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Published in Small Business

Thousands seek small biz pandemic relief grants in West Michigan

BY Monday, August 10, 2020 03:30pm

Nearly 4,000 small businesses across a 13-county region of West Michigan have applied for state pandemic relief grants.

The Michigan Strategic Fund approved the $100 million Michigan Small Business Restart Program in early July, which was funded through the federal CARES Act. Regional economic development organizations accepted applications from qualifying businesses. Under the program, small businesses and nonprofits can qualify for up to $20,000 to cover payroll, rent, mortgages, utilities and other expenses related to reopening.

Mike Ramirez, partner and president of Orka Automatio COURTESY PHOTO

Economic development organizations The Right Place Inc. and Lakeshore Advantage have received 2,991 and 887 applications, respectively. The Right Place is overseeing applicants from an 11-county region that includes Kent County, while Lakeshore Advantage accepted applications from small businesses in Allegan and Ottawa Counties.

Of the $100 million program, Grand Rapids-based The Right Place received a little more than $9.5 million to distribute, while Lakeshore Advantage received $3.5 million. Elsewhere, Southwest Michigan First got $7.5 million and the Lansing Economic Area Partnership got $5.5 million.

At Lakeshore Advantage, a 19-member committee — which includes officials from major West Michigan companies including Macatawa Bank, Herman Miller and Gentex — is now reviewing the applications through Aug. 24. Officials also say 30 percent of the awards will go to woman-owned, minority-owned and veteran-owned businesses as required under a state supplemental spending bill. 

“With much thought and intentionality, we’ve built an equitable and inclusive review process and recruited strong community, business and nonprofit representatives to provide leadership on the Review Board,” Mike Ramirez, partner and president of Orka Automation, said in a statement. Ramirez also chairs Lakeshore Advantage’s grant review board. “This grant lends much opportunity to reach deep into our lakeshore communities to provide small businesses and nonprofits access to the support they need in critical times.”

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