As Coal Industry Tries to Rebound, Workforce Grants Help Appalachia Diversify Economies and Displaced Miners Find Jobs

Coal mining is in his blood. But, these days, Billy Jack Buzzard has another lifeline.

The seventh-generation miner from rural West Virginia is working in a small town near Charleston, where he is building an app for a project based in Seattle. Billy Buzzard got the new job after completing a coding class offered through Mined Mines, a nonprofit foundation that helps miners in struggling coal-country communities in West Virginia and Kentucky, find work.

GrantWatch helps nonprofits located workforce development grants to serve the community and MWBEzone helps small businesses locate workforce grants.

Mined Mines is funded by grants from the Appalachian Regional Commission, a federal-state partnership that creates self-sustaining opportunities and quality of life improvements in a region long beset by high poverty and unemployment.

In the 205,000-square-mile region that follows the spine of the Appalachian Mountains from southern New York to northern Mississippi, a way of life that sustained generations is evaporating. 

ARC reports coal production in Appalachia fell by nearly 45 percent from 2005 to 2015. Coal is about to become the comeback kid of energy and displaced miners need work now.

For communities struggling from the coal industry’s downturn, ARC provides funds to help strengthen and diversify their economies through POWER initiative grants.  (While this grant deadline has passed, it is in the GrantWatch archives and can be reviewed and will be reposted again, when it becomes available.) POWER initiative grants aim to bolster the healthcare sector and improve health conditions, increase the number of adults with high school diplomas, enhance access to broadband internet service, foster entrepreneurship and develop industry clusters within the community. 

Energy experts attribute coal’s diminished standing to a rise in inexpensive natural gas combined with more automation in mines and the falling costs of renewable energy. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the coal industry lost some 30,000 mining jobs between 2008 and 2016.   

To assist distressed communities and regions impacted by the declining use of coal, GrantWatch also offers access to grants from the U.S. Economic Development Administration that provide technical assistance to address a wide variety of economic concerns, namely the creation and retention of jobs and increased private investment.

Many Appalachians reeling from the economic hit have already seen how changes in the regional coal economy can not only touch miners and their families, but everything from supply-chain industries to electric power generation, from transportation to K-12 education funding as well. While Mined Minds is geared toward former coal miners, Appalachians from all walks of life and industries have benefited from the program.

Billy Jack Buzzard is among the fortunate. He says he does and he doesn’t miss coal mining. Getting paid to code from his home, he said, allows him the flexibility to help when his kids are sick and certainly beats working underground.

Academic entities, nonprofits, community-based groups and concerned citizens frustrated by the often-overwhelming process involved with searching for grants can identify funding opportunities in support of diversifying and strengthening economies impacted by the coal industry's decline at GrantWatch.comSign-up to receive the weekly GrantWatch newsletter which features geographic-specific funding opportunities.

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As Ocean Waters Warm, Maine Agency Offers Grants to Boost Lobster Conservation Research

As soon as the first trap of the day is lifted onto his boat 10 miles off the coast of Portland, Jim Ranaghan is consumed with separating the keepers from the lobsters he will toss back into the ocean. Occasionally, he will pause to measure a lobster or check for a dense cluster of eggs on its tail.

For Ranaghan and Maine lobstermen like him who consider themselves protectors of the state’s signature natural resource, this is how it’s done. Fishery managers are determined to keep it that way.

And what better way than to award grants that will help researchers gain a keener understanding of lobsters. The Maine Department of Marine Resources is awarding six grants totaling $340,000 from the Lobster Research, Education and Development Fund. That money is derived from the sale of lobster license plates.

Patrick Keliher, commissioner of the state agency, says the grants will position the lobster industry to adapt to climate changes in the Gulf of Maine and preserve and conserve the popular crustacean population.

University of Maine researchers were awarded five of the six grants including two to Yong Chen. The marine science professor will develop scientific models to predict how climate change will impact lobster environments as well as computer simulations to measure the effects of conservation measures.

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of GrantWatch.com, said research and conservation are among the priorities behind grants that support marine protected areas and sustainable fishing. GrantWatch lists funding opportunities including funds that provide for: grants for environmental concerns, scientific research, policy analysis, management support, and public communication efforts.

Lobstermen in Maine take great pride in the state’s conservation measures, which go beyond outlining which lobsters can and cannot be harvested. Traps are specially designed to catch as few illegal lobsters as possible, and zoning laws, haul limits and other licensing and management regulations help maintain a stable population in Maine’s coastal waters.

Because of those statutes, the Maine lobster industry is experiencing an unprecedented boom. Since 2011, lobstermen have hauled in more than 100 million pounds of American lobster each year. That’s twice as many as the previous decade and five times as much as 30 years ago.

But, some fear the Gulf of Maine is getting warmer, which could be problematic for lobsters. Too much warm water, some researchers say, is to blame for a fall-off in the lobster catch in southern New England. And of concern to Maine lobster interests, catches dropped by 20 million pounds, from 132 million in 2016 to 110 million last year.

Academic entities, researchers, nonprofits and concerned citizens frustrated by the often-overwhelming process involved with searching for grants can identify funding opportunities in support land, water and wildlife conservation that are easy to read and simple to comprehend at GrantWatch.comSign-up to receive the weekly GrantWatch newsletter which features geographic-specific funding opportunities.

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Small Business Grants Provide Dough To Expand From Booth To ‘The Arepa Place’ Restaurant

From a booth inside Findlay Market in downtown Cincinnati, Isis Arieta-Dennis introduces South American culture to a passersby who bites into her signature arepas. She says Colombians consume arepas, flattened dough made of corn or maize and filled with ingredients, just like Americans eat bread.

The Colombian native is rolling in a little bit more dough after winning a $10,000 small business grant from Samuel Adams. The grants, some $24.5 million presented to food and beverage startups throughout the country in the past decade – are awarded to help small businesses thrive and create jobs in the community.

To win the grant, Arieta-Dennis had to pitch her business plan to a panel of five judges including Samuel Adams founder and brewer Jim Koch, a Cincinnati native. Now that arepas have proven to be their bread and butter, she and her husband, Christopher, have the additional funds to expand their food stand – The Arepa Place — into a more permanent restaurant within Findlay Market.

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of GrantWatch.com, said corporations are fond of holding contests to gain publicity for their own brands while awarding grants to promote small businesses. Some of these and other annual funding opportunities can be identified on MWBEzone.com, an ancillary service of GrantWatch that lists grants for small businesses, particularly those owned by woman and minorities.

The Arepa Place competed against four other local food-and-beverage entrepreneurs during the Sam Adams “Brewing the American Dream” program’s Cincinnati stop, which featured a Pitch Room Competition and Speed Coaching event.

The Arepa Place came out on top, earning Arieta-Dennis a $10,000 business grant and extended speed coaching from the Sam Adams program, which has coached or mentored more than 8,000 small businesses since its inception in 2008.

With the grant money, Arieta-Dennis said her new restaurant will be able to house a small shop to sell Latino products, many of the items from local small businesses already located within Findlay Market. In the meantime, she will use part of the grant money to purchase a tilt skillet for soaking the oil and corn or maize used for making arepas.

Arieta-Dennis said arepas look like tortillas, but much thicker. After slicing them open like a pita, she fills them with mozzarella cheese, black beans, fried plantains, and shredded beef or chicken. When she mixes mozzarella into the corn dough before grilling the patties, she has created a “Colombian version of a grilled cheese.”

A foundation for The Arepa Place began two years ago at the Butler County Small Business Development Center, which, Arieta-Dennis credits with helping her identify startup tools including how to file for a license.

For-profit entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses, particularly minority and women-owned, frustrated by the often-overwhelming process involved with searching for grants can identify funding opportunities that are easy to read and simple to comprehend at MWBEzone.com. By registering, subscribers gain access to both MWBEzone.com and GrantWatch.

 

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Have Job, Will Travel? $10,000 Grants Offered To Remote Workers Who Set Up Shop In Vermont

For able travelers who can’t get enough great snow for skiing, pure maple syrup and picturesque wooden bridges, Vermont has an offer that can’t be refused. The popular travel destination is offering money to visitors who are not only interested in coming to the Green Mountain State, but willing to stay awhile.

The new government initiative, designed to invigorate a small and aging population with a more youthful workforce, does have some requirements. To be eligible for the Remote Worker Grant Program, laborers must be full-time employees for an out-of-state business, work primarily from home or co-working space in Vermont, and become a full-fledged local resident by the end of the year.

Workers who meet those requirements can receive up to $5,000 a year in grants or no more than $10,000 for two years. The commissioner of the office of economic development, which is administering the grant program signed into law last month, said remote employees better move quickly. Some 1,000 workers with an eye toward Vermont have already requested more information on the grant program.

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of GrantWatch.com, said state tourism agencies routinely offer grants to encourage travel to a specific destination or region. These and other tourism grants are posted on tourism category and through the GrantWatch keyword search under tourism. From Florida across the nation to Washington, awards are typically targeted to nonprofits or small businesses travel and tourism category to promote arts and cultural events or to support marketing initiatives or traveler services that foster economic development.

Vermont’s Remote Worker Grant Program provides money to offset the cost of relocating, computer equipment and software, broadband internet access and co-working memberships. Funds will be distributed on a first come, first served basis, and there are annual limits to the grants.

For 2019, total grants cannot exceed $125,000. The cap increases in 2020 to $250,000, then drops back down to $125,000 in 2021. The idea, for a state that attracts 13 million annual visitors, is timely. Up to 43 percent of Americans work remotely for varying periods.

A small population – 623,657, according to the latest U.S. Census report – has pushed Vermont to think big. The state’s department of tourism and marketing already promotes a Stay to Stay program, which encourages visitors to enjoy a weekend visit to Vermont that includes meetings with realtors and potential employers.

Government agencies, nonprofits, small businesses, entrepreneurs frustrated by the often-overwhelming process involved with searching for grants that promote travel and tourism and boost economic development can identify funding opportunities that are easy to read and simple to comprehend at GrantWatch.comSign-up to receive the weekly GrantWatch newsletter which features geographic-specific funding opportunities.

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All-American: Sisters Turn Military Surplus Into Fashionable Small Business to Employ Veterans

Made in America is more than a company slogan for a couple of army brats who held onto an idea conceived in college to create a small business that recycles military trash into fashionable bags, jewelry and purses.

But, Emily Núñez Cavness and her sister, Betsy, do more than transform old military tents, parachutes and 50-caliber shell casings into civilian treasures. The company they founded and operate, Sword & Plough, employs military veterans throughout the manufacturing process — from design, to sewing, to management, sales and modeling

If that weren’t enough, along with donating dozens of the accessories to charities, Sword & Plough forwards 10 percent of the company’s profits to nonprofit veteran’s organizations across the United States. The Núñez sisters figure Sword & Plough has recycled more than 35,000 pounds of military surplus and supported more than 65 veteran jobs.

Each year, more than 200,000 U.S. military veterans like Núñez Cavness return to civilian life. And like the former Army captain who completed a tour in Afghanistan, 10 percent – a survey shows — would like to own a small business. And some — at least 25 million businesses in the United States are majority-owned by veterans – go on to fulfill those dreams. But, according to the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, 75 percent of U.S. veterans struggle to find the capital they need to get going.

Any new venture, at some point, needs assistance. Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of GrantWatch.com and MWBEzone.com, said veterans determined to start their own business can identify funding opportunities on MWBEzone.com that are targeted specifically to men and women who served their country. MWBEzone, an ancillary service of GrantWatch, lists grants for small businesses, particularly those owned by women, minorities and veterans.

Emily Núñez Cavness encourages other veterans to check out grant competitions like she did as well as crowdsourcing to help get their businesses off the ground. She said her time in the military prepared her to lead a company. Those designs started at an early age, when she was influenced by her father, an Army quartermaster for 30 years who went onto teach political science at the U.S. Military Academy. Núñez Cavness followed in his footsteps and joined the ROTC program at the University of Vermont.

Motivation behind Sword & Plough was spawned after the cadet attended a social entrepreneurship symposium. Not long after, Núñez Cavness won a business plan competition followed by a mentorship and a grant to get Sword & Plough started. But more money was needed to fund the company’s first preorder. Before Núñez Cavness deployed, the Sword & Plough team turned to crowdfunding, which raised more than $310,000 from supporters across the globe.

Betsy Núñez and Emily Núñez Cavness have come a long way since. Although the unemployment rate for veterans is down slightly to 3.4 percent, the sisters hope to continue to grow the company brand and give back to the military community that, they say, has given them so much.

For-profit entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses, particularly minority-, veteran- and women-owned, frustrated by the often-overwhelming process involved with searching for grants can identify funding opportunities that are easy to read and simple to comprehend at MWBEzone.com. By registering, subscribers gain access to both MWBEzone.com and GrantWatch.

About the Author: Staff Writer for GrantWatch.com

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Small Business Programs Offer Grants, Pearls Of Wisdom to Maryland Oyster Farmers

When he started out on Hooper’s Island six years ago, Ted Cooney thought he could manage his oyster farm all by himself. Ted realized all too soon that he needed to hire watermen who were willing to rise early each morning and pull up oyster cages from the bottom of Chesapeake Bay.  He also learned the value of seeking financial help to keep his small business afloat.

Cooney, the founder of Madhouse Oysters, considers himself the “poster child” for accessing funds from state agencies to help make his small business work. The former boat builder who fished in Alaska before starting a healthcare financial services company with his father has been around the small business block. Cooney has taken advantage of state programs aimed at small businesses including the Maryland Industrial Partnership, which offers grants of up to $100,000 per year for existing companies and $90,000 a year for start-ups, and the Technology Development Corporation, which provides seed-funding for local entrepreneurs with fledging concepts.

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of GrantWatch.com, said there are plenty of opportunities including grants to fund small businesses. The challenge for entrepreneurs is to identify which grants match their ideas. MWBEzone.com, an ancillary service of GrantWatch, posts grant opportunities for small businesses, particularly women and minority owned, through all stages of development.

Not too long ago, the future of oyster farming was as murky as the muddy waters of the Chesapeake Bay. But now, oyster farming is roaring back from the brink of extinction, thanks to state programs, such as www.grantwatch.com/grant/166801/grants-to-maryland-institutions-of-higher-education-and-research-institutions-for-innovative-marine-science-projects.html  which offers research grants that provide strategic support for coastal and marine science projects in the bay region.

Cooney might have thrown in the towel himself. The long hours were driving him out of his mind – thus, the name Madhouse Oysters. To his credit, he applied for the grant listed above, which provided him with technical advice about aquaculture, small business financing and public policy.

Today, Cooney, who has taken on two partners, and he no longer thinks about selling his oyster farm. He is pleased that the state is encouraging aquaculture, but more thrilled that oyster bars are popping up everywhere along coastal Maryland.

For-profit entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses, particularly minority and women-owned, frustrated by the often-overwhelming process involved with searching for grants can identify funding opportunities that are easy to read and simple to comprehend at MWBEzone.com. By registering, subscribers gain access to both MWBEzone.com and GrantWatch.

About the Author: Staff Writer for GrantWatch.com

Small Businesses Sign On to Facade Improvement Grants to Attract Customers

After paying for extensive renovations that amounted to a new roof, entrance and restrooms, Martin Whitfield still had fish to fry at his Indianapolis seafood restaurant. The owner of Sea Kings Seafood Kitchen had plans to install a new sign, add exterior lighting and seating and paint the building a bright blue and orange, but no longer had funds for these projects.

That was until the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, a community development nonprofit, stepped up with a $15,000 grant that enabled Whitfield to tackle his to-do list and create an entirely new look for his small business. LISC, which operates nonprofit organizations in 30 urban and dozens of rural areas across the United States, has awarded more than $3.1 million throughout Marion County through the Small Business Façade Improvement program.

Eligible small businesses can qualify for LISC grants of up to $25,000 that can over as much as 50 percent of the cost of improvements to a building’s street-front exterior. LISC’s facade grant program uses a combination of public and private funds to help property owners pay for new signs, entryway improvements, exterior painting and new windows. What’s more, these grants have helped leverage more than $10.6 million in investment by property owners since 1994.

Façade grants do more than just provide nonprofits and small businesses with funds to make cosmetic improvements.

Grants to Provo, Utah Businesses and Building Owners to Enhance Downtown Buildings and Create Jobs

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of GrantWatch.com, said these projects help to increase sales and overall property values and encourage other small business owners in surrounding areas to make their own improvements, often resulting in a completely revitalized downtown area. Grant programs aimed at façade enhancements can be identified on MWBEZone.com and on GrantWatch.

Not all façade funds are designated for small business. Plenty of funding opportunities have prepared nonprofits as well to make enhancements to their facilities. The Charles R. Wood Theater is a nonprofit, which will apply a $39,158 grant from the Local Development Corporation in Glenn Falls, N.Y., to install a catwalk to improve safety and efficiency for lighting crews setting up for shows.

Historic preservation often drives façade improvement funding. That’s the case with Paradise Garden Foundation, which will take a $55,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to preserve a quirky wedding-cake looking structure in northwest Georgia called the World’s Folk Art Church.

The overriding theme of these incentive programs is to bring new life to physical landscapes that once had charm or put an entirely new spin on long-standing buildings that are struggling to attract visitors. Sometimes a sign is all that is needed.

Arin and Tony Lindauer put up a banner instead to save money after relocating and making significant renovations at the new site. But, it wasn’t until the owners received a $4,700 grant from LISC to pay for a sign, new windows and multi-color paint job that walk-in customers began noticing Transformation Fitness and Wellness on the corner of 25th and Delaware streets in Indianapolis. Now, the owners say they gain a customer or two each month who has driven by, noticed the sign, and stopped in.

For-profit entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses, particularly minority and women-owned, frustrated by the often-overwhelming process involved with searching for grants can identify funding opportunities that are easy to read and simple to comprehend at MWBEzone.com. By registering, subscribers gain access to both MWBEzone.com and GrantWatch.

 

About the Author: Staff Writer at GrantWatch

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Free Financing – Small Business Grant Transforms Miami Mom-and-Pop Upholstery Shop

After close to four decades making old furniture look like new for communities in Miami-Dade County, the owner of Chair Care Upholstery in West Park, Fla., says business has never been better.

Aurora Ocasio credits an investment from the Mom and Pop Small Business Grant Program with transforming morale at Chair Care Upholstery, which, in turn, has played a significant role in improving customer relationships and productivity.

Since 1999, the Mom and Pop Small Business Grant Program has been providing financial and technical assistance to for-profits like Chair Care Upholstery in all 13 districts of Miami-Dade through the County Commissioner’s office. Small business that offer projects with a green or sustainability initiative receive an additional $1,000.

Beyond Florida and across the nation, policymakers are increasingly adopting plans that provide capital and technical assistance to small businesses and entrepreneurs. But, Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of GrantWatch.com, said despite government investments in the local economies, far too many small businesses are missing out on these opportunities to benefit their operations.

At least 60 percent of small businesses have never applied for funds to support their initiatives, according to BMO Wealth Management, which surveyed more than 1,000 small businesses in the United States. More than a third of these small businesses choose not to seek funds for fear of taking on additional debt.

But, Hikind said, unlike loans, government grants are forms of free financing for small businesses. She said MWBEzone.com, an ancillary service of GrantWatch, lists government grants and contracts available to small businesses.  Women and minority-owned firms generally get added point when applying for government grants. MWBEzone access is part of the GrantWatch.com subscription.  Libby Hikind said, "We separated the grants available for small business and individuals to simplify the search – one subscription – get two websites."

Funding through the Miami-Dade Small Business Grant Program can be applied to purchase inventory and supplies, equipment, marketing and advertising, building and business insurance, minor renovations, security systems, work vehicles, and professional services.   

Another 44 percent of mall businesses, according to the survey, weren’t sure how to apply for a grant, and another third were unaware debt-free funds were available. MWBEzone makes the search for identifying federal and local financing simple. Grants are listed online by industry or by specific location. Each funding opportunity will offer a grant summary, amount of award, eligibility requirements, and open and closing dates.

Small business earnings have reached a 45-year high, according to the National Federation of Independent Business. Yet, some economists believe the new tax law and lower regulatory barriers will fuel even further optimism across small business sectors. Thanks, to a small business grant, Chair Care Upholstery is on board.

“We are really excited about the future of our business, said Ocasio, who applied his mom and pop small business grant toward the purchase of a commercial sewing machine to be used to re-upholster sofas and chairs and, as a result, saves his customers money. “The support of this great city gives us a real feeling of hope and resilience in this great community.”

For-profit entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses, particularly minority and women-owned, frustrated by the often-overwhelming process involved with searching for business grants can identify funding opportunities that are easy to read and simple to comprehend by signing up to GrantWatch. One subscription provides access to both MWBEzone.com and GrantWatch.com.

 

 

About the Author: Staff Writer for GrantWatch.com

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