A group representing Hispanic merchants in Connecticut is the beneficiary of a three-year, $150,000 grant from First Niagara Bank that will support computer training for low- and moderate income business owners.

The grant to the Spanish American Merchants Association will go to fund the group’s Empresario Computer Training Program, which is offered at the organization’s offices in New Haven, Hartford and Willimantic.

“Spanish-American small-business owners make a valuable contribution to our state’s overall economy, and Empresario has proved to be the state’s premier training program serving this constituency,” First Niagara New England Regional President Dave Ring said in a written statement. “First Niagara is thrilled to have the opportunity to help support SAMA’s efforts, as we work together to encourage small-business growth across the state.”

SAMA Board of Directors President Angel Sierra said many small-business owners “lack the training necessary to incorporate technology into their day-to-day business operations.”

The Empresario training program includes classes on several Microsoft software programs and the Quickbooks accounting program. Classes are offered twice a year in each of SAMA’s offices.

SAMA has more than 300 members, and since 1994 has loaned more than $11.8 million to new and existing businesses. It has also provided technical assistance to more than 4,000 businesses.

First Niagara has more than 330 branches and 5,000 employees in Connecticut and three other states.

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