October 23, 2021

Microenterprise grants available for city businesses

Photo provided by Carly Dougherty

An employee of Food and Ferments, a Truxton-based company with a facility on South Main Street in Cortland, is one local beneficiary of county and city microenterprise grants that has used the money to expand and improve its business.

Cortland business owners who need a financial boost still have time to apply for a microenterprise grant of up to $35,000.

Applications are due by the end of business Aug. 30, but so far no one has turned in an application, said Linda Armstrong, program manager for Thoma Development.

That does not mean, however, that she doesn’t expect to get any. Representatives of 10 businesses attended a July 30 meeting on the grant program, and additional businesses called her office for further information, she said. She expects at least a dozen city businesses to apply.

The money can be used to buy equipment, property and inventory, among other items, according to grant guidelines.

Need a business grant?

For more information on the city’s microenterprise program, or to request an application, contact Linda Armstrong at Thomas Development Consultants at 607-753-1433 or linda@thomadevelopment.com.

In order to eligible, the applying business must:
Have five or fewer employees, including the owner.
Have a low to moderate income, or “a majority of the jobs to be created must be low-to-moderate income jobs and/or available to low-to-moderate income persons,” according to the grant application form.
Non-profit entities are not eligible for the grants.

The city has offered several microenterprise grant programs in the past; the first was offered in 2004, and the most recent in 2016.

The grant period runs for two years, Armstrong said.

“You’re looking at 18 to 20 months to do this,” she said.

The microenterprise grant money — $170,000 for the current grant period — originates in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, but it is administered by the state Office of Community Renewal.

The first round and possibly only round of winners will be sent to the city Common Council in October for approval, she said. If the city has not used all of its allotted funds in that first round, Thomas Development will continue to take and review applications, then send another round to the Common Council for approval in late winter or early spring of 2020, she said.

At least half of the approved grants must go to new businesses, but not all of them do. It is also possible for a business that has already received a microenterprise grant to receive a second one, but certain conditions must be fulfilled, mainly that the business create a new job for a person from a low income
background. A third grant, however, is unlikely; no one has ever received one before, Armstrong said.

Food and Ferments, a Truxton-based, family-owned and-operated food and beverage production business with a facility in Cortland, is one local company that has received two microenterprise grants. The first grant, of about $32,750, came through the city in 2018, and the second, for $33,650, came through the county this year.

Dougherty said the first grant from the city “was really instrumental in helping us move into our Cortland warehouse location” on south Main Street.

It also enabled the company to buy a $3,000 vegetable shredder, several stainless steel tables and packaging materials. The second grant from the county will allow the business to expand its kombucha-brewing business in Truxton.

The company plans to buy fermentation vats and other equipment to produce kombucha for wholesale distribution, she said.