Local small businesses receive grants

By Loretto J. Hulse, Herald food writerNovember 7, 2012 

A moving company is getting a new copy machine, two massage therapists a new massage table and an artist who specializes in air brushing and pin striping the website he needs to promote his business.

The improvements were paid for by grant money from Washington River Protection Solutions, a company focused on taking its business to local small businesses whenever possible.

The businesses are three of the 43 small businesses in Benton and Franklin counties, all members of the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce, to receive grant money this fall through the Small Business Incentive Program. The program is a partnership between the Washington River Protection Solutions and the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce.

This is the second year Washington River Protection Solutions has donated $30,000 to be divided among as many small businesses as possible to pay for computers and software, office furniture and machines, websites and training. No one business received more than $1,000.

"We received 69 applications and not all asked for the $1,000. In some cases if someone asked for $850 we gave them $500 toward it, or if someone asked for two of something in a few cases we only gave them money for one, that way there was money to give to someone," said Lori Mattson, president and CEO of the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce in Kennewick.

Each of the businesses had to meet certain criteria, including having fewer than 30 full-time employees, having been in business, for profit, for 18 months or longer, and having a valid business license, she said.

David and Belinda Myers of Myers Therapeutic Massage in Kennewick had asked for the maximum but received only $635, enough money to buy one of the two massage tables requested.

"Disappointing, but we're very grateful for it," he said. "This will help greatly."

They have two tables but they're old, creak and the legs are not as stable as when they were new.

"We would not have paid that much for a new table if we hadn't received the grant. We'd have likely bought another inexpensive table from Costco which would have worked but wouldn't last as long as the new one," he said.

The Myerses aren't the only small business owners looking forward to something new.

Jeremy and Kristin Mensinger, owners of Swagger Ink in Richland, are excited about their website. It's in the process of being built by Versatile Studio in Kennewick, another small business, one that didn't receive grant money.

But that's an example of how the grant money trickles down through the small business community.

The chamber suggested those receiving the grants work with other chamber members so they would get the additional business as well. In some cases, they're offered an additional discount so the grant money goes even further, said Mattson.

That's what Versatile Studio did.

"They submitted a discounted website package through the chamber, which will make the $500 we received go further, which is awesome," said Kristin Mensinger.

The Mensingers had received several bids between $2,500 to $3,000 for a website.

"We definitely cannot afford that at the moment. Without this grant we would not have a website at all. Right now we have only a Facebook page as our internet presence. My husband is an artist doing custom painting and sculpting and pictures are important so people can see what he does. A website will help our business tremendously," said Kristin Mensinger.

The grants went to a very diverse group this year, Mattson said. It includes accountants, lawyers, insurance agents, photographers, florists, marketing companies, construction, physical therapists, caterers, restaurants, doctors, Realtors and auto care companies.

"And their needs were equally varied," Mattson said.

Several of the businesses have already made their purchases, others have placed orders.

"They already knew what they wanted and done their research. That was part of the application process," Mattson said.

Washington River Protection Solutions hasn't committed grant money yet for 2013.

"But we're working with them. We hope this program continues," she said.

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