HUDSON — The Columbia County Board of Supervisors has announced a $500,000 initiative to assist small businesses.

The board launched Columbia Forward, designed to strengthen business community as it emerges from the pandemic and foster local economic development activities.

“I would call this a win-win,” Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chairman Matt Murell said. “Small businesses that have suffered throughout the pandemic will have this opportunity to help with their recovery efforts.”

The Columbia Economic Development Corporation and the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce will partner to implement and manage a three-year, $450,000 program under Columbia Forward intended to assist county-based small business and local economic development committees, Murell said.

The county will provide the Columbia Economic Development Corporation with an additional $50,000 in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to support a new small business grant program to which the corporation has committed $500,000 in new loan funds. Loans up to $25,000 will be made available to credit-eligible borrowers, who will each receive 10% of what has been borrowed in grant funding.

The two initiatives are supplied by American Rescue Plan Act funds. Columbia County has received half of the approximately $11 million it has been allocated under ARPA legislation.

Under the agreement, $150,000 will be provided each year for three years, subject to an annual performance review.

The $500,000 allocated from ARPA funds for Columbia Forward is a progression from Columbia Comeback, established in May 2020, Murell said.

“It [Columbia Comeback] was a means to helping businesses safely and successfully reopen in the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Murell said.

There are approximately 1,750 businesses in Columbia County, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, with more than 78% having 10 or fewer employees.

The program will target these small businesses disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, including businesses in the travel, tourism and hospitality industries, which are an important part of the Columbia County economy, Murell said.

The program will also focus on Main Street retail, small manufacturing and service businesses.

By Natasha Vaughn-Holdridge
Columbia-Greene Media
Jul 5, 2022