So called “Made in America” grants are available to small and medium sized companies clobbered by an influx of cheaper imports.

“If you think you’ve got a decline in business in recent years and you believe it’s due to imports be in contact and we can find out if you qualify for this.”  

David Holbert is director of the Seattle-based non-profit Northwest Trade Adjustment Assistance Center (NWTAAC).

“When a company faces destructive price competition it’s a situation where they can’t win by trying harder. They have to change. And for small to medium sized enterprises, change is very often instigated by outside expertise. Generally speaking, the companies have to find their way to a customer base that values quality customization and/or rapid fulfillments.”   

The Trade Adjustment Center is funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration and serves companies in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska.

It began in the 1970s as a way to help manufacturers facing competition often caused by global trade deals, and now includes businesses in timber, agriculture and fishing.

The program, which is not very well known, offers matching grants to mid-sized companies to help them hire outside experts.

Basically, the big deal with the program is a matching fund for outside expertise up to $75,000 on the match side for companies, so that’s $150,000 for projects.”

Smaller businesses can receive up to 75 percent in matching funds for up to $30,000. The Center does all the qualifying paperwork and advises throughout.

“After qualifying we spend a little time proposing what the company should do or wants to do. That proposal is basically a business plan that focuses on what outside expertise would be required for the company to succeed. Then the companies have five years to use the funds.”

Many use the funds to create a website and marketing tools, product design, quality certifications and a wide range of projects.

 “It’s important to know that in this program companies select the projects and the vendors. We’re not telling anyone what to do or who to hire. We’ll help them find someone if they need to. But it’s your solution to your situation.”

Holbert says Alaska halibut fishermen may qualify due to increased imports from Canada. A way to apply is through an association.

“If you get a couple in the same industry, particularly when you’re talking about agriculture or fishing, and they all relate to the same association, sometimes you can apply a couple of companies benefits to one project.”

Holbert says Alaska businesses can quickly learn if they are eligible.

“Don’t be shy about calling. We’re four people covering five states so you’re not dealing with a big bureaucracy, you’re going to talk to a person who is going to relate to you and your business.”

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