Over $5 million to be awarded to West Michigan area businesses

Beginning Jan. 19, small businesses can apply to the Michigan Small Business Survival Grant program, which is awarding $55 million across the state. Businesses that are fully closed can be awarded up to $20,000 and those that are partially closed can receive up to $15,000. 

This is one of two grant programs approved last week by the Michigan Strategic Fund and is part of the $106 million bipartisan relief bill signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in late December. 

The 83 counties across Michigan are grouped into clusters with a designated cap on grant money to be allocated by a local or nonprofit economic development organization (EDO). The Right Place was asked to administer the program for the group including Barry, Ionia, Kent, Lake, Mason, Mecosta, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo, Oceana and Osceola counties, which will total $5.25 million in grants. 

Tim Mroz, senior vice president of strategic initiatives at The Right Place, says that The Right Place will be awarding grants to local businesses in Kent County. Regional partners from the other 10 counties will be reviewing applications for businesses within those areas. As written in the legislation, all grants must be awarded by Jan. 31 and funds must be distributed by the end of February, which leaves limited time to go through the potential thousands of applications. 

“In full transparency and all honesty, there is no feasible human way to go through 1,800 applications in five days,” says Mroz. “So our solution to that was to create a grading rubric that all applications would be graded against evenly.” 

They created a Kent County Scoring Advisory Committee to grade the application questions to determine how the questions will be weighed during the deliberation process. Mroz says the committee was formed from a diverse set of community members, all working in the small business community. The 10-member committee can be viewed online and represents various organizations, including Richard App from the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, Jamiel Robinson from Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses, and Guillermo Cisneros from the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

“The small business community that this grant program is currently servicing is not The Right Place’s core customer base,” says Mroz. “Our primary audience at The Right Place are what we call ‘foundational businesses’ and those are your manufacturers, technology companies, the health care industry, your food processing companies — those employers that either build a product or provide a service and sell that product or service outside the region.” 

“So, this is a very different program for us and that’s why we gathered this committee to do this,” Mroz adds. 

Unfortunately, the statewide application on the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s (MEDC) website is an English-only application, but Mroz says that community members have graciously been willing to help. “We [have posted] contact information, phone numbers, and email addresses for three Spanish-speaking business professionals in the Grand Rapids area to provide support for those Spanish-speaking businesses that need help during the application process.”

“We’re doing our best, obviously on a very tight timeline, to support the diverse business community we have in Kent County,” says Mroz. “We’re going to do everything we can in the next literally five days to make this as easy as possible.” 

Applications open Tuesday, Jan. 19 and will stay open until noon on Friday, Jan. 22. Applicants who are in the queue by noon will be able to complete their application and still be considered, but any applications that are opened after 12 p.m. will not be reviewed. The Right Place has additional information as well as requirements available in Spanish on its website.
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