by Stephen Dafoe
Community Futures Tawatinaw Region is cautioning business owners about grant offerings and promises that look too good to be true. Kelly Harris-Martin, General Manager of Community Futures Tawatinaw Region, told Morinville News the downturn in the economy has sent more people their way inquiring about the availability of grant funding for their business.
“While there is some government funding available, there are of course a lot of unscrupulous people around at this time, and we hate to see anybody be taken advantage of,” Harris-Martin said.
Lists for sale
The most common scenarios Community Futures sees are online offerings.
The first are businesses that offer to sell other business a list of government and other available grants.
“For a fee they will forward you a copy of what they claim is hundreds or thousands of grants that your business will qualify for,” Harris-Martin said. “The grants or funding opportunities listed in those publications very well may be legitimate; however, what we hear from our clients that have purchased them in the past is that very often some of them are foreign, which means Canadian citizens are not eligible for them.”
She went on to say sometimes after paying a substantial fee for the list; there may be one or two grants in the book the business would qualify for based on their industry.
“Most grants are targeted towards a specific industry or a specific demographic, so there’s often very little in there that they can actually use.”
The second scenario involves operations that tell entrepreneurs they have millions of dollars in grants available. All people need to do is send in their business plan.
“They’ll get an email back at some point in the future saying it [the business plan] looks wonderful. They think they have grants that you will qualify for, but your business plan needs improvement,” Harris-Martin said, adding they are then passed off to a “specialist” who will develop the plan for an additional fee. “At this point, I do not personally know of anyone who has received a grant after having gone through that process.”
Tough year ahead
Funded in Western Canada by Western Canadian Diversification, Community Futures Tawatinaw Region offers assistance to businesses, both financial through loans, and through no cost advice on a variety of topics.
Harris-Martin said 2016 was going to be a tough year for businesses with the downturn in the economy. If an entrepreneur is looking to pursue granting opportunities, they recommend starting with both federal and provincial websites, and taking it a step further by reaching out to the federal or provincial authority for their industry.
The Community Futures manager said government grants are something governments want people to know about, not something they want to hide.
“There really isn’t a secret list of government funding,” she said. “They do these types of programs because they are trying to improve the profile of their department or their party. There is no secret list. If it’s not listed, there is a good chance it doesn’t exist. Most of the government grants out there are listed [align]with current government priorities like innovation, import export, and job creation.”
Harris-Martin said in her time with Community Futures; she has never seen a grant that was for consolidating debt or purchasing inventory, yet they regularly get inquiries from people looking for grants for those purposes.
“I think that sometimes the websites can indicate there are grants available for pretty much anything,” she said. “They are not necessarily tagging those two things, but they are leaving the impression that those funds might be available.”
Community Futures Tawatinaw Region offers loans to businesses who do not qualify for conventional bank loans, as well as no cost expert advice for existing and start-up businesses. They can be found online at http://tawatinaw.albertacf.com. Additional resources can be found at smallbusiness.alberta.ca.