Small-business owners in need of updated software, help with a website or money for training have a new source for help. The Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce and Washington River Protection Solutions have established the Small Business Incentive Program just to meet those needs.
"With the Hanford layoffs coming in the fall, times are going to be tough in the Tri-Cities. A significant number of people will lose their jobs," said Jerry Holloway, external affairs manager for Washington River Protection Solutions.
"During a slowdown businesses tend to batten their hatches and hope for better times. Experience shows those businesses which come up with a new service or which give their employees more training so they have new skills to offer, tend to do better," he said.
Melissa Garrard, small-business program manager for River Protection, said, "A healthy business community is important to us as a company because we depend on them for goods and services. In the past year and a half WRPS has awarded $135 million locally for goods and services and 65 percent went to small businesses. To start our buying local and small is the company's preference."
Holloway contacted Lori Mattson, president and CEO for the regional chamber, late last year and brainstormed ways to keep the Tri-City economy strong.
One of the results is this program to which WRPS has contributed $30,000. Small-business owners can apply from now until Oct. 17 to be considered for grants which range from $500 to $1,000. Applicants must meet seven criteria:
-- Be a member of the regional chamber.
-- Have 20 or fewer full-time employees.
-- Be a for-profit business with annual revenue of less than $2 million.
-- Have been in business at least 18 months.
-- Be located in Benton or Franklin counties.
-- Have a valid business license.
-- Must demonstrate a potential for success.
"This program is not intended for start-up businesses. It's meant to help existing businesses strengthen and expand," Holloway said.
"With 1,100 chamber members, there are plenty of businesses we can help and which can help others through selling equipment, software and other services," Mattson said.
"I've noticed when new members fill out the chamber membership form, many have no website, and few take advantage of the social media available. Anymore, to be successful in business, you need a virtual storefront," said Jens Lee, marketing and communications director for the chamber.
Holloway said River Protection is looking at this program as a pilot.
"We're watching to see what the response is from the business community. If there's a demand it has the potential to expand and continue," he said.
Applications will be reviewed by the chamber's Small Business Resource Committee and the results announced on Oct. 26.
Applications are available at the chamber office, 7130 W. Grandridge Blvd., or at www.tricityregionalchamber.com.
-- Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; firstname.lastname@example.org