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3 Places to Find Government Grants for Small Businesses

Government grants are a great source of free money small businesses can use to start or grow their enterprises. The best thing about grants is that, unlike loans, the money doesn't have to be paid back. The down side to government grants is finding them. Government grants in particular have specific  guidelines that determine the type of businesses eligible to receive grant money. Locating a source that has the same mission as the business can be a challenge.

There are three areas small businesses can look for government grant money.

1. State Economic Development Agency

Economic development is the goal of every state, and each state has an agency that oversees these efforts. The agencies may be called by different names, such as Development Office, Department of Economic Development, Department of Commerce, Economic Development Commission, Economic Resource Center, or similar names. Many states will often have special programs or grant competitions whose goal is to draw more new business to revitalize downtown areas, support business in rural areas, or encourage more minority entrepreneurs. Small business owners should check their state economic develop agency periodically for such programs.

2. Local Government Agencies

Local government agencies, such as the Mayor's office or Chamber of Commerce, often offer grants targeted toward small businesses whose goal is in alignment with what the city wants to accomplish. The Mayor's Office in St. Louis, for example, ran a Sustainable Neighborhood Small Grant Competition that offered grants of $5,000 for small businesses whose services resulted in a more economically, socially, and ecologically more sustainable city.

3. Federal Government

The U.S. government does not give grants to small business owners to start or grow a business. However, the government does give grants in certain areas for scientific research and development, green initiatives, alternative fuels, energy efficiency, pollution control and more. Some of the federal agencies that offer research grants include the Department of Agriculture, Health, Transportation, Defense, Energy, EPA, Education and Science. Entrepreneurs looking for research grants may search on the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) web site for available grants by department.

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