Small businesses have a new avenue for growth with a grant program just launched by the Franklin Chamber Foundation.
The Chamber Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the Franklin Chamber of Commerce, launched the Capacity-Building Grants program Tuesday for small businesses with 10 or fewer employees.
The grants are made possible with $30,000 in economic development fees awarded to the Chamber Foundation by the city of Franklin’s Economic Development Commission in May. The fees are collected from companies in Franklin that have an active tax abatement. The money is paid forward annually to Franklin-based nonprofits that work in the economic development sector.
The Franklin Chamber Foundation launched in January with a mission to provide grants and educational programming to businesses in the greater Franklin area. The new 501(c)3 organization came about to help the Chamber realize these goals, Rosie Chambers, executive director, said in March. As a 501(c)6, donations to the Chamber aren’t tax deductible and the organization is eligible for fewer grants, making those goals harder to achieve.
The grants are the first step to making the vision for the Chamber Foundation a reality. With the money from the economic development fees, the Chamber Foundation has plans to award 12 grants worth $2,500 to local small businesses through an application process.
“Small businesses play a crucial role in the economic and social development of a community. In Franklin, small business owners are friends and neighbors who are the backbone of our city,” Chambers said in a statement on the grants. “We are delighted to assist in strengthening these businesses that are so important to the fabric of our community and we are grateful for the funding of this pilot program from the Franklin Economic Development Commission.”
Small businesses of 10 or fewer full-time employees can submit applications for grants to aid capacity-building initiatives such as expanding physical space, online presence or marketing initiatives. Examples of capacity building are creating user-friendly online shopping platforms, enhanced point-of-sale systems, updated websites, increased physical spaces and innovative marketing strategies, the grant announcement says.
“Capacity building means to strengthen or grow your business. It’s not for salary or things like that they’re already responsible for,” Chambers said. “It is to help them grow; because that’s what we want to see our local businesses do in Franklin.”
Grant applications will be open through July 31 and the application can be found at franklincoc.org/capacity-building-grant-program.
Applications will be scored on longevity, impact, sustainability, community involvement, community support, innovation and completeness of the application. One thing that isn’t a factor is whether the applicant is a Chamber member.
“The application is open to all small businesses in Franklin,” Chambers said. “We do need our members to keep us going, but ultimately we are here for the support of all businesses.”
Applications will be reviewed by the Franklin Chamber Foundation Board of Directors and representatives from the Franklin Chamber of Commerce, Discover Downtown Franklin and the Franklin Economic Development Commission. Questions on the program can be directed to [email protected] or 317-736-6334.
The 12 winning applicants are expected to have checks in hand by September, she said.
“I hope that we see applications from across the city,” Chambers said. “I want to be able to support all kinds of businesses.”