July 10, 2017

Glastonbury firm’s niche links interpreters with businesses, hospitals

PHOTO | Bill stone
PHOTO | Bill stone
Francesco Pagano (left) and wife Diana, are second-generation operators of family owned Interpreters and Translators Inc. in Glastonbury.
PHOTO | bill stone
Interpreters and Translators Inc. occupies the former home of the brand Lectric Shave.

When one of Connecticut's 5,000 companies wants to sell/promote their products or services abroad, or import another's, a language gap in communications could spell doom.

But Glastonbury entrepreneur Francesco Pagano says his award-winning family enterprise has built both a solid reputation — and sales and profits — linking the skills of translators and interpreters with businesses, hospitals and other caregivers, the courts, federal, state and local governments, among others.

Pagano's company, Interpreters and Translators Inc. (ITI), started nearly two decades ago by his mother who for years was a Spanish translator to the Connecticut court system, has 20 employees and plans to add five more by the end of the year. ITI also has offices in Denver and Puerto Rico.

The company generates more than $5 million in revenue annually — from $2 million just five years ago — as a matchmaker for clients that need language translations or interpreters, and with other translation-services vendors and freelance interpreters in the U.S. and abroad. The company's network includes 2,500 linguists worldwide — 600 in Connecticut alone, the second-generation entrepreneur says.

The global translation market has grown in recent years to an estimated $40 billion industry, comprised largely of small shops like ITI, according to Common Sense Advisory, which tracks the language-translation sector. A leader is Massachusetts-based Lionbridge, which generated $550 million in 2015.

"We support over 200 languages,'' Pagano said, standing in the lobby of ITI's recently acquired and refurbished 10,200-square-foot office building at 232 Williams St. in South Glastonbury, once headquarters for the former maker of Lectric Shave and Aqua Velva shaving lotions and previously home to the town's Board of Education.

"We make the connections between the interpreters and the clients,'' he said.

For facilitating business linkups between exporters in Connecticut and across the U.S., ITI was one of two in-state firms recently awarded the U.S. Commerce Department's annual 2017 President's "E" Award, which honors excellence among American exporters. AMCT, a Manchester aeroparts maker, also was honored.

Anne Evans, the commerce agency's Middletown-based district director who nominated ITI, said the firm has been an integral part of a number of international trade events "where we've needed interpreters and translators.''

"They have such a depth of resources," Evans said, "that we have found they have been both excellent and competitive.''

Demand for language translation has mushroomed over the years, Pagano says, as more companies make or trade their services globally. ITI has worked with companies that needed translators for contract negotiations, customer-service/customer-contact call centers, and language translations for online support and creating/managing webpages, he said.

German precision-manufacturing equipment maker Trumpf Inc., whose U.S. base is in Farmington, regularly relies on ITI to support its training of Trumpf's field-service engineers/technicians stationed in Germany, Poland and Russia, said Trumpf training administrator Colleen Letourneau.

From ITI, Trumpf needs not only a person who can speak and read a foreign tongue, but also can understand and convey the technical terminology and specifications of its products to trainees, Letourneau said.

"Technical interpolating is definitely a skill," she said.

Health and courts

U.S. in-migration of non-English-speaking residents also has increased the need for hospitals, schools, government agencies, and other public-private institutions, to accommodate their varied tongues.

Hartford's St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center, one of the region's leading providers of trauma and other health care, uses ITI's translation network to communicate with patients in person, by phone and via documents, said Chi Anako, who oversees its language-services program.

The Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare,'' reinforced pre-existing federal guidelines, and instituted some new ones, Anako said, as to care-providers' obligation to communicate clearly and effectively with patients, whether oral, written or in sign language.

"Language is a health-equity issue,'' said Anako, regional health equity program coordinator at St. Francis. "We try to ensure at all times that all our patients … once they walk through the doors, that they feel comfortable. And the No. 1 way to do that is for them to understand us and for us to understand them.''

Anako, who speaks four languages, said that most St. Francis patients speak English, followed by Spanish, Russian and Portuguese.

Connecticut's court system also relies on translators for the fair dispensation of justice, ITI officials say.

Elby Pagano, a Puerto Rico native who is ITI's founder-CEO and Francesco's mother, began her translation career by accident while working in the federal bankruptcy court in Hartford in the late '70s. Fluent in Spanish, Pagano was called on one day by a judge to interpret on a case.

"I wasn't prepared,'' Elby Pagano said. "I hated it. People assume because you're bilingual, you can do translation.''

Later, she went to work for her husband, a lawyer, who one day told her the state court system was searching for Spanish translators.

"They were in a great need,'' she recalled. Pagano passed an initial test and after four weeks of training, was officially a court translator.

"I remember walking into the court for the first time and saying, 'This is where I belong.' After that, I just loved it.''

Elby left the court system and in 1986 started her own translation service out of her home, with the state Department of Children and Families as her first client.

That's where a young Francesco was exposed to the business first hand.

Francesco Pagano recalls listening to his mother translate over the phone, while helping out with filing documents and other simple tasks.

Today, Francesco Pagano's sister, Elizabeth, also is active, heading up its Denver office. Francesco's wife, Diana, is vice president of sales and human resources.

Despite the importance and reach of translation services, the Paganos admit to feeling "invisible'' as to the value their services provide to the economy and society.

"I kind of feel like we're the 'Wizard of Oz,' behind a curtain,'' Francesco Pagano said.

ITI can partly trace its anonymity in the marketplace, he says, to its client roster that includes federal Homeland Security, the Defense Department, banks and other financial institutions, and high-technology vendors — nearly all of whom want to stay under the radar for competitive and security reasons.

That means ITI has had to invest, Pagano said, in super-secure computer servers and a hardened communications network for receiving/transmitting clients' confidential documents.

ITI also performs like a sales-marketing outfit, with Diana Pagano managing her sales team that regularly calls on existing clients and prospects for new ones.

"It's the entire company's mission,'' Diana Pagano said, "of impacting lives and making a difference.''

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