By LISA MACNEIL
At the regular Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) meeting on July 28, 2020, the board unanimously approved a second phase of the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) funding for small business relief.
The BOCC heard a presentation by Economic Development Director Valerie Pianta regarding the latest updates regarding the latest grants available to local businesses.
Of the approved applications, brick & mortar businesses with 1-55 employees will receive $2500, brick & mortar businesses with 16-50 employees will receive $2500, and home based businesses will receive $1,000.
The Hernando County Small Business Recovery Grant has been allotted $5,000,000 for this phase of the program. As of Friday, July 24th, 621 applications received, $1,427,500 requested, and 300 applications approved and submitted for payment. Remaining applications are in the review process.
Pianta presented additional businesses to be considered for Phase II of the application process, as well as a Business Incubator Program. Her proposal is to include businesses with 51-100 full time employees for a $7500 grant. It also includes provisions for franchise businesses with the same full time employee parameters, that aren’t chains or corporate owned. Another facet would include enhanced outreach to agricultural and farm businesses.
A Business Incubator is a facility with support staff and equipment, made available at low rent to new small businesses, established to promote entrepreneurship and provide infrastructure for startup businesses to “hatch.”
Consisting of a private and public partnership to focus on long-term planning vs short-term gains, by utilizing CARES funds for initial support in conjunction with private funding to promote entrepreneurship, The Business Incubator concept is of interest to economic development. Pianta said, “You know, maybe there are one or two people in their garage right now, but given the opportunity with an incubator system of support. Maybe they can be even better.”
Additionally, locally owned businesses, gig economy workers, and corporate franchises are all having to adapt or pivot due to the current pandemic restrictions in place.
“A lot of people will think 2020 as the year of COVID, I prefer to think of it as the year of the pivot.” Pianta said. “Everyone is doing that. You have to make the best of what is happening.”
“I guess we can call it the tale of two economies”, Allocco responded. “The unique thing about a time like this is that it changes business models … crisis creates change ... I like this idea. Thank you for working on this and finding a way to be creative with some of the funding that is designed to help get the county out of this economic crisis.”