The Schoharie County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) application at their monthly meeting on Friday, May 21st to assist small businesses and communities with web-oriented projects.
Shane Nickel, the county’s Senior Planner, explained that this particular CDBG application has two undertakings in mind: small business assistance through a digital strategies initiative, and public services assistance by providing Wi-Fi to an underserved area.
The digital strategies initiative, which will be spearheaded by the Schoharie Economic Enterprise Corporation (SEEC), is seeking approximately $206,000 to provide a training program, technical assistance, and website development for ten to twelve small businesses. The public services component of the CDBG application will cost roughly $150,000 and it will probably be targeted towards Wi-Fi development for the center of the Village of Schoharie. The county still needs to consult New York State about the application, said Mr. Nickel.
According to Julie Pacatte, SEEC’s executive director, the idea is to “pair businesses with digital technology specialists,” and to put their businesses online. Noting that a similar initiative was implemented in Vermont, Ms. Pacatte said participating businesses increased their sales by at least fifteen percent and were able to create more jobs.
SEEC is planning to assist ten to twelve small businesses with developing their online presence. Ms. Pacatte believes this will result in a “more resilient opportunity” for businesses to overcome fiscal adversity, such as we just witnessed with the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to growing the online presence of participating small businesses, who will be recruited by SEEC over the next month, the initiative is seeking to “train the trainer” and form a quasi-tech squad to work individually with these small business owners during the project.
“SEEC believes so strongly in this project, that we will fund these early costs,” said Ms. Pacatte.