Montgomery County has made a big commitment to a program that gives small businesses a helping hand.
County leaders say the new MicroEnterprise grants program was an instant success and decided to increase its funding by $500,000.
Last year, the county awarded 16 businesses more than $199,000, which they used for projects such as new equipment, more inventory and other investments to help them grow.
“We are so grateful to Montgomery County for the commitment to invest in people and business,” said Jeanne Porter, president and CEO of JP Machine & Tool in Moraine, whose grant helped the company invest in tools and new machinery to increase capacity.
However, the money comes from the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, which the Trump Administration has targeted for elimination.
Local officials worry they will not be able to continue the program if federal funding goes away.
Last year, the county rolled out the MicroEnterprise program, which provides grants to private businesses that have fewer than 5 employees, occupy a storefront, earn less than $500,000 in annual revenue and are at least one year old.
The grant amounts are relatively small — ranging between $2,500 and $25,000 — but they make a big difference for businesses that want to make investments to expand but are hindered by a lack of access to capital, county officials and leaders said.
Nineteen businesses have been approved for funding since September 2016, including 15 female-owned companies, 14 that are minority owned and one owned by a veteran.
The program helped downtown coffee shop Third Perk open an express cafe at the new Northwest Branch Library.
About $9,000 in funding helped marketing agency B63 Line move into a newly renovated space in Miamisburg.
“We are glad you believed in us,” Judy Brinegar, president of the company, told the commissioners recently. “The check still sits in our kitchen where everybody can see it, because I want them to know that somebody cared enough to give us the funds to be where we’re at today.”
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The county originally planned to distribute $300,000 in federal CDBG funds over three years to small businesses through the program.
But earlier this year, the county bumped up its funding by $500,0000.
“All of this is designed to give you access to the capital you need to stay in business,” said Michael Colbert, Montgomery County assistant administrator.
The owner of Twist Cupcakery was hand mixing batter herself, and this program helped fund an industrial mixer to simplify the baking process, said county Commissioner Debbie Lieberman.
In addition to targeting disadvantaged businesses, the MicroEnterprise program also focuses on certain sectors, including retail, transportation, child care and the service industry.
Applications for grants are screened by a committee that checks applicants’ backgrounds, credit histories and other records. Recipients also receive business mentoring, education and other development assistance.
But the MicroEnterprise program is a pilot program, and its long-term future is uncertain.
The program is funded through the county’s allocation of CDBG, which President Donald Trump has called for eliminating in his fiscal year 2018 budget.
“If that goes away, we just don’t have any magic source of funding for this program,” said Commissioner Dan Foley.