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Grant Funding Flows to Struggling Main Streets in MN


Wednesday, November 2, 2022   

For some Minnesota small businesses, it's been harder to fully recover from major events of the past two years. A state grant program has a new round of funding for capital improvements, and partners say the goal is to get the money to areas of high need.

Minnesota is in its latest phase of the Main Street Economic Revitalization Program, established last year. One partner in distributing funding is the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation, with a key focus on commercial corridors in the East Metro affected by the pandemic, civil unrest and other challenges.

Claire Thomas, economic development program manager for the East Side Neighborhood Development Company, said business owners of color have particularly struggled.

"A lot of those lifelines that were put out to businesses during the pandemic, like PPP loans, they really were able to help a lot of businesses," Thomas acknowledged. "But for a lot of micro businesses, BIPOC-owned businesses, those programs were still pretty tough to access."

Eligible businesses can apply for grants of up to $750,000 if they have had economic struggles going back to March 2020. They are required to secure matching funds, and the Foundation can assist with those needs.

State officials say in some cases around the state, the program helps Main Street corridors still reeling from events like natural disasters.

Brandon Toner, director of the office of small business partnerships for the Department of Employment and Economic Development, said while a large manufacturing plant might create a lot of jobs for a community, the impact of small businesses cannot be overlooked.

"These are places that make a city, or Main Street or a town, a place where people want to live, people want to spend money," Toner contended.

Three out of every four jobs in Minnesota are in businesses with fewer than 500 employees. In diverse communities in the East Metro, Thomas pointed out the locations have purposes which go beyond sales and service.

"So, whether it's a place for community members to gather, for them to get their basic needs met, or to be able to celebrate together," Thomas noted. "We have a lot of cultural and community centers."

Community partners are facilitating grants for targeted corridors elsewhere in Minnesota, including other parts of the Twin Cities, as well as communities like Worthington.

Disclosure: The Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on Education, Health Issues, Human Rights/Racial Justice, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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