KALAMAZOO, Mich. - Southwest Michigan First, the regional economic development catalyst based in Kalamazoo, today announced 144 small business grant recipients from Southwest Michigan are receiving allocations as part of the state’s Michigan Small Business Relief Program. Grants may be used by recipients for working capital to support payroll expenses, rent, mortgage payments, utility expenses or other similar expenses that occur in the ordinary course of business.

This funding is made possible by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation releasing $10 million in small business grants from the Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF) to regional economic development agencies for businesses facing drastic reductions in cash flow and the continued support of their workforce due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The seven-county Southwest Michigan region received $800,000 to be administered among businesses located throughout Berrien, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph and Van Buren counties. Funding allocations were based on the concentration of eligible small businesses within each county. The average grant award was $5,555.

“The Michigan Small Business Relief Program is one of the ways we are leveraging every resource available to provide relief in the face of negative impacts COVID-19 is having on businesses across the state,” said Josh Hundt, Chief Business Development Officer and Executive Vice President at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. “We are proud to work with our partners at Southwest Michigan First to bring these critical resources to small businesses in Southwest Michigan.”

To be considered, a business was “eligible” if:

  • The company is in an industry outlined in Executive Order 2020-9, or any subsequent Executive Order of similar intent (“EO”), or demonstrates it is otherwise affected by COVID-19 outbreak, that meets one or more of the following: provides support to impacted employees, is located in a downtown district or high impact corridor or has 50 employees or less, or is a company that provides services to companies outlined in the EO and requires additional employees to support companies or employees impacted by EO;
  • The company has 50 employees or less;
  • The company needs working capital to support payroll expenses, rent, mortgage payments, utility expenses, or other similar expenses that occur in the ordinary course of business; and
  • The company is able to demonstrate an income loss as a result of the EO, or COVID-19.

“We understand small businesses across our state are facing unprecedented challenges as we take every step possible to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “Through decisive actions like [these] taken by the MSF Board to authorize relief for small businesses throughout Michigan, we are leveraging every resource available to support our businesses, communities and entrepreneurs around the state impacted by this outbreak.”

To administer the funds, Southwest Michigan First and representatives from Cornerstone Alliance, Battle Creek Unlimited, Marshall Area Economic Development Alliance, Albion Economic Development Corporation, Market Van Buren and the City of Coldwater collected completed applications.

“We’re grateful for the dollars allocated by the Michigan Strategic Fund and the positive impact those funds will have on keeping Berrien County businesses open, and people employed,” said Rob Cleveland, President of Cornerstone Alliance, the lead economic development agency in Berrien County. “These dollars will have an immediate impact on the health of the businesses who have received grants and loans. The MEDC funds also ease the burden on the companies and financial institutions, allowing them both to allocate resources elsewhere.”

“Businesses in Berrien County and throughout Southwest Michigan are experiencing unprecedented hardship because of COVID-19 and from executive measures taken to help reduce the spread of the virus,” said State Senator Kim LaSata, R-Bainbridge Township. “We are thankful for these Michigan Small Business Relief Grants, which will help minimize businesses’ losses, keep them operational, and their workers employed. The grants are one of many resources available to help businesses that may be struggling during this uncertain time.”

“I’m incredibly excited about these projects that are happening right here in Berrien County,” State Representative Pauline Wendzel said. “These grants will be extremely beneficial in supporting families, creating jobs, and growing the economy right here in Michigan’s Great Southwest. I want to personally thank Cornerstone Alliance for their efforts in securing this funding for our community.”

Additional relief programs are still available for Berrien County businesses and nonprofit organizations in need. If you would like information on resources available through Cornerstone Alliance, including the Rent and Mortgage Payment Program (RAMPP) and Microloan Program, please visit our COVID-19 Relief web page (here).