We all want a quick fix, right? From weight loss to grocery shopping, it seems that every day someone is touting a new and quicker way to achieve a desired outcome.
But is there a “quick and dirty” way for manufacturers to find and obtain funding from grants and incentives? The short answer is “not really.” After all, the process of researching funding sources, completing applications, and waiting for funding decisions can take anywhere from one to six months! And there is currently not an app or a “one-stop shop” that can streamline this process for the manufacturing community (although both are on my radar).
However, there are four steps manufacturers can take to accelerate the funding process by reducing the time needed to identify and engage funding sources and complete applications.
Step 1: Thoroughly plan all upcoming projects
To find the best grants and incentives to fund your projects, you must have a well-planned project. To plan a project effectively, you need to answer – in detail and in specific, quantified terms – four questions pertaining to upcoming growth initiatives:
- What activities need to be done to complete the project?
- When will these activities need to be done?
- What resources (equipment, personnel, materials, etc.) will be needed to conduct those activities?
- What will change as a result of identified resources completing each activity?
The answers to these are important for two reasons: First, funding applications ask for this information, so knowing the answers will give you a head start, and second, the answer to question No. 4 creates a list of your outcomes, which will quickly help you identify grants and incentives that can help fund your project.
Step 2: Create a repository of key information
While each funding source differs in the information needed to satisfy its requirements, there are some key documents that are common among most funding programs:
- Three years of year-end balance sheets and cash-flow statements
- A current count of employees
- Wage information, including wage by employee, company-wide average wage and average floor-worker wage.
- Key employee resumes
These documents can be either in paper or electronic form and should be stored in one location. Once the repository is created, make sure documents are updated annually.
Step 3: Engage prospective funders
State, county, and city economic development entities provide the largest percentage of grants and incentives for manufacturers. In addition, state legislators can provide support for your grant applications, particularly when you're applying for state funding. Inviting your legislators and representatives from state, county, and city government for a plant tour is the best way to engage these funders and gain their support. Once they know you, they are more likely to remember you when new funding opportunities arise.
Step 4: Stay connected
If you go to your city, county, and state websites, you will likely ways to sign up to receive electronic updates from these entities. These updates will often contain funding opportunities.
If you belong to trade associations, subscribe to their newsletters and other mailings as well. Their goal is to promote the growth of their members, so they often publish grant opportunities in their newsletters.
None of these steps takes a significant amount of time or effort, but all can pay big dividends when it is time to search for grants and incentives to fund your success.