Manufacturing Grants: An Overview of State and Federal Funding Opportunities
By: Micki Vandeloo, President of Lakeview Consulting, speaker at the 2023 Supply Summit & Showcase in Sandestin.
Many manufacturers don’t know there are grants available to help them address their challenges and fund projects that will help them meet market needs, grow, and succeed. Lakeview Consulting specializes in helping manufacturers find and access funding opportunities.
There are four frequently asked questions regarding manufacturing grants at the state and federal level detailed below. We’ll detail specific grants that for-profit manufacturers are eligible to apply for, cover activities those grants can fund, detail the types of manufacturers who can apply, and explain the criteria manufacturers use to determine whether or not to take advantage of these opportunities.
What is a Grant?
Grants are funds paid to a manufacturer for a specific project with outcomes (what changes as a result of the project) desirable to the organization providing the funding. Grants do NOT have to be re-paid unless the recipient fails to uphold the terms of the grant during their application process.
State economic development departments and federal agencies such as the Department of Energy, Department of Labor and Department of Commerce fund the majority of manufacturing grants. These funding entities desire economic benefits such as job creation, investment, new technology development and workforce skills enhancement.
What Types of Grants do Manufacturers Qualify For and What do These Grants Cover?
Most of the grant opportunities for manufacturers can typically be narrowed down to six types of grants, which include:
• Training grants to fund workforce development programs (internally and externally delivered) that manufacturers offer to raise their employees’ skills.
• Export grants that cover a portion of the costs manufacturers incur to expand their overseas presence, including trade shows/missions; translation of marketing and instructional materials into other languages; and certifications to sell products
• Grants to offset the impact of trade imbalances which cover services manufacturers acquire to be more competitive on the world stage.
• Rural business development grants that fund investments in energy efficient equipment and renewable energy projects to spur rural manufacturing economic development, profitability and competitiveness.
• Business attraction grants provided by states to entice manufacturers to pursue large investment and job creation in their state. In many cases, the applicants have to show that they are considering more than one state to maximize their benefits from these types of programs. Many times, these grant awards are negotiated between the state and the manufacturing company and the larger the economic benefit (job creation and investment), the larger the award. This may also be a combination of grants and tax credits.
• Grants that fund partnerships between manufacturers and education or workforce development to create or expand apprenticeship programs, implement large-scale workforce development initiatives, and create career pathways for underserved individuals.
Who Qualifies for Manufacturing Grants?
Most manufacturers can apply for any or all of the above funding as long as they meet the following criteria:
• A strong and sound financial history (most startups can’t apply for funding due to this qualification).
• Business presence in the state offering the grant
• Willingness to do the reporting required to obtain the funding (which Lakeview Consulting can help with).
• A clean legal history, especially for owners and top-level management.
• An ability to provide match (a percentage of the grant award provided in cash or by an eligible means) for the grant, if required.
Why Don’t More Manufacturers Apply for these Grants?
There are typically four primary reasons why manufacturers don’t apply for grants they are eligible for:
- They don’t know the grants exist. This is by far the most common reason. If no one tells them about the grants and they don’t go out looking (which has often been likened to finding a needle in a haystack), they won’t be aware these grants exist.
- The process of finding the grants seems very daunting to many manufacturing leaders. The opportunities are often hidden on state websites, so a simple Google search won’t typically identify them. Once a manufacturing leader finds a grant, the process of applying is often even more intimidating, with many requirements and supporting documents. So, they don’t pursue the funding.
- There are always the stories lingering about “someone who knew someone’s third cousin that lost grant funding.” As a result, they lost their company or had to sell it. Therefore, those who have heard such a story have vowed to NEVER take the chance with a grant. However, the reality is that if someone loses grant funding, it is because that company didn’t do what they said they were going to, lied on their application, or falsified evidence to get funding.
- They know about grants, but choose not to pursue them. Manufacturers must understand where grant funding is coming from, how government budgets work, and make informed decisions about pursuing grant funding. One large manufacturing facility in New York mistakenly believed that if they accepted the money, they’d be taking funding away from “more worthy” non-profit organizations. Grants for manufacturing and funding for social services come from completely different budgets, with neither affecting the other.
Education and access to resources to find and apply for grant funding can help manufacturers achieve a comfort level for, and desire to, pursue grants. Those who make that mindset switch tend to be progressive. The result is greater profitability and success. The manufacturers who will lead the United States into the future will be those who have a deep bench of skilled talent, who have successfully navigated supply chain trends and onshoring, and who have adopted the technology that will allow manufacturing to thrive.
Micki Vandeloo has led her clients to success by helping them clarify project goals, plan new services and secure grant funding to support their missions. Micki and her team at Lakeview Consulting have collectively obtained more than $260 million in grant funding. Micki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Free Download: The Complete Manufacturer’s Guide to Grant Funding