Awareness Key With Potential Grant Program

SNOW HILL — A joint application has been filed with Worcester County and the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation (AAEDC) seeking to access potentially millions of dollars in small and minority owned business account grant funds.

According to Worcester County Economic Development Director Bill Badger, the application has a high probability for success. If funds are received, however, Badger stressed that it will be up to the county to get the word out to businesses owners who could benefit.

Seeking $4.1 million, the joint application is written to provide Worcester with $500,000 per year for up to five years, a potential total of $2.5 million for the county. The money would come from a state fund that is being paid into by every casino in Maryland.

“We were prepared to make sure that any funds that were available we could get back here to Worcester County,” said Badger.

That state fund represents a strong grant source, he added, with the current pot somewhere in the $7 to $8 million range. Badger received permission to file the application jointly with the AAEDC as Worcester’s partner last month from the County Commissioners. He told the Local Development Council (LDC) this week that he is confident that the application will yield funding.

“Our application is officially in. I can tell you it’s a very strong application,” said Badger. “We’re optimistic. I think we’ll know something in the April timeframe.”

Partnering with AAEDC was unexpected, according to Badger, but is Worcester’s best chance to submit an impressive application.

“I wanted to make sure we were in a lead position if we were going to seek funding, versus being blended into an application representing all of the Eastern Shore counties,” Badger said.

Badger, who worked for the AAEDC prior to coming to Worcester, told the LDC that the organization approached him with a joint application. Because of the significant staffing and resources that Worcester lacks, Badger felt it was a win-win situation for both sides to enter into a partnership. The County Commissioners agreed.

If approved, the actual funding for the first year would available by July 1. Should Worcester receive a portion, Badger said the key will be letting eligible businesses know that new opportunities will be available.

“Part of the challenge is getting the word out within our community that it’s out there … I don’t think it’s really been out in the public eye too much,” he said.

Any money that Worcester receives will be structured as low-interest business loans that will be available for small and minority owned businesses. Badger noted that in Maryland, a business owned by a woman qualifies as minority owned. Because the overall state pool functions as a revolving business loan fund, he added that with careful management money should be available every year and only continue to grow as more casinos come online in the state.

If the application is successful and the funding made available, Badger promised the LDC that his office will try to be as open to requests for loans from businesses as possible.

“It’s pretty flexible, and I want it to be flexible because I want to make sure if there’s an opportunity to work with us that we’re not so rigid in our criteria that we don’t look at it,” he said.

Jim Rosenberg, vice chair of the LDC, told Badger the program has potential as a booster shot for struggling businesses and that there is “so much need for the money.”

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