Cortland County eyes future microenterprise grant program

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Microenterprise assistance grant program administrators told Cortland County legislators Tuesday it could be a matter of time before the county receives another $200,000 in state funds to help local businesses.

Program Manager Linda Armstrong, working with Thoma Development said the county has submitted a pre-application to the microenterprise grant funding earlier this year, hoping to be able to help local businesses the way it has done in the past. The pre-application now rests with the state’s Housing Trust Fund Corporation, which would then invite county officials to finalize a formal application. 

According to program guidelines, the microenterprise grant program is meant to provide jobs and economic opportunities for persons from low-and-middle income (LMI) families. LMI is defined as at or below 80 percent of area median income.

Funding decisions are based, in part, on the following: severity of need; public benefit; program feasibility; sustainability of activity outcomes; reasonableness of costs; extent to which the activity compliments other local, state, or federal programs; and public support for the locally-driven program.

The county last received funding through this program in 2017-2018, meant to last for 24 months. Six local businesses at the time received the funding and they are all still standing, according to Armstrong.

“The pre-application has not been acted upon yet,” she said. “The city received funds through the program this year, but we expect the county will receive theirs as well. The county and city are mirror images of one another.”

Legislators also spoke about the program.

“If we receive the funds this time, we are back to square one to distribute,” said Legislative Majority Leader George Wagner.

Businesses like Hedgerow Hill Farms, Rincon Hispano, and Silver Lining Performance Horses all received funding through the previous iteration of the program.

“We did a really good job spreading the money around through the county,” Armstrong said. “We awarded money to businesses in Cortlandville, Cortland, Truxton, Virgil, and Homer.”

Currently, Armstrong said, there are 24 requests for information on the microenterprise grant by local businesses. Last time the funds were disbursed the county received 13 formal applications.

If the county is awarded state funding through the program, they will have to put out a request for proposal for a program administrator to distribute the money. Thoma Development has been the company in charge of disbursing the funds in previous years.