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Grants in North Dakota

By: Dale Van Eckhout
Bismarck Area Office
North Dakota District Office

Are there any grants available to help start my business? The short answer is no. Most grant funds go to government entities such as cities or counties, charitable organizations, and schools.  However, there are a few grants that have proven to be of benefit to both new and existing businesses.

The most common method of finding a grant is with a search on www.grants.gov. Make sure to check the appropriate search blocks on the left side of the search grants page or you will end up with thousands of matching results.

U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)
SBA does not give grants for starting or growing a business. SBA grants go to organizations that will deliver specific technical assistance to small business owners. The notices of SBA grants will appear on www.grants.gov.

Research & Development Grants
SBA coordinates the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs while other federal agencies provide the grant funds. SBIR/STTR grants support the research and development interests of various federal agencies. In North Dakota, the UND Center for Innovation Foundation can help you decide if SBIR/STTR is right for you and help you compete for one of these highly competitive grant opportunities.

USDA Rural Development
USDA Rural Development (RD) offers grants to rural small businesses (small businesses in communities of less than 50,000) through the Renewable Energy for America Program (REAP). These grants can be used to increase the energy efficiency of your business.

If your small business is in agricultural production or is a producer-based business venture, it can receive grant funding to add value to agriculture products through RD's Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program.

RD also awards grants to nonprofits serving in business development, to cities, tribes, and in certain cases cooperatives, through the Rural Business Development Grant (RBDG) program. These grants can be used on projects that will benefit small businesses in rural areas.

Businesses also receive indirect assistance in cases where their community qualifies for grant funding for infrastructure and essential community facilities. Visit the USDA Rural Development website to explore more grant opportunities.

State of North Dakota
The State of North Dakota offers the Renewable Energy Program. This program supports projects for education, research, development, or marketing of renewable energy resources, materials or products.

Value-added agriculture is also served through the North Dakota Agricultural Products Utilization Commission (APUC). This program supports projects that create new or expanded uses of North Dakota's agricultural products.

Your Local Community
There are grants available from local and regional development organizations and communities in North Dakota. As examples, the Minot-based regional council, Souris Basin Planning Council (SBPC), offers businesses in its service area SBPC Action Grants. These grants can be used for signage, marketing, and other development activities. The City of Mandan offers a Storefront & Landscape Improvement Program to improve the appearance of buildings and properties. Check with your local development office or regional council to find out if they offer similar programs.

North Dakota Community Action offers a special matched Individual Development Account (IDA) which can be used to fund your small business. You are required to save money for at least six months, although most save money over the course of two years. At the end of the program, every dollar deposited - up to $2,000 - is matched at a rate of 2:1. This means if you are able to save the maximum amount, you will have $6,000 to use for your small business or for the purchase of your first home or for college tuition.

Other Resources
The BusinessUSA website is another place to find financing, including grants, for your small business. Complete the questionnaire for a list of available programs.

Summary
Grants do not require you to pay the money back, but grants are often competitive and limit the way in which the money can be used. Many grants have reporting requirements that far exceed those found with loan financing. It is important to consider all options when financing your business.

Contact any one of our offices with questions on SBA programs and services: Fargo 701.239.5131, Bismarck 701.250.4303, and Grand Forks 701.746.5160.


Dale Van EckhoutDale Van Eckhout has been the Bismarck area manager for the U.S. Small Business Administration since 2011, having formerly been Business and Cooperative Program Director and District Director for USDA Rural Development. He is a Certified Economic Development Professional and has received Accreditation from the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers. He can be reached at dale.vaneckhout@sba.gov.