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Grants available to help rural businesses

Rural businesses and non-profits looking to ride out the recession can get a valuable helping hand from the Wellington-Waterloo Community Futures Development Corporation.

Wellington-Waterloo is one of 61 CFDCs in Ontario charged with distributing funds from the federal government’s Southern Ontario Development Program. In total, $100 million has been announced for the program in 2009-2010; the Wellington Waterloo CFDC will distribute $450,000.

 Jana Reichert, economic development officer for the WWCFDC, sees the program as providing assistance to communities struggling with the downturn in the market.
Jana Reichert, economic development officer for the WWCFDC, sees the program as providing assistance to communities struggling with the downturn in the market.

“The point is to help communities that are struggling with the market downturn,” said Jana Reichert, economic development officer for the WWCFDC. “It’s about job creation, it’s about adjusting to the new market, helping small businesses train their employees and get consulting advice, things like that.”

The funding is available to businesses, non-profits, post-secondary institutions and municipal governments in the Wellington Waterloo CFDC’s catchment area, which covers Wellington County and Waterloo Region, excluding the cities of Guelph, Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo.

“In our area, we have a lot of businesses in manufacturing, agriculture and transportation, and those seem to be the three that have been heavy hit [by the recession],” Reichert said. “We want to support them in getting back on their feet.”

Funding is available in five areas: business development, skills development, internships, local initiative and community capacity. The last two categories are restricted to public organizations; the first three are open to private businesses as well.

Local-initiative projects, which can receive up to $10,000, are projects that help non-profits develop sustainable plans for the future, including research and feasibility studies, tourism initiatives and events and seminars or workshops.

Community capacity projects should enhance the region’s socio-economic development, leading to long-term job creation, economic diversification and enhanced business competitiveness. Eligible costs, up to $100,000, include consulting and professional fees, marketing and advertising costs, travel and equipment.

The deadline for applications to the local initiative and community capacity categories is Nov. 16.

Internships should provide work experience and potentially permanent employment, and offer the chance for unemployed workers to retrain in a new area. Non-profits can receive up to $2,500 per intern per month; businesses are eligible to receive 50 per cent of costs up to $2,500 per intern per month.

“The internship program is nice because it’s not restricted to any age or capacity or background,” Reichert said. “You can just hire somebody to basically learn new skills.”

The objective of the business development category is to help entrepreneurs find new business opportunities or strengthen existing ones, potentially through hiring a consultant to create business, product development or marketing plans. Non-profits and commercial entities can receive 90 per cent cost recovery on up to $5,000.

Targeting skills development is designed to enhance the local labour force through training and courses. Non-profits are eligible for 100 per cent recovery of costs up to $5,000 per employee and $25,000 per business, while businesses are entitled to 50 per cent recovery of costs.

The application deadline for the next round of internship, business development and skills development projects is Nov. 11.

The Southern Ontario Development Program is targeted toward projects that can be up and running quickly; the money has to be spent before Mar. 31, 2010.

Wellington Waterloo is the first CFDC to advertise the funding, Reichert said.

The office has received about 35 applications to date, with $100,000 worth of projects getting approval in the first round. Those include hiring extra help to do educational programs for farm tours; training in the accounting software Quickbooks; and funding to attend trade shows.

“Entrepreneurs in our area are very enthusiastic,” Reichert said. “They’re taking advantage of this money, which is great.

“Even though this is a difficult time for businesses, it’s exciting for me to see there are great ideas and markets for those ideas.”

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