Funding Projects: Is There Public Money Available?

In this age of trillion dollar deficits, budget gamesmanship, and economic recession-recovery-maybe-recession-again, it should go as an unspoken truth that access to money to help grow and sustain your business seems like a pipe dream. Yet, there are millions of dollars out there for small businesses to use, if the business owners can figure out all the twists and turns necessary to get at it.

Contradiction or not, the fact is if you're looking for grants and low-interest loans to fund projects, especially those in public sector institutional work, and subsequently grow your HVACR business, there is money out there.

In a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article (http://on.wsj.com/Public_Money) published on June 13, 2011, reporter Louise Lee writes, "Grants aren't only for non-profits. Small businesses can sometimes get their hands on that money too."

She says that nearly all business grants, which can range up to $1 million or more, come from government bodies.

To find out what these grants are and how to get them, she continues, "Scour government websites. The federal government posts grant opportunities, called 'funding opportunity announcements,' 'requests for proposals,' or 'notices of funding available,' at www.grants.gov. You can also sign up for electronic newsletters alerting you to grant opportunities. State and local governments publicize grant information online, too."

As the owners and managers of HVACR contracting firms, your business by its very nature qualifies in a number of areas. According to the WSJ article, qualifying companies are those that work with "energy efficiency, environmental technology, biotechnology, and health care." Obviously, when "free" money is available, gaining access to it can be challenging. But there's plenty of help. Many websites offer guidelines and have templates to help you write a grant proposal. The first step is to determine whether you're eligible. If you are, then you must register.

One great resource can be found at www.governmentgrantstruth.org where there are many helpful articles on exactly what you have to do and how to do it.

Based on my research, here are some of the common data points in the applications I’ve looked at:

  • Details about your company operation including information on employees, budgets, expenses, and strategic goals.
  • Explanation of how grant money will be used and how that will fulfill your goals.
  • Disclosure of other funding you have in place. The WSJ article points out that some federal grants require you to take a loan of the same size as any grant awarded.

Federal grants often require the following additional information:

  • Lobbying activity disclosure
  • Accounting policy statement
  • Disclosure of previous year’s audit
  • A description of how you will measure success.

Of course, all this information must be backed up with third-party references.

Some other useful resources include bit.ly/govt_grant_writing with good info to help you write a grant proposal, and bit.ly/Find_Gov_Grants, for finding grants for your business.

One other note: grant money isn’t only available through the federal government. Every state and most cities also have grant dollars available.

I'm really only skimming the surface here, but the bottom line is that if you're looking to finance a major project and/or add capabilities to your existing company that fall into the energy efficiency, environmental technology, or even health care categories, you can, with a little diligence, get access to grant monies.

As contractors, if you've already walked the path of funding through grants, we'd love to hear your story. Please write me at [email protected], Facebook me at on.fb.me/CB_FBPage, or Tweet me at bit.ly/tweet_CB

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