More than 400 Small Businesses and Nonprofits Receive $5.3 Million from LEAP to Aid in Restart and Recovery Amid COVID-19 Crisis

Regional Geographic Distribution, Economic Impact and Inclusion-Minded Process Drove Complex Grant Awards

Following a statewide announcement from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), the Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP) is announcing 412 small businesses and nonprofits from across Clinton, Eaton and Ingham counties have been selected to receive grants ranging from $5,000-$20,000 to assist with restart and recovery amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. The grants are funded by federal CARES Act dollars, approved by the Michigan legislature and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, provided to LEAP through the MEDC. With 1,640 eligible applications received in the Lansing region, LEAP was able to provide grants to approximately 25% of the applicants.

“LEAP is thrilled to assist more than 400 small businesses and nonprofits from across our three county area, to survive this historic crisis and prepare to thrive moving forward with a total of $5.3 million. Some businesses have closed and will now have a real shot to reopen and some are operating at greatly reduced capacity, but now will be able to remain in business,” said Bob Trezise, president and CEO of LEAP. “Though this is a significant amount of money, an unfortunate reality is it still isn’t anywhere near enough funding to provide for all who needed and deserved it, which makes the process both rewarding and heartbreaking. No doubt though, LEAP is doing vital good for the regional economy.”

Research conducted by the Association for Enterprise Opportunity notes microbusinesses represent 92% of all US businesses, collectively employing 41.3 million people. Additionally important, the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research quantifies more businesses from underrepresented groups are operating sole proprietorships, which are classified as microbusinesses. In the Lansing region, including Clinton, Eaton and Ingham counties, 61.5% of businesses are classified as microbusinesses.

“In addition to awarding hundreds of grants to many traditional businesses and nonprofits, we especially focused on microbusinesses which tend to be heavily owned by underrepresented populations,” Trezise added. “I am also most pleased that our intentional efforts toward equity resulted in grants awarded to every geographic section of the three county region, as well as to underrepresented populations that have been historically neglected of opportunity including women, minorities, veterans and persons with disabilities.”

With this in mind, LEAP identified three grant categories for the Lansing region restart grant program in order to meet regional needs and state requirements: microbusinesses (1-9 paid employees/workers), traditional small businesses (10-50 paid employees/workers) and nonprofits (50 or fewer paid employees/workers):

  • 210 $10,000 grants for microbusinesses
  • 125 $20,000 grants for traditional small businesses
  • 77 $5,000 or $10,000 grants for nonprofit organizations

LEAP’s process was designed to minimize bias and give all applicants a fair opportunity and included two independent reviews of each application, followed by additional, multitiered committee reviews. Thanks in large part to the nearly 70 regional economic development partners and a large group of local diversity, equity and inclusion partner organizations including NAACP of Greater Lansing, Melanin in Medicine-Black Business Alliance, Cristo Rey Community Center, Vietnam Veterans of America – Michigan State Council, Disability Network Capital Area, Lansing Hispanic/Latino Chamber of Commerce / Cafecito Caliente, Michigan Women Forward, Best Practices Consulting Services and Refugee Development Center, the geographic distribution of awards closely mirrors the geographic distribution of businesses across the three-county region, awarding 9% of grants in Clinton county, 19% in Eaton county and 72% in Ingham county.

Additionally, the state mandated minimum of 30% of all funds awarded among women-, minority- and veteran-owned business was met with a combined 63% of microbusiness and traditional small business grants awarded to women-owned businesses, 56% awarded to minority-owned businesses and 10% awarded to veteran-owned businesses. Though not required by the state, LEAP also added a specific focus on persons with disabilities, awarding a combined 4% of microbusiness and traditional small business grants to business owners who self disclosed as persons with disabilities.

“The more people and business we have operating at a maximum level throughout every layer of our regional economy, the more customers for our businesses, consumers with disposable income, growing businesses and revenue generation for schools and government services we will have. A significant portion of the economy, including women, minorities, veterans and persons with disabilities, are suffering at disproportionate levels whether related to COVID-19 death rates, failed businesses due to the virus, poverty rates or lack of access to federal COVID-19 Paycheck Protection Program relief programs,” said Trezise. “We found the right balance as a community, with what money we had in this grant program, to best strengthen the entirety of our economy, now and into the future. I want to thank the federal and state legislatures, Gov. Whitmer, the MEDC and especially our diversity, equity and inclusion service providers and the nearly 70 reviewers from across the region who made this all happen. It was a remarkable effort from all perspectives and LEAP was proud to lead the way.”

A full statewide list of grant recipients has been made available by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). A regional list of selected grantees and geographic and demographic detail of applications received and awarded in the Lansing region is available on LEAP’s website. Additionally, all program documentation including application review and scoring criteria, application review process documentation and a thorough program FAQ continues to be available to the public on LEAP’s website where it has been accessible since July 15, 2020.