Beginning with the 2017 budget, the Wayne County Commissioners began setting aside funding to support a new County Economic Growth Fund to help small businesses start and expand their enterprises.
Wayne County has a number of large employers, however most people work for enterprises with 10 or fewer employees, says Wayne Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Mary Beth Wood. WEDCO administers the fund for the county.
Through this program, businesses may be awarded a grant up to $2,500 for eligible projects not related to loan application fees, or up to $10,000 for the purpose of paying eligible loan fees. Projects that would have a significant economic development impact on the County may be eligible for a grant/loan combination exceeding $10,000. The grants have private investment match and job creation requirements.
The funds may be used for land and building acquisition, construction and renovation, machinery and equipment, or working capital.
Since the first grant was awarded in June 2018 until the end of 2019, the fund, totaling $107,000, has leveraged more than $6 million in private investments in the local business community and created more than 100 jobs, and the benefits are spread out throughout the county. Commissioner Joe Adams said start-up and expanding businesses are located across nine municipalities from Starrucca to Salem Township and Damascus to Waymart Borough. Adams noted of the 21 grants awarded, just about half went to existing businesses and half to new endeavors, stretching across the spectrum of industry sectors -- from agriculture and manufacturing to retail and food service.
Commissioner Chairman Brian Smith said the idea came from a constituent who wanted to know why the county doesn’t offer more help to businesses. He said, "I hadn’t thought of it and it was a good idea. It turned into something successful."