by Scott Robertson
Officials representing several Chambers of Commerce in the region as well as the Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership and NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership distributed the first round of grant checks from the Local Business Recovery Fund May 29 – June 4. The first grants to regional businesses struggling from the economic fallout of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic were announced May 21. The grant awards total $98,650 with $56,000 going to Virginia companies and $42,650 going to companies in Northeast Tennessee. In all, 22 businesses were awarded grants.
“In less than a month, we received 217 grant applications from various businesses and organizations through our RegionAHEAD.com application process,” says Andy Dietrich, the organizer of the Local Business Recovery Fund Drive. “Our thanks go out to every person and organization who have made donations thus far. As we have said from the beginning, the number of businesses that we can help is directly correlated to how much we receive in donations. Individuals and companies can still donate. Go to RegionAHEAD.com to do so.”
“I was extremely proud of the work of our allocations committee,” says Beth Rhinehart, president and CEO of the Bristol Chamber of Commerce. “The group took great care in reviewing every allocation in a spirit of fairness and where grant dollars could do the most good in helping the business survive and their impact on the region.”
Local businesses and sole proprietorships that are locally operated are eligible to apply for a grant in Carter, Greene, Hawkins, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington Counties in Tennessee and Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington and Wise Counties along with the independent cities of Bristol and Norton in Virginia. Grants are intended for businesses involved in arts, entertainment or recreation, accommodation and food services, retail trade, or the manufacturing sectors.
BrightRidge has been the largest single contributor to the fund, providing two separate tranches of $50,000. The utility drew praise for allowing the funds to be used throughout the region, not just in its own service area. Jeff Dykes, BrightRidge CEO, says, “Small businesses are the backbone supporting our communities. These locally owned businesses are being significantly impacted by the restrictions which had to be implemented to get the virus under control. The Board and management of BrightRidge believes investing in these businesses to help them get through this stressful time is a part of serving our community. Economic Development is not only bringing new business to our region but also supporting those businesses already here. BrightRidge’s hope is others will see the need of the small businessperson in our area and support the RegionAHEAD initiative.”
The Local Business Recovery Fund intends to have a second review of grant applications and make additional awards during the month of June. Potential donors and small business owners wishing to apply for a grant can learn more about the fund at RegionAHEAD.com.