SCIOTO — Additional economic aid is coming to local businesses, this time through a resolution between the Scioto County Commissioners and the Southern Ohio Port Authority.
Even with the pandemic trending positively, prior health orders no longer limiting crowd sizes, the decision to create the $35,000 program for startup businesses was one Commissioner Bryan Davis felt is necessary.
Earlier small business relief for those striving to keep their doors open amid COVID-19 existed, but not for startups. A group composed of Davis, Scioto County auditor David Green, and Scioto County Economic Development Director Robert Horton led that process.
“We identified through that process that there are startups, there are companies, people, entrepreneurs in our community who want to something but they need help with certain things,” Davis said during the board’s Thursday meeting.
A wide list of studies, including environmental and archaeological ones, often complicate plans for these startups. This amount of what Davis described as “red tape” can act as an impediment in those early stages.
With the $35,000 program, the hope is that multiple businesses would receive grants SOPA and to create a scoring system similar to how Joint Economic Development Initiative of Southern Ohio determines grant recipients.
“We want it to be fair,” said Davis. “When someone comes in, they have to qualify. They can’t just be anybody that’s got an idea. They have to be further down the road than an idea.”
This being the initial funding program of its kind, the commissioners said they would pay close attention to its progress and determine its return on investment.
Like the S.O.A.R. Industrial Park, Commissioner Scottie Powell said the investment will be worth the unknown, but educated risk.
“It’s hard to get people to invest in a community when we’re not willing to invest in ourselves,” he said. “This is a new program, where we’re saying ‘Hey, we’re looking to invest in ourselves and invest in our people.’”
The commissioners previously, in addition to separate Portsmouth and New Boston programs, facilitated grant funding for small businesses through the CARES Act. All those businesses that received grants, up to $25,000 from the county and $10,00 from the city, are believed by Davis to still be in operation today.
“They will tell you that because they were given that lifeline to survive, they were able to do so,” said Davis of the businesses that received grants.
When the county introduced its small business grant September, stipulations included limits on number of employees, good standing on taxes, and a demonstration of COVID-19’s negative impact on their operations.
The city’s Small Business Relief Program had similar standards but required all applicant businesses be within in Portsmouth and gross receipts below $1 million instead of the county’s $2 million.
Both programs, however, did not include new businesses, the county set a timeline of nothing after Feb. 15, 2020, and the city not considering businesses starting operations after January 2019.
For the startups that bore the less than favorable economic conditions, this meant they were not eligible for the more than $1 million set aside in the county, Portsmouth or New Boston funding programs.
“That takes guts,” Davis said of the startups. “You can only imagine starting a business when your clientele can’t even come into see you…They were too far to turn back and they still did it.”
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3101 ext. 1931, by email at [email protected] aimmediamidwest.com, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter. © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.