Government Grants Can Help Ease Business Challenge

  For more than two decades, from studios such as Willy Wonka in the garment district of New York, the company Michelle Feinberg, New York Embroidery Studio, has been helping amateur and brand-name clothing designers embellish with decorative stitching, rhinestones, sequins and other items. Thus, when an old client, Ralph Lauren, approached him in 2010 and asked him to help create the uniforms for Team USA at the Sochi Olympics, Ms. Feinberg jumped at the chance. 

The only problem is that in order to meet the needs of a Ralph Lauren in time - a uniform all produced in the country for the first time - he had to upgrade his equipment, an assortment of modern and antique special stitching and cutting machine. 

That was when he heard about the Fashion Manufacturing Initiative, a public-private program that offers financial matching funds for local producers who wish to upgrade their machines, expand their services or railroad workers. The program, which is run by the New York City Economic Development Corporation and the Council of Fashion Designers of America, is intended to support the city's fashion manufacturing business - those who have not moved their facilities escape to the country with cheaper labor. 

Ms. Feinberg implemented the program last August and earlier this year was awarded $ 67,000 in matching funds to offset the purchase of new equipment, including embroidery machine with laser capability, digital fabric printers and computer-controlled cutting machine. "I never applied for a grant before," said Ms. Feinberg, who was surprised to be one of the seven winners. 

When a small business owner looking for capital, government grants are not always top of mind. For many owners, it may even seem contradictory to ask the government for help, but they could lose the opportunity owner. Programs at the federal, state and city are available to help small businesses pay for new equipment, train staff, improve facilities and expand into new markets. 

Grants, unlike loans, do not need to be paid back. But that does not mean they come without strings. "There is no free ride," said Ron Flavin, a consultant based in San Francisco and author of books about business grants. They are given for specific purposes in accordance with national or local interests. They usually come with strict requirements and accountability standards. And in some cases, like Ms. Feinberg, a business must make suitable investment to qualify. 

Mr. Flavin also warned that, despite the claims of unscrupulous internet marketers promise a pot of gold, grants are rarely, if ever, offered to pay the debt or start a new business - even for businesses owned by women, veterans or minorities. He also noted that half of all proposals were rejected because applicants do not follow instructions, eliminating important information or do not understand what information is being sought. If the application is complicated, he said, business owners should seek help. (Grant Professionals Association is one source.) 

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So where you can find business grants? A good starting point is, a centralized website that allows owners to search and apply for more than 1,000 federal programs. Last year the federal government allocates more than $ 500 billion for grants. Most of the money, however, goes to nonprofit organizations, schools, and state and city government agencies that provide services to the public interest. (The groups sometimes said that the funds for for-profit businesses through a special grant.) 

Only 5 percent, or $ 26 billion, the federal grant funds go directly to non-profit business, mostly for activities related to research and development through programs such as the Small Business Technology Transfer and Small Business Innovation Research. 

For most small companies out of energy, technological and scientific fields, better hunting grounds are the programs offered by state and local agencies, in which the grants are often disbursed in the name of economic development. Almost every state has a program to offer financial assistance to businesses. Mr. Flavin offers a complete list in his book. 

Idaho, for example, offers five business grant programs, including the State Trade and Export Promotion Grant, to help the resident company looking to expand exports. The grant is a pilot program that offers state in conjunction with the Small Business Administration. 

Cities, counties and other municipal organizations also offer assistance to local businesses. "Grant Program is a great strategic tool to spur economic growth" that can provide significant momentum to the environment or sector, said Kyle Kimball, president of the New York Economic Development Corporation. Profitable business "investment pays this city many times to create jobs, pay taxes and continue to appear as a pillar of their community," he added. 

Even when the number of grants is simple, they can help companies with significant costs. In south Florida, Miami-Dade County offers a Mom and Pop Small Business Grant Program, which provides technical assistance and grants up to $ 5,000. Grants may be used to pay for inventory, marketing, inventory, remodeling and other uses. Skyward Kites, kite rental outfit in Miami Haulover Park, was awarded a grant to help upgrade to a larger, solar powered concession stand. 

In 2006, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture is looking for ways to help tobacco farmers transition to other crops, and focus on the grape vine, which has grown in the state before Prohibition. Agency programs are made, including Marketing Cost-Share Program, to help cover the costs of marketing a small wineries, as well as Replacement Program Wholesaler wholesale replacement of $ 20 per case of wine Kentucky to encourage them to carry local wines. 

Stonebrook Winery able to cover half of the cost of marketing to advertise wine - including its flagship victim, Vidal Blanc - in newspapers and regional magazines. Share the cost of the program has been instrumental in helping various small wineries build their brand and persuade wholesalers to pick them up, said Dennis Walter, the fourth generation owner of Stonebrook. "You need that help to market your brand when you start," he said.

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