How to get grants to fund workforce projects

April 10, 2019
Micki Vandeloo shares how manufacturers can obtain grants to support their major projects and initiatives

Christine LaFave Grace interviews Micki Vandeloo, president of Lakeview Consulting, to discuss how manufacturers can obtain grants to support their major projects and initiatives.


Amanda Del Buono: Hello, thanks for tuning in to this episode of Manufacturing Tomorrow's Workforce, I'm your host Amanda Del Buono.

We’re going to get right into our interview today, Christine LaFave Grace, managing editor of Plant Services, was recently joined by Micki Vandeloo, president of Lakeview Consulting, to discuss how manufacturers can obtain grants to support their major projects and initiatives. Here's their interview.

Christine LaFave Grace: Micki Vandeloo is president of Lakeview Consulting, a Southern Illinois-based consultancy that works with manufacturers, not-for-profits and other organizations to help them obtain grants to support major projects and initiatives. For manufacturers, beyond the time-intense process of applying for grants and getting the human resources needed to complete applications and navigate the process, often there's not strong awareness even of what kind of money is out there for the asking. We're talking to Micki today to shed some light on that process and the opportunities many manufacturers may be missing.

Micki, thanks so much for joining us today.

Micki Vandeloo: Thank you, Christine. It’s a pleasure.

CLG: Okay. So, what don’t manufacturers realize is available in terms of grants and awards? What specific agencies or entities are offering these grants, and what kind of projects do they support?

MV: Well, I think that’s a really great question, Christine, and I think it goes back to what you said and that’s the fact that I’ve experienced that many manufacturers just don’t realize that grants exist at all. They have not had that education, it has not been part of them being brought up in the manufacturing world. So, I would say, they don’t realize they exist or they fall into two other categories, which is they have strong misconceptions about what grants are. They think that they’re free money, which I bristle at the notion of, basically because no money is free. You have to do something to get the money, which takes time and resources. But also the fact that they feel that grants can get taken away, they’ve heard about a company, rumors, they’ve heard rumors about grants being taken away from a manufacturer, and really that happens in a very small percentage of the cases, and every time it happens, it happens because that particular manufacturer didn’t do what they were supposed to do in the grant. I have found that there’s a very small percentage, maybe 5 to 10% of the manufacturers that know that grant funding exists, but they don’t know all of the grants and incentives that are available to them. So, they might have heard of a training grant, for example, or they might even say ‘We’ve accessed a training grant,’ and that’s great, but there’s so many other programs out there, so may other tax credits, so many other grants that could apply to their situation, and I want to make sure they’re not leaving any money on the table.

As far as the agencies that typically provide grants, so the largest by far for manufacturers is the state Economic Development agencies. So, every state has an Economic Development Agency, and those organizations are tasked with improving the economy of the state, and many times they do that by providing grants. So, state Economic Development agencies can provide training grants, they can provide recycling grants, they can fund very specific apprenticeship-type initiatives, they can help companies connect with workers … and train those workers when they get connected to them, so by far that’s the largest, but there is some federal funding that is also targeted to for-profit companies. The largest of that is the SCIRS CTR funding, which is for high technology research-type projects, but again, some manufacturers might be doing that type of research. It’s very competitive, and it’s not usually the first place I tell a manufacturer to go, but there is some federal funding. There’s also federal funding that’s passed through to state agencies and … those agencies then will provide finding. An example is USCA. For rural companies, USCA has what they call the Rural Energy for America program, and that program can fund a portion of the cost of solar panels or wind turbines, or equipment that’s more energy efficient than current equipment when companies put that in, and that’s a really good source of funding for manufacturers as well.

So, you’ve got federal funding that falls through the states, you’ve got actual federal funding that goes directly to manufacturers, and you’ve got state funding, the third category is the local funding. So, a lot of manufacturers don’t realize that they’re in enterprise zones, and just by being in an enterprise zone, those companies can access tax credits that companies that aren’t in the enterprise zone can’t. So, we help companies identify if they’re in enterprise zones, because surprisingly, a lot of manufacturers don’t know that they’re in an enterprise zone. So, we try to connect them to these resources that are out there that they don’t know about that can help them access more tax credits, more incentives and more funding.

CLG: That’s great, that’s great. So, if I’m a small to mid-size manufacturer, and I’m among the majority who doesn’t know that this money is out there, what are some examples if I’ve got maybe a major cap ex project on the horizon, you know I really need to upgrade some equipment, invest in more efficient and more future-focused, digitally enabled equipment, what would you tell me? What might be available?

MV: So, what I would do is I would really ask you some really very targeted questions to start the grant and incentive research project, and that would include: How many jobs are you going to add when you do this project? What kind of equipment are you going to purchase? Is it going to be more energy efficient than what you have right now? Where are you located? Are you located in a rural area or in an urban area? Are you going to be training people as part of this project? The fact is that a project can be funded by a number of types of grants and incentives, Christine, and so, the reason why I ask all those questions, how much capital investment are you going to make? Are you going to add a facility to do it? Are you going to add a building? There are specific, targeted tax credits and grants for each portion of a project, and those can combine to fund a project. So, I might apply to a training grant provider for the training that’s associated with a project. I might try and make sure they’re in an enterprise zone if they’re doing a facilities upgrade or an equipment upgrade or an equipment installation. That’s really what I’m looking for is, what are the outcomes of doing the project, and then what grant programs can I help them access, and many times when we do that grant and incentive research, we can find upwards of 10 to 15 different programs for manufacturers.

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