MEDC Working to Build Optimism in 2021 and Beyond for State Businesses

If Michigan’s small businesses could sum up the 2020 holiday season and the start of 2021 in a single word, they likely would select the word “momentum.”

Not only did the holiday season bring a boost in retail sales, but the months following are proving that they have what it takes to keep going and growing, according to Michele Wildman.

Wildman is the Senior Vice President of Community Development for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, better known by its acronym of MEDC. Since mid-March 2020 when the world changed because of coronavirus, the MEDC has worked hard to help promote, support and build momentum of Michigan businesses with a special focus on Mom-and-Pop shops and small companies, Wildman said.

Wildman and the staff at the MEDC are asking Michigan residents to continue to support these businesses into the spring and beyond – something they know Michiganders are doing diligently based on anecdotes and data.

For example, recent findings from the Michigan Retailers Association note that 47% of large and mom-and-pop local retailers in Michigan reported an increase in December sales thanks to last-minute holiday shopping.

“We are actively engaged in providing COVID support and relief to small businesses,” Wildman said.

What does that look like? Wildman said the numbers tell the story.

  1. 23 Programs
  2. 24,400+ companies supported
  3. 200,000 jobs retained
  4. 2.5M Units of PPE Supplies Produced
  5. 43% of assistance was dedicated to disadvantaged areas
  6. 63% of assistance was dedicated to diverse businesses

Support systems
So what is the MEDC? Its most recognizable program may be the “Pure Michigan” campaign. But the MEDC does far more – in collaboration with more than 100 economic development partners, the MEDC markets Michigan as the place to do business, assists businesses in their growth strategies and fosters community growth across the state.

Its mission is “to achieve long-term economic prosperity for Michiganders by investing in communities, enabling the growth of good jobs and promoting Michigan’s strong image worldwide,” according to the MEDC website. Its strategic focus aims to position Michigan at the leading edge of economic development in the nation.

Michigan began to see rapid-fire changing in “normal life” in early March 2020, and the MEDC started to work with businesses, entrepreneurs, workers and communities across Michigan’s 83 counties to find ways to support and protect, Wildman said. To date, the MEDC has provided nearly $250 million in relief and supported nearly 25,000 businesses statewide, she said.

As a result, Michigan has been able to retain about 200,000 jobs while promoting small business and Main Street as a whole, Wildman added. The MEDC has given out grants, helping with crowdfunding campaigns and built support programs to make sure these workers and businesses could have the funds to buy protective gear, employ people, offer their services and stay open.

Over the past year, the MEDC has provided grants and loans through flagship business relief programs – including the $20 million Michigan Small Business Relief Program, the $100 million Michigan Small Business Restart Program and the most recent $10 million Pure Michigan Small Business Relief Initiative. Through the PMBC COVID-19 Emergency Access and Retooling Grants program, the $1 million in grants awarded 12 Michigan companies and non-profits for retooling helped to manufacture 2.5 million units of PPE in Michigan in a matter of months, while generating $27 million in new sales supporting their workforce and continued operations in the state.

In February, critical relief totaling approximately $52.5 million for nearly 6,000 small businesses across the state has been awarded to date through the MEDC’s Michigan Small Business Survival Grant program.

Approved by the Michigan Strategic Fund on Jan. 14, the Michigan Small Business Survival Grant Program allocated $55 million to provide support to Michigan small businesses to meet the urgent need of businesses that experienced a significant financial hardship due to COVID-19 emergency “gatherings and face mask orders.”

The program allowed for grants of up to $20,000 to be awarded to businesses that are fully closed, with grants of up to $15,000 awarded to businesses that have been partially closed, or otherwise are open and can demonstrate an impact. A total of 5 percent of overall funding for the program was able to go toward administrative costs of the economic development organizations administering the grants.

Next steps
The key to getting through this next phase of vaccinations is to continue to support small businesses, especially restaurants and retailers, Wildman said. She said the MEDC is “optimistic” about 2021 and beyond because of companies such as Michigan-based Pfizer out of Portage, which has been shipping its vaccines around the country.

A big part of that is the MEDC’s Support Local initiative to encourage Michiganders to shop local during the cooler winter months to help support and sustain restaurants, retail shops and other small businesses in downtowns all around the state, Wildman said.

Planning is also already underway on the Pure Michigan spring/summer campaign, which is slated to launch in March. The MEDC and Travel Michigan is anticipating high demand for Michigan travel destinations and outdoor recreation this summer. The goal is to continue to position Michigan strongly for travelers within the region and beyond while also sharing a message of safe travel statewide, Wildman said.

“We’re reinforcing the message that people can make a difference for small businesses and do it safely,” Wildman said.