LOWVILLE — Halfway through the two-year Community Development Block Grant given to the Lewis County Industrial Development Agency for smaller loans to new or existing business based in Lewis County, the agency’s new interim director says the quirks are being worked out and the second round of funding should be a good one.
The IDA applied for and won a $200,000 grant through the state Office of Homes and Community Renewal in Dec. 2018, to launch and administer a Microenterprise Grant Fund. It has until Dec. 2020 to distribute the remaining $110,600, to small businesses for equipment, machinery, furniture, or fixtures in grants of between $5,000 and $35,000.
In September, the first round of Microenterprise Grant funding closed, resulting in two businesses out of the six applications received fitting the requirements, according to Brittany B. Davis, interim director of the IDA.
Tug Hill Artisan Coffee Roasters, Beaver Falls, was awarded about $27,900 for a walk-in cooler, afterburner equipment and to develop an ordering app to improve the business.
A start-up cross-country ski facility, Osceola Ski & Sport, LLC, requested and was granted $31,500, for grooming equipment, kitchen equipment and furniture for its lodge.
“It took a while to get the program up and running,” Mrs. Davis said. “This is federal money through the state, so there are a lot of reporting requirements.”
Mrs. Davis said that most counties hire a consultant well-versed in those requirements to run their programs, but locally, “We didn’t think of it, so we’ve tried to do it all ourselves not knowing exactly how time-consuming it would be.”
Thirty thousand dollars of the $200,000 was automatically designated for administration costs for the program. Mrs. Davis said going forward, she plans to consider the consultant option to bring to the board, but the IDA team would still be responsible for marketing the grant program and organizing the committee to approve the grants.
Small for-profit businesses with fewer than five employees including the owner may qualify for a microenterprise grant, providing the owner either meets low to moderate income guidelines or the business will create at least one job for someone who meets the guidelines.
Grant requests must be less than 90% of the total project cost and the owner must bring at least a 10% equity contribution.
“Grants are also in the form of reimbursement. Projects or equipment have to be financed or otherwise funded and then reimbursed through the grant,” Mrs. Davis said. “Part of the whole thing is having a plan in place and looking at the financial projections based on the influx of the grant money. That’s what we want to see.”
Once an award is approved, business owners are required to take the Entrepreneurial Training Course given by the Small Business Development Center in Watertown.
“The new director, Elizabeth Lonergan, is excellent. She lowered the price of the course from $195 to $40, the cost of the book, making it even more accessible” Mrs. Davis said, although grant money can be used to reimburse business owners for the cost of the course.
While the IDA has prioritized dairy and value-added processing and tourism businesses as well as those interested in locating, or relocating, in a downtown area, other types of businesses are also welcome to apply.
The grants can’t be used to pay off existing debt or costs before the grant is awarded, construction or building improvements, political or religious activities or the purchase or lease of motor vehicles without prior consent.
The next round of funding applications are due on Jan. 15.
For more information about the Microenterprise Grant Fund or for an application, go to https://naturallylewis.com/business-support/microenterprise.