Ottawa seminar focuses on grants for small business entrepreneurs

July 21, 2012
| By Pete Daly |
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Small businesses and entrepreneurs with a new technology idea related to agriculture can attend an Ottawa County seminar Aug. 8 on federal grants for developing and launching new products and services.

According to Mark Knudsen of the Ottawa County Planning Department, there are 11 federal agencies that distribute grants from the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs. At the same time, he noted that Ottawa County is studying the feasibility of starting a business incubator for entrepreneurs “who have technology-related business ideas that are focused on one of the county’s greatest strengths — agriculture.”

SBIR and SBTT “are not loans, they are actually grants,” said Knudsen, adding that grants for the first phase of research and development of an idea can be up to $150,000, and grants for the next step of bringing the product or service to market can exceed $1 million.

He cautioned there is a lot of competition for the grants so the presentation Aug. 8 will be a useful starting point for those who may want to apply for one.

Knudsen said each year, Congress funds SBIR and STTR grants to support the research and development of technology-related products or innovative services. These programs are the federal government’s largest small business research and development grant programs, with more than $2 billion being awarded to entrepreneurs and small businesses annually.

The Ottawa County Planning Commission is hosting the seminar for entrepreneurs and small business owners to review eligibility requirements for SBIR and STTR grants. The seminar will also cover strategies for developing a successful grant proposal, recent congressional changes to the SBIR and STTR programs, and resources available in Michigan to help entrepreneurs and businesses prepare a SBIR/STTR application.

The seminar will focus primarily on grants available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture for entrepreneurs and small businesses with an agriculture-related technology idea. However, information also will be presented on all 11 federal agencies that distribute SBIR and STTR grants. The seminar will be conducted by Jim Greenwood, a nationally recognized expert in the SBIR/STTR programs. Other program experts also will be in attendance to answer questions about any of the federally funded programs and provide direction about future grant applications.

The seminar is in conjunction with Ottawa County’s current study of the feasibility of establishing a business incubator to provide mentoring, training, facilities and other forms of assistance to entrepreneurs with new business ideas. A business incubator helps improve the long-term survival rates of new businesses when compared to other business start-ups that do not receive incubator assistance, noted Knudsen.

A consultant has been hired to do the feasibility study on the business incubator proposal, and the report should be completed by October.

The seminar is Wednesday, Aug. 8, from 4:30-9 p.m. at the Hemlock Crossing Nature Education Center, 8115 West Olive Road in West Olive. The cost is $10 per person, which includes a box-meal. Space is limited so pre-registration is required, no later than Aug. 2.

For more information about the seminar, or to obtain a registration form, contact the Ottawa County Planning Department by calling (616) 738-4852 or e-mailing plan@miottawa.org. Participants can also register and pay online at www.miottawa.org/onlinepaymentcenter/

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