Nicolet College and The GRID Recieve SBA Navigator Grant Award

Nicolet College and The GRID Recieve SBA Navigator Grant Award

Nicolet College and several regional economic development partners will have “significant financial resources to serve entrepreneurs and small businesses in the Northwoods” after receiving a $1 million grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), the college announced this week.

Nicolet and the college’s partners applied for the grant in July of 2021. The college will serve as the lead organization and project coordinator.

“Outreach services and small business assistance will be provided through the partners, which include the Florence, Langlade, Oneida and Vilas County Economic Development Corporations, Grow North Regional Economic Development Corporation, Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council Inc. and the Lac Du Flambeau Tribal Community through their Business Development Center,” Nicolet said in a release.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for us to open access to resources and provide training and support to small businesses in virtually all corners of our Northwoods region,” said Sandy Bishop, Nicolet Executive Director for Economic and Community Development. “Without question, this generous grant will help with small business recovery and growth which are essential for a vibrant Northwoods economy.”

The SBA said that out of 700 applications, 51 had been awarded funding.

“Project activities will address the needs of the smallest and most underserved businesses throughout rural northern Wisconsin, a region with a high concentration of businesses in the tourism and hospitality sectors,” said Toni Van Doren, Nicolet Manager of Innovation and Business Development. “These businesses and communities were particularly hard-hit by the pandemic and are struggling to adapt to post-pandemic consumer expectations.”

The college said that by leveraging the power of The GRID, an innovation-focused regional economic development partnership, Nicolet College and a network of economic development organizations, other regional stakeholders and statewide resource providers, the effort will support an array of project activities to immediately aid in business recovery, stimulate innovation and lead to a vibrant, more diversified and resilient economy.

“The Community Navigator Pilot Program is a crucial addition to our SBA programs because it helps us to connect with small businesses that have historically been underserved or left behind,” said SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman. “These businesses – the smallest of the small in rural and urban America, and those owned by women, people of color, or veterans – have suffered the greatest economic loss from this pandemic.”

“We’ll be using a hub and spoke model in local regions across the nation to bridge the gap between local entrepreneurs and SBA’s resources and programs. If we’re going to build back better, we need to ensure that all entrepreneurs have the support they need to recover.”

The program offers funding to nonprofits, state and local governments, colleges and universities and tribal entities to partner with SBA at the center of a hub and spoke network. These hubs then support spoke organizations, trusted, culturally knowledgeable local groups and individuals, who will connect to specific sectors of the entrepreneurial community to provide assistance during economic recovery, the college explained.

In Feb. of 2021, Congress met to provide a blueprint on assistance to small businesses with provisions under the American Rescue Plan.

“Members of Congress met with constituents to discover at local levels the impact of the pandemic and the effect it is having on businesses that may have been left out in early rounds of relief,” Nicolet stated.

In May of 2021, the SBA announced that it would be launching the new Community Navigator Pilot Program.

“This new initiative, established by the American Rescue Plan, leverages a community navigator approach to reach our nation’s smallest businesses, with a priority focus on those owned by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, as well as women and veterans,” Nicolet said. “The project builds on existing relationships among The GRID’s partners, local service providers, and their networks of trusted, community and culturally knowledgeable mentors and will equip these ‘navigators’ with the resources, tools and training necessary to provide exemplary support for business builders and provide focused outreach efforts to engage underserved businesses, including those in the region’s three tribal communities.”

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