Published 8:28 pm Saturday, September 8, 2012

Over the past year, three Washington businesses were the recipients of federal grants through the Main Street program. Since the article about the grants ran in Wednesday’s paper, there have been a few calls to our Sound Off line referring to the grant money as “giveaways,” saying federal money put to use like this is the reason for the sky-high national deficit.
On the other hand, another caller mentioned that businesses should not be singled out as grant recipients when individuals out there can’t afford to replace their HVAC systems either. They should be assisted instead.
The recipients of the Main Street grants were chosen because they were, in fact, businesses — the money ultimately a reinvestment in the flailing economy, an attempt to boost it in the mode of Keynesian economics, which recommends deficit spending in an attempt to moderate or end a recession.
But what’s interesting about the Main Street grants is that the government didn’t simply throw money at these businesses and say, “Here, have at it! Spend to your heart’s content!” These business owners had to contribute half of the total cost of their projects to update their HVAC and other energy-sucking systems. In putting up half of that money, the owners invested in their own community, in whichever local company actually did the upgrade work. The employees who did the work got paid and that money makes its way into the pockets of other local businesses, presumably.
In the long run, the upgrade to more energy-efficient systems will cost the grant recipients less to do business by lowering their utility bills — two business owners said they’ve already seen a difference in their bills. Perhaps those savings will give them the financial leeway to hire other locals to do more work.
Investing in a single individual would likely not bring about the same level of money dispensation within the community.
“Giveaway” or not, depending on how you look at federal grants, the three business owners invested in their own community in accepting the grants. And as dollars flow through the community, that could very well mean, they have actually invested in you.