Businesses seek funds
In a 4-1 vote, Washington’s City Council on Monday adopted a resolution supporting the submission of a $240,000 proposal to a program designed to assist five small businesses.
Council members Bobby Roberson, William Pitt, Richard Brooks and Ed Moultrie Jr. voted for the resolution. Councilman Doug Mercer voted against it.
The proposal being submitted to the N.C. Department of Commerce’s Division of Community Investment and Assistance seeks $240,000 in grant funds (including a combined $40,000 for grant administration and planning) to pair with $195,500 in contributions from the small businesses for a total project cost of $435,500. The grant program is designed to help local governments already developing a coordinated effort to support and grow their communities’ small businesses. The local governments identify small businesses ready to hire additional full-time workers but that need funding to make that happen, according to a memorandum explaining the program.
The five area businesses seeking to participate in the program are Tayloe Drug Co. (Hospital Pharmacy), East Carolina Imports, Park Boat Co., Pamlico Fence and FRE Plumbing. The program targets existing businesses and does not provide funds to start a new business, said John Rodman, the city’s planning and development director, to the council during its meeting Monday.
“So, what this provides is for every job they wish to create, the Division of Community Investment (and Assistance) provides a $25,000 for each new employee that they want to hire,” Rodman said. “That $25,000 can go to eligible activities, and that might be purchase of new property, renovations of buildings, that sort of thing. So it frees up some capital for them to be able to do that in order to hire new people. There is no match required from the city. There is no match required from the participating businesses.”
In addition to buying new property and building renovations, eligible activities include infrastructure improvements (water, sewer, roads) construction of a building or other improvements, construction of tenant improvements/finishes, leasing space in or buying an existing building, purchasing capital equipment and providing job training that can be linked to specific jobs at a specific business.
The five businesses are voluntarily providing contributions ranging from $111,000 to $500, Rodman said. Grant requests range from $75,000 to $25,000.
If the businesses receive the grants, that frees up money that can be used to pay salaries of new employees, said Bianca Gentile with the city’s Planning and Development Department. The program indirectly provides money for new employees’ salaries, Rodman added.
Mercer asked what guarantees the businesses will keep the new employees on after they are hired.
Program criteria require that a participating business using program funds to hire a new employee or employees to retain that employee or employees for a minimum of six months at 35 hours a week.
“They will enter into a legally binding commitment with the city that state’s just that. They have to retain the job for a minimum of six months,” Gentile said.
“So, in essence, the fence company says they are going to hire a salesman for six months. They hire that salesman for six months, 30 hours a week, and we’re going to buy them $25,000 worth of equipment. At the end of the six months they can let the individual go and they’ve got $25,000 worth of equipment,” Mercer said.
Gentile replied, “That would be in compliance if that person worked 35 hours a week for six months and was paid the salary that’s noted on the page.”
“I certainly want to promote growth of jobs within the city. This, to me, is a real give-away program, and I’m not in favor of give-away programs,” Mercer said.
Roberson had a different view.
“I might not like what the federal government does, but if I have an opportunity in a Tier 1 county, which we are, with a median family income of $36,000, to help these businesses located in Washington, I think we need to take all the advantages we can. I understand it’s a give-away, but if these opportunities free up cash money for them to add additional employees, I think that’s what the program is set up to do, and I think we need to take advantage of it,” he said.
Grant request details
- Tayloe Drug Co. seeks $50,000 in grant funds to combine with $111,000 of its money. It wants to provide additional training for employees and hire two full-time employees, a pharmacist ($125,000 salary) and an pharmacy assistant ($21,000 salary) and provide full benefits, including health, dental and vision insurance and a 3-percent retirement-fund contribution.
- East Carolina Imports seeks $25,000 in grant funds to combine with $500 of its money to buy equipment and hire a full-time mechanic (at $19.50 per billable hour).
- Park Boat Co. seeks $75,000 in grant funds to combine with $25,000 of its money to buy equipment and hire three full-time employees, including a mobile service technician ($25,000-$35,000 salary), a parts/service salesperson ($25,000-$35,000 salary) and a yard equipment technician ($20,000-$25,000 salary) and provide some benefits for the new employees.
- Pamlico Fence seeks $25,000 in grant funds to combine with $59,000 of its money to hire a fence salesperson/estimator ($25,000 salary, no benefits) and a part-time employee for one week at $500.
- FRE Plumbing seeks $25,000 in grant funds (no contribution) to hire a plumber ($20,000 salary, no benefits).
The deadline to submit the proposal is April 30.