leave through the back door. That’s disheartening,” Cafero said. “But we have to focus on the future. We have to be a state in which policies welcome businesses to our state.
“We have 77,000 small businesses in Connecticut. Imagine if they all added just one more employee. That would be huge,” Cafero added. “Small Businesses are the backbone of the country and state. Focusing on them is how we are going to turn this thing around.”
Cafero said 73 percent of businesses in Connecticut have nine or fewer employers, and 53 percent have four or fewer.
“This is a state of small businesses,” Cafero said, adding that the Small Business Express Program gives the state “more bang for the buck” than what it does on a larger scale.
Jay Star is an example of how a small business can expand and provide jobs. Roger and company CEO Bob Stevenson founded the company in 2002 working out of their basements. Current employee Sara Sikes has also been with the company since the beginning. They eventually took space at 50 Washington, but quickly outgrew that space and moved to the basement of 85 East Avenue. They now occupy both the basement and upper level of that 120-year-old house. The eight new jobs created will expand JayStar’s staff by fifty percent.
“DECD staff has been great to work with,” Roger said. “They want the program to succeed.”
Roger learned of the program by reading in The Hour about Norwalk’s My Three Sons being awarded a similar grant through the program.
“I saw him (My Three Sons owner Jerry Petrini) featured in a story and thought: ‘Why not us?'” Roger said.
JayStar works with customers, such as AFL-CIO, United Mine Workers of America, Communications Workers of America, and Utility Workers Union of America.
–Written by Chris Bosak Staff Writer for The Norwalk Hour