New Hanover County Awards $1.3 million to 130 Local Small Businesses
By County Manager, Chris Coudriet
The locally-owned store where you frequently shop, your barber or hair salon, the family-owned print store down the street – those are just some of the businesses that the county has been able to help through the small business grants program.
There were around 800 small businesses that applied for this grant offering, which was announced and approved by the board in early June, and made possible by federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding.
And just this week, the 130 businesses selected through a random lottery were finalized and they will each be receiving $10,000 in grant funds to help them navigate the financial impacts COVID-19 has caused. The $1.3 million in total funding will help these businesses continue to employ and hire local residents, fund additional cleaning and sanitizing supplies, and ensure their operations do all they can to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our community.
New Hanover County is home to thousands of small businesses, and we recognized early on that the demand for this grant funding would far exceed the supply because these businesses have borne so much of the economic impact during this pandemic. That is why the program was targeted to qualified businesses in New Hanover County with more than one employee and fewer than 25 employees, and also why the process emphasized a random selection of awardees.
The results provided diversity in a number of ways. I am pleased to report that, of the 130 businesses selected, 63 percent are owned by women and minorities in our community. New Hanover County is actively working on ways to make our community more inclusive and more welcoming to diverse workers and businesses, and this assistance to 82 minority-and women-owned businesses helps push that goal forward.
The companies awarded also represent a healthy cross-section of our business community. Bars, restaurants, retail stores, hair and nail salons, small medical outlets, fitness studios, machine shops, print shops, art studios, coffee shops, and much more were among those included in the random selection.
Each of these businesses will have $10,000 in their bank accounts by the end of this month, and I hope it provides them with added financial stability to continue to employ our residents and help our county’s economic well-being.
I want to thank Board of Commissioners Chair Julia Olson-Boseman for her direction to create a vehicle to help as many small businesses as possible, utilizing a portion of the county’s $4 million CARES Act funding. Her guidance and the Board of Commissioners’ support resulted in this program.
I am also grateful to Wilmington Business Development (WBD) and Live Oak Bank who have been our partners in this process, serving as third-party administrators of the grants program. WBD collected the applications and ensured all necessary documentation was received, and Live Oak Bank helped us develop a successful framework and is disbursing the funds to the 130 awardees. Both entities are providing their services free of charge, and I appreciate their partnership in this important county initiative.
New Hanover County wasn’t alone in establishing some form of aid to small businesses. Orange, Mecklenburg, and Wake counties were among others that established loan or grant programs to assist struggling small businesses affected by the pandemic.
But I believe the county’s initiative is very rare – because we have the partners, the resources, and the leadership to do the most good with the amount of money we have been given. We have provided these funds outright without requiring a loan repayment or other weeks-long qualifications. It was a simple process, designed to get this money into the hands of our local businesses and our local economy as fast as we could.
Our goal has been to use these funds wisely and for the good of the community, and I believe we have done just that.
The pandemic has been unprecedented and created tremendous challenges for our entire community, our workforce, and our economy. While we continue to fight the virus and do all we can to prevent its spread to help save lives, I hope that this grants program provides some relief and a boost for our small businesses and entrepreneurs – and that is helps them in the short-term, so they can get back on their feet in the long-term.
You can learn more about the county’s grants program here.