Almost every government entity, from the U.S. Department of Commerce to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to state government departments, has grant money available annually to help fund economic development projects. Millions of dollars are available for both economic development training and projects. Below is a selected list of such opportunities.
In response to the need for technical assistance for economic development, the Environmental Protection Agency created the Smart Growth Implementation Assistance Program in 2005. This is an annual program open to state, local, regional, and tribal governments as well as to non-profit organizations that have partnered with a government entity. Typically, 3-5 communities are selected for this program each year and receive direct technical assistance from a team of national experts in one of two areas: policy analysis (e.g., reviewing state and local codes, school siting guidelines, transportation policies, etc.) or public participatory processes (e.g., visioning, design workshops, alternative analysis, build-out analysis, etc.). For example, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) received assistance in 2008 to help develop a scorecard that would evaluate the transportation options available to urban, suburban, and rural residents. It is anticipated that Requests for Letters of Interest will be issued in January 2014.
This is a competitive grant program through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that aids to improve the economic condition of rural areas by providing assistance in the startup, expansion, or operational improvement of rural cooperatives and other business entities. Grants are awarded competitively on an annual basis to Rural Cooperative Development Centers, who in turn provide technical assistance to individuals and entities. Applicants can include non-profit organizations or institutions of higher education. This program does require a 25 percent match of the total project cost. The maximum grant amount is $200,000, and in Fiscal Year 2013 there was were $6.5 million in program funding. The anticipated deadline for next year is July 2014.
Every year each state administers Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) to local governments to aid in the development of viable communities by providing decent housing, a suitable living environment, and expanding economic development opportunities primarily for low to moderate-income individuals. HUD distributes funds to each state based on a statutory formula that takes into account population, poverty, incidence of overcrowded housing, and age of housing. Each state develops its own funding priorities and criteria for funding, while also choosing which local governments receive funding. However, local governments must ensure at least 70 percent of its CDBG grant funds are used for activities that benefit low and moderate-income persons. Communities may use CDBG funds for a variety of activities including, but not limited to, acquisition of property, planning activities, public activities, and demolition.
In our home state of Illinois, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity administers this federally-funded grant program. It provides grants of up to $750,000 to local governments that can then be loaned to businesses locating or expanding in the community. Funds may be used for machinery and equipment, working capital, building construction, and renovation. Grants may also be available for improvements to public infrastructure in direct support of a business that would create and/or retain jobs in the community. Units of local government in communities with population under 50,000 people are eligible to apply. Many other states offer similar programs to assist local businesses in expansion projects.
The State of Illinois also offers the Business Development Public Infrastructure Program (BDPIP) to local governments for improvements on public infrastructure on behalf of businesses undertaking a major expansion or relocation project. This project must result in substantial private investment and creation or retention of jobs in the state. The grant amount is based on the amount of investment as well as the job creation or retention involved. For this program, at least one private sector job must be created or retained for every $10,000 awarded by the department. Typically, the department will limit its assistance to $500,000 or less. Applications are accepted on an ongoing basis, with grants available on a very limited basis. Again, other states may have similar programs to assist in infrastructure projects for business expansion.
Our team of experts, including Municipality Specialist Rebecca Motley, can help walk you through every step of your grant journey. Please contact us, visit our municipality page, or see our complete list of services to see how we can help you find your funding needs.
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