Grant Program Boosts Small Businesses Recovering from COVID-19 Expenses

Like other fitness centers, gyms and workout facilities, Beer City Barre, a Grand Rapids-based workout studio that incorporates yoga, pilates and dance, has been closed since Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer imposed her first stay-at-home order back in March.

And, like all of the businesses in that situation, Beer City Barre has had to absorb its share of expenses, such as rent, software, utilities and instructor salaries, among others.

That’s why owner Cori Williams was so excited Beer City Barre was chosen as one of more than 10 small businesses chosen to utilize the MI Local Biz crowdfunding program, a product of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

MEDC will provide $500,000 in matching grants to help the businesses as they work to recover from the negative impacts of the COVID-19 crisis.

“I was absolutely blown away to be chosen for the grant matching program,” Williams said. “I know there are so many deserving businesses out there, and I do not take this amazing opportunity for granted. The support of the community rallying around small businesses like mine is inspiring, and it gives many people like myself a glimpse of hope as we make our way out of this unprecedented time.”

Launched in May, the program builds on the MEDC’s Public Spaces Community Places program, in which residents can use crowdfunding to be part of the development of strategic projects in their communities and be backed with a matching grant from MEDC.

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MI Local Biz allows for a small business to utilize donation-based crowdfunding through Michigan-based Patronicity’s existing platform and to receive a 1:1 matching grant from MEDC of up to $5,000.

Funds must be used by the businesses for working capital needs in order to maintain ongoing operations during and through the COVID-19 crisis.

“Michigan’s small businesses and traditional downtowns are a vital part of the state’s economy, and this program offers innovative access to capital for those businesses currently experiencing a loss in revenue directly related to the COVID-19 crisis,” said MEDC CEO Mark A. Burton. “Helping our local businesses to successfully reopen lays a path for economic recovery in communities across the state, while offering patrons an opportunity to support businesses in a time of need.”

Businesses in 42 counties are participating in the MI Local Biz program – in communities ranging from Houghton in the Upper Peninsula, to Benton Harbor in Southwest Michigan, to Spring Lake in West Michigan, to the Lake Michigan port city of Manistee, to Port Huron at the easternmost point of the state. Campaigns are continuing to go live and will be added to the page on a regular basis.

Examples of the types of businesses that are participating include restaurants/bars/coffee shops, cafes, salons/day spas, yoga studios, historic theaters, retail shops, art galleries, recreation businesses, and many other small businesses retailing products or providing services in a face-to-face physical location within the state of Michigan.

Amy Polk, owner of Applecore General Store in the Les Cheneaux Islands in the Upper Peninsula, said she’s “grateful and amazed” to have been chosen to participate in the program and plans to use any funds raised, at least in part, to offset the costs of establishing new health and safety measures.

“Partnering with the MEDC on this incredible opportunity to grow my business during these uncertain times is such an honor,” Polk said. “I will be able to directly reinvest in other Michigan makers who provide products for the store by replenishing the store’s inventory in preparation for shopping to resume across the state.”

“I am so appreciative as well, for the MEDC’s investment in Upper Peninsula businesses like ours,” Polk added.

Individuals interested in learning more and supporting businesses in their communities can visit https://www.patronicity.com/milocalbiz. The page includes a list of all the businesses running campaigns through the program, and there is also a map showing the locations of them throughout the state.

To learn more about MEDC’s COVID-19 response programs and the impact they are having on economic recovery efforts, visit michiganbusiness.org/covid19response. The MEDC has also developed a FAQ for Michigan businesses and communities at michiganbusiness.org/covid19-faq.