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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Accessing Government Grants and Loans for Business Start-Up or Expansion - Part 1

Whether you agree or not, Canadian governments, at all levels, are actively involved in the business community. Each year they award hundreds of millions of dollars to small, medium and large enterprises in the hopes of stimulating local economies, fostering economic development and creating employment. How successful they have been is anyone's guess. Governments have rarely conducted a thorough cost-benefit analysis of their labour market interventions. It is reasonably safe to assume however that they have had their share of successes as well as those they would prefer to forget.

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Among the private sector there generally seems to be two schools of thought on this subject and they are indeed at opposite ends of the spectrum. There are those who take great pride in proclaiming that they have accomplished everything on their own with no help from government. Others are more than willing to use government money repeatedly to finance their ventures. In government circles these types are often referred to as "grantrepreneurs". These two groups do not have to be mutually exclusive. One may take great pride in his or her accomplishments and avail of government financing to bring their plans to fruition.

I have spent fourteen years with the federal government, in the realm of economic development. I have developed, assessed and contracted more funding proposals than I sometimes care to remember. As a taxpayer, only you may decide whether you agree with the principle of government involvement in private industry. As a businessperson, however, let me tell you that you are missing a tremendous opportunity if you chose not to take advantage of the hundreds of millions of dollars of government grants and loans made available to the business community, each year.

I have written a series of articles on government funding. I am not trying to convince you why government should or should not be involved in financing private sector initiatives. Trust me. As long as there are geographic disparities in employment levels, industry downturns and generally high unemployment levels, governments will continue to be involved in economic development. As a businessperson this can spell opportunity for you and your business.

Based on my years of experience in the industry, I have ascertained that most people believe getting government funding is a three-step process:

1. Finding out what programs are available.

2. Determining the eligibility criteria; and

3. Submitting the proposal.

Step one alone can be a nightmare because there are so many ever changing programs, that one can never be sure if they are overlooking the one program that could make all the difference. Researching them can be time consuming and confusing as the information is usually fragmented and often outdated. That's one of the reasons why I developed The Business Guide to Government Grants and Loans website.

Steps two and three are obvious and necessary if you hope to obtain the money you need. What is not so obvious is that there is an important step missing here, the step that will have the most influence on whether or not your funding proposal is successful. I call it Step 2.5 "Determining the

Assessment Criteria

The assessment criteria is what the economic development officer (each department and agency seems to have a different name for this person), rates your proposal against when deciding whether it is worthy of funding. It includes things such as net economic benefit analysis, competitive impact statements, viability/sustainability analysis and a myriad of other things, all of, which play an important part in the final decision regarding your proposal.

Many people mistakenly believe that, if they are eligible for funding they will get it. All they have to do is apply. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every government program, which I know of, has a set of assessment criteria, used to determine whether a proposal is suitable for funding. These criteria are seldom communicated to applicants because they simply don't ask. Let's face it. If you know what your proposal will be assessed against before you apply, you stand a much better chance of getting approved.

Future articles will examine these criteria in more detail outlining what to consider when developing funding proposals and what buzzwords bureaucrats love to see. I think you will find these articles informative and they may help you obtain the funding you need.

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