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BETHLEHEM — The Town of Bethlehem has announced it received another $200,000 in state aid last December to continue its Microenterprise Grant Program this year.
The program, offered by the state Office of Homes and Community Renewal, seeks to award grants, ranging from $5,000 to $35,000 each, to emerging and existing micro-enterprises that want to be located within or expand within Bethlehem. It first began in 2014 with the state awarding the town $200,000 every other year since, and in 2019, it plans to assist at least 10 businesses, half of the grants at least would be for start-up businesses that began operations for less than six months.
According to the town website, the grant money ideally would help businesses “purchase inventory, machinery, equipment, furniture, and fixtures, and to meet working capital needs.” Also, it defines a micro-enterprise “as a commercial enterprise that has five or fewer employees, one or more of which is the principal and owns the enterprise at the time of application.”
Interested micro-enterprises can learn more by attending two public information sessions, on Tuesday, Feb. 12 in the Town Hall auditorium and on Wednesday, Feb. 20 in the Town Hall’s Room 101, both located on 445 Delaware Ave. in Delmar. Elizabeth Staubach, the town’s Economic Development Coordinator, said that interested business owners would go over the program, its requirements, understand the application process and can ask questions — the town can start formally accepting applications on Monday, Feb. 25. Eventually, grant recipients have to undergo an Entrepreneurial Training Program — Staubach said it is “another way to better ensure the success of the businesses which applied” — where they will learn more about handling legal issues, taxes, accounting, financing, advertising, marketing, and employee issues.
Applications need to be submitted to Town Hall where the Department of Economic Development and Planning staff will look through them and highlight which are eligible, before they are further reviewed by the town’s Microenterprise Grant Application Review committee in around March or April. Staubach explained that this committee is made up of six local residents with extensive experience in working with or running small businesses, and possessing financial backgrounds. From there, they would make recommendations to the Town Board members who will then vote on them.
Staubach added that since 2014, the grant program has aided 19 businesses — nine in 2014 and 10 in 2016. “It is a much-needed resource to small businesses and Bethlehem has so many great ones. I also think the fact this program is being operated in the town is a really good marketing for the town, so that businesses can feel encouraged to open them up here,” she said.
“It would help people who are also thinking of moving into Bethlehem and it gives them that little push,” she concluded. “It’s such a great opportunity.”
For more information, visit www.townofbethlehem.org/709/Microenterprise-Grant-Program.