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Grant to benefit local businesses

 RONAN — In a slow economy, small business owners need all the help they can get. And thanks to The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and Lake County Community Development Corporation, relief for a few such businesses in Ronan is on the way. 

If everything goes as planned, Mission Valley Seamless Gutter, Tipu Tiger Chai, Thunder Head, Rimrock Bullets and OPE Inc. will receive  portions of a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Grant. The grant will be used to jumpstart or stabilize emerging businesses.

Once the individual projects are approved by LCCDC, the businesses can use their allotment of the $30,000 grant to develop and produce marketing materials, accounting and business management training and software, and expansion feasibility studies. 

LCCDC Business Development Officer Tina Oliphant explained that many small business owners are constantly multi-tasking and funds and time are simply not available to expand their businesses.

“The problem is with these small businesses ... you are doing everything,” Oliphant explained. “You’ve got to wear 50 hats.”

With this grant, the potential recipients will able to compete in the market more efficiently by developing marketing materials and business management skills.

“Well you know, that kind of thing can make a huge difference,” Tipu’s Tiger Chai president and founder, Bipin Patel said. 

“People take you more seriously if you have professional looking marketing materials.”

If Tipu’s Tiger Chai is approved for the grant, the spiced tea company plans on upgrading their marketing materials to give their booth at trade shows a more professional look.

Besides expanding individual businesses, the grant is naturally designed to benefit the community in a number of ways, including job development. 

If a company hires more people as a result of the grant, then there are more community members who have the finances available to spend at other local businesses. 

“It’s a domino effect,” Oliphant said, describing how the local business expenditures will likely go back into the community.

“In some cases the money they get will stay local,” Oliphant explained. “It’s something that wasn‘t happening before the money was invested in the community.”

LCCDC first applied for the competitive grant a year ago, but the grant application was not successful. When Oliphant decided to apply again, she worked very closely with Eric Hanson from the USDA office in Kalispell, wording the application specifically to fit the guidelines of the grant. 

The grant is not free, however. If the projects are approved, the companies must match the grant money by 50 percent. Other stipulations require the businesses to have less than 50 employees and less than $1 million in sales. 

The grant also requires the location of the business to be in a community of 50,000 people or less. 

According to the press release, LCCDC is one of 44 organizations across the nation that have received the grant and one of two organizations in Montana.

 

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