Sometimes it’s the little things that spur community development.
In the midst of a growth and development spurt that includes downtown and business district revival and a new convention center under construction, Jonesboro is launching a Micro-Enterprise Business Accelerator grant program, the first of its kind in the city.
“It’s a pilot. … It’s new,” said Community Development Directory Tiffny Calloway. “It’s not anything we’ve done with the city but we wanted to have some way to support those micro-enterprise businesses.”
The city’s Community Development Block Grant will provide $2,500-$10,000 for up to eight micro-enterprises defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as businesses with five or fewer employees, one or more of who own the business at the time of application.
“There’s always a need,” Calloway said. “Trying to get over that hurdle and start up.”
The CBGD annually receives funds from HUD and the amount is based on HUD formulas, while activities and programs funded are determined by citizens, the grants and community development staff, the mayor and city council.
To qualify for the grant money, a business must serve or create jobs for low- to moderate-income residents. In the case where no jobs are created the employer, owner or employee base must be of low to moderate income.
The program is a response to suggestions made in a public hearing that the city invest in local economic development projects, and Calloway said this was a way to accomplish that.
“Each year we have a public hearings where we give the public opportunities to come in and tell the city what they want to do with those dollars,” Calloway said. “Within our action plan that was approved by the city council this summer we put in a micro-enterprise development program.”
Calloway said the program addresses what is an ongoing, universal need to help small businesses get over some of their initial challenges so they can contribute to the community’s growth and economic health.
“We were able to see how much funding. We wanted to kind of do a proof of concept,” Calloway said. “If this program is obviously successful we’re going to look for avenues to help more small businesses.”
Mayor Harold Perrin praised the grants department to local media.
“This is just another way our Community Development and Grants Department is serving our city,” he said. “I am especially proud of Tiffny and CDBG program manager Angy Abaunza for creating this program.”
Proposals for grant awards must be submitted to the city by 4 p.m. Dec. 14.