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Innovate Alabama gears up to dole out $100 million in small business grants, loans

Alabama small businesses, particularly those in historically underserved communities, will soon have the opportunity to apply for a piece of a $100 million pie, with Innovate Alabama gearing up to dole out $97.9 million in expected federal money.

A public-private economic development organization, Innovate Alabama is responsible for allocating funds from the State Small Business Credit Initiative, a federal program reauthorized under the American Rescue Plan Act that provides $10 billion in grants and loans to support small businesses across the country. 

Having submitted an application to receive funds from the program in April, Innovate Alabama board member Rep. Danny Garrett said during a recent meeting he expects approval to be “imminent.”

“What Innovate Alabama is trying to do is spur the development of 21st century businesses in the state, businesses that are tech related, some of the entrepreneurship businesses of the new economy,” Garrett, R-Trussville, told Alabama Daily News on Thursday. 

“A lot of these are smaller startups and we don’t have that network of investors readily available in the state right now, so programs like this would provide access to capital – Innovate Alabama is basically the one to manage those applications so that we can further the goal and mission of Innovate Alabama.”

The SSBCI program was first established in 2010 in response to the 2008 financial crisis to the tune of $1.5 billion, with funding doled out to states by the U.S. Department of Treasury. Under ARPA, the program was revived and funding boosted to $10 billion.

Alabama was among the last states to apply for funding and while hasn’t received word on its application status, Walt Postlewait, a financial advisor for Innovate Alabama, shared Garrett’s outlook that it “could come at any time.”

“The exciting part, or the frustrating or anxiety part is we’re still waiting for the final word that everything is in place with the U.S. Treasury,” Postlewait said during the meeting.

Postlewait said that Innovate Alabama would have 36 months from receiving the funds to make allocations, a timeline that Cynthia Crutchfield, CEO of Innovate Alabama, said she felt confident in being able to execute.

“All in all, I do think that we have a very strong program, and I think the most important thing for us is building that pipeline,” Crutchfield said. “So as long as we can hit the road running, I think that we will be successful in getting that $97 million doled out.”

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