March 1, 2023
“Where can I find a grant to __________?” This question is posed to Greenbrier Valley EDC staff daily. Indeed, with the passing of omnibus bills such as the Inflation Reduction Act, and the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act, there are billions in funding available – if you know where to look.
Navigating the myriad of federal options and having capacity to apply for “all the things” is a challenge, even for us. We don’t have all the answers to all the grant questions. But we can give you a place to start – which is what we’ll focus on in today’s blog. Grants: What is really out there for businesses? And how can communities and nonprofits better navigate options and get help?
Grants.gov is the one-stop shop for all federal grants for all types of organizations – even businesses. But first a word about grants to for-profits: in the federal funding landscape, those opportunities that can go directly toward businesses is a very small percentage of total funds available.
There are exceptions. Keep in mind that most federal funding is distributed to state and local governments and nonprofits who provide services directly to businesses – so go back to our blog on business development partners and workforce programs, to see how those grant funded organizations can help your business.
And if you’re considering applying for a federal opportunity, get your SAMS registration and CAGE code here: https://sam.directory/#intro. The process for registering can take a bit, so don’t wait until the last minute, or you may miss your window.
USDA: In addition to all the support USDA gives farmers through programs like the NRCS, the USDA has a Rural Development arm with opportunities for small businesses in rural areas (yes, the Greenbrier Valley is considered rural). Here are just a few:
- Value-Added Producer Grants (VAPG): These grants help take agricultural products to the next level. This program helps producers generate new products, create and expand marketing opportunities, and increase income. Funds can be used for planning and working capital – conducting feasibility studies and developing business plans for processing and marketing the proposed value-added product. The grant can pay for processing costs, marketing and advertising expenses, and some inventory and salary expenses. Applications are not open, but usually open in April.
- Rural Energy for America Program (REAP): This grant helps producers and small businesses install renewable energy systems like solar, biomass, or wind generation; or to make energy efficiency improvements such as updated lighting or replacing inefficient equipment. Eligible projects could get up to 40% match for their projects (up from just 25% match last year). Applications are due March 31st.
USDA RD also funds capacity for meat processing facilities and other programs throughout the year. If you are in the ag world, or ag adjacent, you should definitely know this agency. Check out their website or call 304-284-4860. And check out USDA’s WV RD Director Ryan Thorn’s Mountain Messenger Op-Ed about entrepreneurial opportunities.
SBIR Grants: The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs both encourage domestic small businesses to engage in R&D for products with commercialization potential. In other words, businesses that are developing products that could be of interest to the federal government receive grants to help push those products to market. Many federal agencies participate in this program, you can find that list here. Fortunately, the WV Small Business Assistance Center has a specialist on board that can help business navigate this process, and even has matching grants for Phase I and Phase II SBIR awards. More information on their program is available here.
U.S. Chamber: Federal opportunities exist for businesses but finding them can be a challenge. The US Chamber of Commerce updates a list of opportunities on their website every few weeks. These opportunities include federal funding options, but also grants provided by corporate or private foundations. Grants to minority and women owned businesses are a large part of this list, and it’s one of the best lists I’ve seen: https://www.uschamber.com/co/run/business-financing/small-business-grants-and-programs
Industry News: We also encourage you to look to industry groups, or associations to find opportunities. The National Hardwood Lumber Association regularly send out opportunities to their members, as do many other organizations. And the WV Department of Tourism released a great Funding & Resource Guide – for businesses, nonprofits and for government agencies working in tourism.
Community and Nonprofit Resources
For local government and nonprofits, there are even more programs to navigate. Don’t worry, we won’t list those here. (Go to grants.gov for federal opportunities). But we do want you to know about a few new resources.
State Resources: Governor Jim Justice announced last month a few new websites for state grant seekers:
- Grants.wv.gov, is a one-stop-shop for personal and business-based grant funding opportunities in West Virginia. You can search funding opportunities, look up grant terms in a provided glossary, and get helpful tips on your writing for grants.
- WV Infrastructure Hub is a platform designed to distribute funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act throughout the state. And it helps West Virginians see exactly how the federal funds it received are being spent.
NEW! WV Grant Centers: One of the most exciting new programs for grant seekers is the ARC funded WV Grant Centers. A collaboration between Marshall and WVU, this statewide effort focuses on helping build capacity in our rural state. The center’s focus is assisting organizations with grant applications – finding opportunities and creating a competitive application. If you have a project in economic or community development (including outdoor rec/infrastructure/site development), submit a project form to be contacted by WVGC staff.
Appalachian Regional Commission’s Ready Nonprofit Resource Center: Regional organizations can get loads of information, including a free membership to GrantStation through this ARC program.
Planning & Development Councils: I would be remiss in talking grant resources without mentioning our local regional planning & development councils, Region 4 (Greenbrier & Pocahontas) and Region 1 (Monroe). They assist our communities with a variety of needs and have brought millions to our region. If you are working on public projects, and aren’t familiar with them, you should be.
If you made it to the end of this blog, without being exhausted by options, then kudos to you. For businesses, particularly those interested in USDA or federal grant opportunities, please reach out to see how we can help.
For nonprofits and communities, I’m excited about the WV Grant Center, and I would encourage you to contact them if you need help with a project, though we’re always here to direct you to a great resource.
For all, please remember that Greenbrier Valley EDC is committed to helping find the resources we all need to better our businesses and communities. We don’t have all the answers, but we can point you in the right direction, and cheer you on as we all look forward to great things happening in our region!