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Rowan awards grants to local businesses; checks may be picked up today

SALISBURY — Just a few days before the new year, some local businesses will be getting a belated Christmas present.

Businesses that were awarded funding through Rowan County’s small business grant program will be able to pick up their checks from the Tax Collector’s Office at 402 N. Main St. starting at 8 a.m. today.

The small business grant program was created by county staff and approved by the Rowan County Board of Commissioners on Nov. 16. The application opened a week later and closed on Dec. 4.

During that time, 195 applications were submitted, 179 of which were completed virtually and 16 in person. On Tuesday afternoon, each applicant was notified via email whether they were eligible to receive a grant or not. In total, 77 businesses were approved for a grant. Of those, 52 have five or fewer employees and will each receive $3,500. The other 25 businesses employ between 6-24 workers and will receive $5,000 each.

There were 31 online applications that were started but not completed, County Manager Aaron Church said.

The money provided by the grant program, which was allocated from the county’s Coronavirus Relief Fund, will be a lifeline for some local businesses that have been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When you look around and see the business closing and the people struggling and you have partners like the chamber and commissioners who have a heart for small business, they really began to see how this would be a tremendous help,” Commissioners Chairman Greg Edds said. “It was a no brainer to put this one together.”

Commissioners met several times to make changes to the grant program, both to the application requirements and to extend the timeframe for applicants to provide all needed information.

“When we sit down to create a program like this, you try to anticipate all the questions that there will be and you can just never do that,” Edds said. “We had to make a lot of judgment changes on the fly and do what was in the best interest of the business owners while keeping the county out of trouble with state and federal folks.”

Even though the program was approved and altered by commissioners, Edds said that most of the heavy lifting was done by county staff and McGill Associates, whom the county paid $35,000 to administer the program.

“This was a great community project and wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the county manager, Assistant County Manager Randy Cress and County Attorney (Jay Dees), plus the guys they brought in to administer it,” Edds said. 

Edds also credited Rowan County Tourism and the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce for assisting with the program.

The county will dole out $307,000, which falls short of its initial goal of distributing $350,000 to small businesses.

“We wish that there’d been more applicants, but we’re glad we didn’t have to turn any of those that qualified away,” Edds said.

The $43,000 not distributed through the grant program will return to the county.

Despite not giving out the maximum amount of funding, Edds said he is proud of what the county accomplished in such a “short window.”

In order for grant awardees to receive their checks, they must provide self identification and fill out a verification form. Rowan County offices will be closed on New Year’s Day.

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