$125K grant to Franklin County CDC funding biz assistance partnership




Staff Writer

Published: 03-29-2024 2:11 PM

GREENFIELD — With a $125,000 grant, the Franklin County Community Development Corporation is partnering with Springfield Neighborhood Housing Services over the next two years to introduce technical assistance and mini grants to early-stage businesses in Springfield.

The funding will help Franklin County CDC and Springfield Neighborhood Housing Services work with budding entrepreneurs, particularly those from underserved communities, to help get their businesses off the ground while also creating a mutually beneficial network between the two agencies.

“The focus is on low- and moderate-income people and people who haven’t used our services traditionally,” said Franklin County CDC Executive Director John Waite. “By having our colleagues down there, we’ll learn from them and they’ll learn from us.”

Small businesses, Waite said, are the “backbone of our towns in western Mass.” and some of those businesses may grow and hire people, which in turn grows the economy, while others are providing valuable services to residents.

Funding comes from the M&T Charitable Foundation, which is the philanthropic arm of M&T Bank.

“We are genuinely excited to partner with the FCCDC to reshape equity, justice and access for small businesses in western Massachusetts,” Jeff Hamilton, president and CEO of Springfield Neighborhood Housing Services, said in a statement. “With the support from M&T Charitable Foundation’s Amplify Fund, Springfield NHS will amplify our initiatives to support small businesses, providing access to the support and funding often denied to historically underserved small business owners.”

Waite said the grant will allow Springfield Neighborhood Housing Services to hire a dedicated technical assistance staff member to help businesses get through the difficult early stages, which will mirror the work the Franklin County CDC has been doing for decades in Greenfield.

Mini grants, averaging around $5,000, can also help clear the financial hurdles — such as first and last months’ rent for retail space or a small piece of equipment — that stop businesses from getting off the ground.

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Waite said there is a simple list of criteria for a business to be eligible: the business has to work with the CDC, have a strong business plan, be lower income and have some of its own money behind it.

“A lot of people have an idea, but to move the idea to implementation takes a lot of work and some money,” Waite said, adding that technical assistance or a small grant, which doesn’t need to be repaid, can “really help kick-start a small business.”

It is the second round of M&T’s Amplify Fund program, which has provided more than $8 million to 68 nonprofits in New England and New York.

“Through the Amplify Fund, we are committed to continuing our partnership with organizations like the FCCDC that work hand-in-hand with community members in the field to provide the critical resources and programming necessary to truly make a difference,” Dominique Goss, executive director of the M&T Charitable Foundation, said in a statement. “At M&T, addressing the institutionalized and systemic issues preventing disadvantaged communities from accessing opportunities and achieving long-term success is key to our mission as a community bank.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com.