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Local Business Grants

Starting a new business can be exciting and scary at the same time. You are not sure what you need or what you have to do. It is nice to have someone next to you offering support and advice. In the Lil’ Lesko video, we saw that the Cumberland Economic Development Department offers 1:1 business counseling, free use of their computers, fax and copiers, help with writing a business plan, plus an opportunity for up to $5,000 microenterprise grant to start or expand your business ( Cumberland Economic Development Department, City of Cumberland, 113 Baltimore St., Cumberland, MD 21501; 301-722-4173; ). This is obviously for businesses wishing to locate in Cumberland, MD, but maybe there is something in your area. How to you find this kind of help?
Let’s first look at what kind of money is out there. Every year over 1 million entrepreneurs receive money from the government. This money comes in many different forms.

A Grant is money that you do not have to pay back.

Loans are usually at interest rates below market and from organizations seeking to help both established businesses and the first time entrepreneur.

Loan Guarantees ensure that a bank will provide you with the funds you need and a government agency or nonprofit organization will guarantee that if you are unable to repay your loan they will pay it for you.

Government Contracts are better than loans or even grants because what is a business without business?

Tax Credits are real dollars back on your taxes from federal, state, and local governments for performing certain entrepreneurial endeavors.

Venture Capitalx is public or private investors who are looking for new ideas in need of financial assistance.

Where do you find this money and help? There are hundreds of places to look, but we are going to give you some starting places.
The Federal Government
You will not get a grant from the Federal Government. Don’t even think of asking the SBA if they offer grants. They blame us for all the grant calls they get, but we tell people repeatedly that the SBA does not give out grants. That does not in anyway imply that the Federal Government is not a good starting place. You can locate business assistance programs offered through the government by looking the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance at You can search by keyword to find resources that can help you. Some good starting places within the government include the following although this is just the tip of the iceberg:
Small Business Administration- You can go to to find a location near you. They offer business assistance, many different loan guarantee programs, special assistance for women, minorities and veterans, and more. They even offer venture capital, mentoring, and contracting help. You can also locate your Small Business Development Center at which is supported by the state and federal governments to offer assistance.
U.S. Department of Agriculture-The Farm Service Agency offers a wide variety of business programs and services for farmers. Check them out at For those interested in selling their products overseas contact the Foreign Agriculture Service at
Rural Development Business and Cooperative Programs-part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Rural Business Programs provide a wide variety of loan guarantees and other programs for businesses located in small towns and rural areas. Check them out at
Department of Veterans Affairs- The Department of Veteran Affairs Veteran Benefits Administration Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service (VR&E) in partnership with the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Association of Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) co-jointly provide entrepreneurial assistance to qualified service connected disabled veterans participating in a VR&E program. Check it out at
Your State Department of Economic Development
Every state has an office of Economic Development (sometimes called Department of Commerce). You can locate your state office by going to and clicking on your state. Services vary from state to state, but most typically offer the following:
  • Business Information Center and resources for assistance within the state.
  • Workforce training funds.
  • Tax Credits for certain types of businesses or business located in certain areas.
  • Guaranteed loans.
  • Regulatory assistance.
  • Minority and Women Business assistance.
  • Government contract assistance.
  • Agriculture or export assistance.
  • Tourism and film promotion.
When I looked at random states I found:
Arizona Job Training Program has a couple of great programs. The Arizona Job Training Program supports the design and delivery of training plans that meet unique industry standards and challenges. Under the “Net New Hire” portion of the grant program, businesses can apply for grants that return up to 75% of the costs of training net new employees in jobs that meet wage criteria. The “Incumbent Worker” portion of the grant program will allow for training that upgrades the skills of your existing employees. The Incumbent Program can reimburse employers up to a maximum of 50% of allowable training costs ( ).
For Arkansas in addition to many other programs, they offer under their Business Services for Start Ups and Existing Business heading:
  • Business planning /analysis.
  • Marketing research.
  • Loan proposals.
  • Management training programs.
  • Business counseling.
  • Information on State of Arkansas bids.
  • Assistance with completing State of Arkansas bids.
  • Procurement counseling.
Please call (501) 682-6105, or 1-800-ARKANSAS to learn more about the services listed above. ( ).
In Pennsylvania, they have a one-stop funding resource locator with a single application for all their programs. You can search by funding type or size or type of business. ( ).
City and County Business Assistance
Many cities and counties have Economic Development Departments like the one in Cumberland, Maryland. You can start looking for these offices by contacting the city and county governments, and also by going to and clicking on your state. Some of the programs may be tax credits or job training money to start a business in their town. Others offer façade renovation grants to help improve the look of your business ( and their downtown area ).
The New York City Economic Development Corporation has a long listing of financing and incentives for those that want to start a business in New York City. Check them out at
The Rapid City Economic Development has a Rapid Fund for businesses in Rapid City. The Rapid Fund is a below market rate loan program for business expansion, relocation, or start-up. It can give any size company or project the incentive needed for development with the flexibility business financing demands. The loan fund focuses on the development of primary jobs in the areas of manufacturing, processing and service exporting. These kinds of jobs have historically provided higher than average wages and benefits and have acted as a stimulant to the economies in which these types of jobs are developed.
For more information contact
Rapid City Economic Development,
525 University Loop,
Suite 101, Rapid City,
SD 57701; 800-956-0377; 605-343-1880;
Mason City, Iowa has a variety of financial programs for businesses. They have five enterprise zone districts where businesses can receive tax benefits including up to a 10% investment tax credit, a rebate of the 5% sales tax paid on construction costs, a property tax abatement of 100% for 5 years, workforce training tax credits and research and development tax credit of up to 6.5%. They also offer Tax Increment Financing, High Quality Job Creation Program, Economic Development Set-Aside, and more.
Mason City Economic Development Corporation,
25 West State St.,
Suite B, Mason City,
IA 50401; 800-944-1708;
The city of Converse, Texas has a wealth of opportunities and incentives for businesses including a $3,000 grant for new or existing businesses.
City of Converse Economic Development Corporation,
Mark Luft, Exec. Director,
403 S. Sequin, P.O. Box 36,
Converse, TX 78108; 210-658-5356;
The City of Concord, North Carolina has a wide variety of grants, tax credits and loan programs for businesses. There is even a grant program where you can build a car race track! City of Concord, North Carolina, Business & Neighborhood Services Department , City Hall Annex, 66 Union Street, South, P.O. Box 308, Concord, NC 28026-0308; 704-920-5143;
Community Development Block Grants
The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program is a flexible program that provides communities with resources to address a wide range of unique community development needs. The process emphasizes participation by persons of low or moderate income, particularly residents of predominantly low- and moderate-income neighborhoods, slum or blighted areas, and areas in which the grantee proposes to use CDBG funds. CDBG funds must be used for activities that benefit low- and moderate-income persons. Many communities use these funds for housing issues, although assisting companies in job creation or helping start a micro-enterprise is an acceptable activity. The CDBG funds are distributed to states, then passed onto communities. To learn what programs your community offers, you can contact your state agency or local community who received funds. You can click on the map to find these locations at
For instance the City of Madison, Wisconsin uses the funds for several purposes including job creation and micro-enterprise development. These activities provide technical assistance in business start-up and expansion to lower income entrepreneurs or to very small businesses operating within targeted neighborhoods. Activities include management counseling and special seed funding. The Commission will fund non-profits which provide technical assistance, or appropriate space for nascent businesses, or loans to individuals starting or operating micro-enterprises where the low- or moderate-income owner's job within the business is expected to become that individual's principal occupation within three years of provision of assistance or the micro-enterprise is expected to create at least one full-time equivalent position for a low- or moderate-income person, other than an owner, within four years. The job creation activities help existing businesses grow to create jobs for lower income persons. The City places a priority on helping existing businesses (which serve an export market, or which serve the CDBG target neighborhoods) to grow or locate expanded businesses within these neighborhoods. The activities include a business loan program and a small neighborhood-focused business investment program.
For more information contact
City of Madison CDBG Office,
Room 280, Madison Municipal Building,
215 Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard,
P.O. Box 2985, Madison, WI 53701-2985; 608-267-0740;
Non-Profit Business Assistance
There are many small non-profit organizations that assist new businesses in starting or existing businesses in expanding. Their services vary from place to place. Some offer below market rate loans, or even sometimes grants. Others will help with business plans, mentoring, networking, and more. To find an organization contact the Association for Enterprise Opportunity in Arlington, VA as they maintain a database of just such organizations:
You can also look at a directory of Microenterprise programs published by FIELD (Microenterprise Fund for Innovation, Effectiveness, Learning and Dissemination) at:
In addition to these two resources, there are two more who provide a listing of foundations who provide money mostly to non-profits, but some individuals as well. The Foundation Center of New York City maintains a database of all foundations that provide money to non-profit organizations or individuals. Their information is available on the web at or from their participating libraries by contacting 212-620-4230 or 800-424-9836. The Guidestar Company in Williamsburg, VA also maintains a database of foundations and they can be reached at 757-229-4631 or Much of their database is accessible for free on the web.
In Ohio the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks offers a wealth of services for businesses. They have a low-interest loan program; they will mentor your business; there is a business incubator which is shared office space and services you can use; help with marketing and distribution as well as product development, and more.
For more information contact
ACEnet, 94 Columbus Rd., Athens,
OH 45701; 740-592-3854;
In Idaho, META (Micro Enterprise Training and Assistance) provide help with business plan preparation, specialized counseling, marketing, advertising, insurance and tax issues, as well as offering microloans.
For more information contact
META, 1607 W. Jefferson St.,
Boise, ID 83702; 208-336-5533 ext. 230;
In California, Women’s Economic Ventures (WEV) provides assistance to women (and men!) who want help in every phase of their business. They offer a 14-week Self-Employment Training course, as well as business counseling and coaching, and business loans.
For more information contact
WEV, 333 S. Salinas St.,
Santa Barbara,
CA 93103; 805-965-6073; 866-368-8830;
Community Action Agencies
Community Action Agencies help people to help themselves in achieving self-sufficiency. Today there are approximately 1,000 Community Action Agencies serving the poor in every state as well as Puerto Rico and the Trust Territories. CAAs are a primary source of direct support for the more than 34.5 million people who live in poverty in the United States. The majority of CAA program participants are extremely poor, with incomes below 75 percent of the federal poverty threshold. Each Community Action Agency is governed locally, which means that the services they offer vary from place to place. Services can include emergency housing, weatherization, child care, head start, food pantries, job training, and more. Some may offer micro-enterprise training. It is worth contacting your local agency to see what they offer. To find a local agency contact your state office that manages Community Service Block Grants ( see below ) or to find a community action agency near you go or
Community Action Partnership,
1100 17th St NW Suite 500,
Washington, DC 20036; 202-265-7546;
Fax: 202-265-8850;
For example the Capital Resource Agency (a CAA) in Charleston, West Virginia offers free programs that give people the skills they need to get a better job. If someone needs equipment to start a new job, such as work boots, this agency can help a person get the necessary items. In addition they have job training, resume writing, free computers and training classes, and more. This is for those in the Charleston area, but you can contact the link above to find services in your area.
For more on the Charleston program contact
Capital Resource Agency,
950 Kanawha Blvd E. Suite 1,
Charleston, WV 25301; 304-720-5413; 866-313-1490;
Small Business Development Centers
As I mentioned before ( but it definitely worth repeating ), the government supports over 1,000 offices all over the country called Small Business Development Centers. They will sit down with you and help tackle any problem you may be having with your business like: finding money, filling out forms, taxes, marketing, technical problems, contracting, etc. All their services are free or for very little cost. These Centers do not have money for entrepreneurs, but will know of local money sources available. For a Center near you contact 1-800-8-ASK-SBA or
Get A Government Contract
A business is not a business unless it gets some business- if you can follow that logic. You need to get customers, and one of the biggest customers for anything is the federal government. There are specific offices that can help you learn how to sell your goods and services to any department with the government. They are called Federal Procurement Technical Assistance Centers and they are operated through the Defense Logistics Agency.
You can contact them at
Defense Logistics Agency,
Office of Small and Disadvantaged Utilization, Bldg. 4,
Cameron Station,
Room 4B110,
Alexandria, VA 22304; 703-767-1661;
Just click on your state and they can get you started.
But that is not all. Every Federal Department and major Bureau has an Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization whose job it is to provide procurement assistance to small, minority, and women owned businesses. Their primary function is to ensure that these businesses receive their fair share of contracts. To find a listing of these offices, check out In addition, your state has procurement offices located in your state capital. They are sometimes called Division of General Services, State Procurement Office, or Department of Administrative Services. To locate yours, click on your state at
Venture Capital
Venture capitalists are willing to invest in new or growing business ventures for a percentage of the equity. There are several organizations you can contact to find venture capitalists. Some only invest in certain types of businesses, and others focus on specific areas of the country.
To locate a venture capitalist check out:
National Association of Seed and Venture Funds
28 E. Jackson Blvd.
Suite 1700, Chicago
IL 60604; 207-653-9890
National Venture Capital Association
1655 N. Fort Meyer Dr.
Suite 850, Arlington
VA 22209; 703-524-2549
National Association of Investment Companies
1300 Pennsylvania Ave.
NW, Suite 700, Washington
DC 20004; 202-204-3001
U.S. Small Business Administration
Investment Division
409 Third St.
S.W. (Mail Code: 7050)
Washington, DC 20416
Help With Exports
Selling your products overseas can be a great idea, but where do you start? There is more information, services, and funding than you ever thought possible. You can have access to information about a country that businesses in that country can’t even get! There are several great starting places for your overseas adventure.
The Trade Information Center of the U.S. Department of Commerce has information on market research, international finance, trade leads, trade data and analysis, country information, advice on promoting your product overseas and more. They have country experts for every country in the world, who can give you data and information. There are guides to doing businesses in all countries, and help with tariffs, taxes, and other regulations. You can contact the Trade Information Center at 800-USA-TRADE;
The Export-Import Bank of the United States ( Ex-Im Bank ) is the official export credit agency of the United States. Ex-Im Bank's mission is to assist in financing the export of U.S. goods and services to international markets. Its programs include short-term, medium-term, and long-term credits, small business support, financial guarantees, and insurance. In addition, it sponsors conferences on small business exporting, maintains credit information on thousands of foreign firms, supports feasibility studies on overseas programs, and offers export and small business finance counseling.
For more information contact
Export-Import Bank
811 Vermont Ave.
NW, Washington
DC 20571; 202-565-3946
The Overseas Private Investment Corporation ( OPIC ) helps U.S. businesses invest overseas, fosters economic development in new and emerging markets, complements the private sector in managing risks associated with foreign direct investment, and supports U.S. foreign policy. Because OPIC charges market-based fees for its products, it operates on a self-sustaining basis at no net cost to taxpayers. Currently, OPIC services are available for new and expanding business enterprises in more than 150 countries worldwide. OPIC’s financing and political risk insurance also help U.S. businesses of all sizes to compete in emerging markets and meet the challenges of investing overseas when private sector support is not available. Its programs include direct loans, loan guarantees, and political risk insurance.
For more information contact
Overseas Private Investment Corporation
1100 New York Ave.
NW, Washington
DC 20527
Job Training Money
Are you looking for a job and need more training? What about your workers? Could their skills be upgraded or do you need to train new employees? Do not spend a penny of your own money until you check with the following sources. Each offers something a little different, but you can get grants, loans and even matching funds to pay for training. Every state has an Employment Services or Workforce Development Office which you can locate at This office typically handles Unemployment Insurance, as well as training funds to help people get jobs.
For instance when I went to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development at I found they had a Training Acceleration Grant, Workforce Opportunities Tax Credit, and Skills Enhancement Fund all of which employers can use to educate their workers. You can even show your boss how your advanced training can be paid for by using these funds.
In addition, the U.S. Department of Labor offers links on their website to help you examine career options and they outline their adult programs which may qualify you or your employees for training. Check it out at
You can also check out the Career One-stop centers at This site will link you to training programs, jobs, resume help, salary information, and more. You can find a Career Center near you at These centers provide a full array of employment and training related services for workers, youth and businesses. These locations include the Workforce Investment Act partners on-site. For instance at the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County, Inc. ( 1441 Main St., Springfield, MA 01103; 413-787-1547; ) offers a wealth of services, including job listings, training for job seekers, tuition free classes, job hunting and interviewing skills, training for those hurt by foreign trade, free computer classes, and more.
Don’t let anything stand in the way of making your business and employment dreams come true. There is help out there, just waiting for you to call.
Matthew Lesko