Valley Partners Prepares to Launch New Grant Program

LIBERTY TOWNSHIP, Ohio – A new program being launched by Valley Partners will provide $10,000 grants to qualifying new small businesses to pay for accounting and legal assistance.

Valley Partners has set aside $300,000 per year for the next two years to fund the program, Teresa Miller, executive director, said. 

The $600,000 will come out of the nearly $4 million Valley Partners was awarded from the U.S. Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions, or CDFI, Fund in April, the bulk of which is going to its GrowBiz revolving loan fund.

Established by federal legislation in 1994, the CDFI Fund is intended to expand economic opportunity for underserved individuals and communities.

The need for the new grant program became apparent when Valley Partners worked with clients on small-business loans, according to Miller.

“We found that there was a huge need for accounting [and legal] services and a lot of startups didn’t have enough money to worry about it, and so they tried to do it on their own,” she said. Many businesses, when the time came to file their tax returns, found they weren’t ready.

The $10,000 will be paid directly to an accountant or attorney to pay for the services provided to the business, she said. Funds also can be used to pay for accounting software such as QuickBooks and training to use the software.

To qualify for a grant, a business must be in existence for two years or less, be located in a CDFI-designated area and have an employer identification number, or EIN. Qualifying businesses must also attend a six-week class covering topics including business plans, understanding tax returns, legal and insurance and marketing strategies. The first cohort of the weekly class, which will be held quarterly, will begin Sept. 26, with a registration deadline of Sept. 21.

“The idea is that this $10,000 will go toward accounting [and legal] services for the first one or two years, and the goal is that that will get them into a cadence of what to do in regard to income, expenses, financials and what they need to track,” Miller says.

Additionally, the Raymond John Wean Foundation is providing $140,000 for the program’s first year, and the Youngstown Foundation is allocating $50,000 over two years.

The Wean Foundation’s support for the grant program is rooted in its values of transparency, racial equity, community investment data and commitment to fostering lasting positive change, said Fallon Peterson, senior director of programs and operations. Supporting the program will help provide access to business grant funds for Black- and Hispanic-owned businesses.

“We look forward to seeing the work being achieved through metrics showing the community is at a better place than we originally began, building a more inclusive and thriving community for everyone,” she said.

Lynnette Forde, president of the Youngstown Foundation, cited the foundation’s long history of partnering with nonprofit organizations that try to strengthen the ability of the community to care for itself.

“These small businesses are employers; they are families, and they are engaged with our schools and libraries and all of the institutions that make our communities special,” she said. “So we’ve always supported organizations that support small business.”

She said the program hopefully will help the recipients operate efficiently and build so they can hire more employees, as well as provide stability in the neighborhoods where the businesses are based. 

Class size is limited to 20. Business owners can register for the program at Valley Partners’ website.

Pictured at top: Teresa Miller, executive director of Valley Partners.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.