BETHLEHEM — Grants of up to $35,000 are available for small business owners with five employees or less in the Town of Bethlehem. To commence the application process, which will likely continue through the summer, town officials have scheduled a public information session on the evening of Thursday, April 6 to familiarize interested employers (and potential employers) with details of the Microenterprise Grant Program.
Last December, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced more than $7 million in economic development funding was available through the sixth round of his Regional Economic Development Council initiative—a centerpiece of his administration’s strategy to jumpstart the economy and create jobs. The Capital District, one of 10 regions statewide, was awarded $83.1 million to support 116 local projects — $200,000 of which will help establish and grow small businesses in the town of Bethlehem.
The town was awarded the funds to establish a microenterprise grant program virtually identical to one established in 2014. Under the program, the town may award no less than $5,000 and no more than $35,000 to small businesses, “to support and foster the development of micro-businesses by providing grants in conjunction with capacity building and entrepreneurial assistance.”
Town officials anticipate that the schedule of the most recent grant disbursements will resemble the previous program. Awarded at the end of 2014, Bethlehem began holding information sessions in February and March of 2015 and accepting applications in March. A Grant Application Review Committee, composed of six residents representing local economic enterprise, met and recommended awards for Town Board approval through September 2015, when the town approved grant awards to nine local businesses — five existing and four new — in amounts ranging from $5,400 (to a certified in-home trainer) to $30,000 (O’Slattery’s Irish Pub), chosen from 15 applicants. Selected businesses had through the end of 2016 to spend the awarded funds, and the grant was closed out with the state at the end of the year.
Program guidelines define microenterprise as a commercial enterprise that has five or fewer employees, one or more of which is the principal and owns the enterprise at the time of application. Eligible businesses must contribute at least 10 percent of the costs of the project and create one new job made available to persons from low-or moderate-income families, or be owned by someone in that category. Additionally, a minimum of 50 percent of grant funds must be awarded to start-up businesses that have been in operation less than six months and businesses receiving grant funds are required participate in an Entrepreneurial Training Program.
Awarded funds may be used for: inventory; the purchase of machinery, equipment, furniture and fixtures; working capital; and/or reimbursement of the cost to attend the entrepreneurial training program. They may not be used to purchase real estate, to repay existing debt or to undertake building façade or interior renovations.
Small business owners and endeavoring entrepreneurs interested in learning more about the application process can attend the meeting in Room 101 at Bethlehem Town Hall, visit the Microenterprise page on the town website or contact Robin Nagengast in Supervisor John Clarkson’s office.