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Your Tax Dollars at Work

Grant funds aren't only for nonprofits. Small businesses can get their hands on that money too—and get a big boost in the process.

If you’re getting a new enterprise off the ground or trying to expand your small business, finding capital may be high on your list of priorities. Unfortunately, many traditional sources of business capital have dried up in today’s economy. So, try thinking “outside the box,” and consider applying for a government grant. As a recent Wall Street Journal article points out, grants are not just for non-profits, and your business might qualify.

Federal and state governments offer grant money to businesses when they want to get things done for the public good. So, if you are working in a field that government considers “promoting the public good,” you may be able to qualify for a grant. Some of those business areas include energy efficiency, environmental technology, biotechnology, health care and information technology.

State and local level grants may be available for a wider range of business purposes, however, since local governments tend to be more concerned with encouraging commerce. On the more local levels, grant money could be available for industries such as tourism or even child care. Do some research: scour government websites, particularly www.grants.gov. You also can sign up for e-newsletters alerting you to grant opportunities. State and local governments also publicize grant information online, so make Google your friend.

If you think you’ve found something promising, it’s worth contacting the grant manager directly to see if your business is a possible fit before proceeding. Generally, they will let you know whether you are “barking up the wrong tree.”

In my capacity as a member of the York County Board of Supervisors, I was recently approached, or was that reproached, by a concerned citizen.  He had read a newspaper article that had given its readers the mistaken impression that York County had provided tax dollars to a grant program to benefit small home-based businesses, presumably to encourage the growth of these businesses into commercial real estate.  The actual initiative was that of York’s Economic Development Authority which, although funded annually by $30,000 tax dollars, is nonetheless able to raise it own money to fund the aforementioned grant..  This concerned citizen wrote:  “I am astounded that anyone – especially anyone with any knowledge of economic development – believes that providing unneeded grants to businesses looking to expand is a good use of our money.” Obviously, this citizen’s legitimate concern was whether or not public funds should be used to help viable businesses. Yet aren’t we are constantly bombarded with statistics that posit that these small businesses provide the fuel that drives our economy? Given the name of the article in the Wall Street Journal however, Ask For Public Money, And You Shall Receive, one has to question if perhaps this wasn’t one more small step toward an unhealthy “Nanny State”.

If you are desirous of applying for these grants, there are professional grant writers who can help write and edit your grant application. Some grant writers charge a flat fee, while others bill by the hour. If you decide to use a professional grant writer, remember you will have to pay them whether your grant is approved or not, and their fees could go into the thousands of dollars. Beware of scammers, too, especially anyone who guarantees you “free money,” or promises to find you a grant if you buy something from them. Also, don’t bother with anyone who demands a cut of any grant you win. 

Reference: The Wall Street Journal Online (June 13, 2011) “Ask For Public Money, And You Shall Receive

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