Marketing Grants Providing Much-Need Assistance to Chautauqua County Businesses

 Three Economic Development Organizations Collaborating

The County of Chautauqua Industrial Development Agency (CCIDA), Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Jamestown Community College, and Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce (CCCC) have been collaborating since 2021 to assist business with grant funding to upgrade their marketing tools and presence. To date, 35 Chautauqua County small businesses have been assisted with grants averaging approximately $8,000 each, with funding provided through Chautauqua County’s ARPA allocation. Each organization contributed their areas of expertise for one common objective; to assist businesses to recover from the effects of the COVID pandemic.

The pandemic presented unprecedented challenges, and local business owners had to adapt to succeed. This has included methods to communicate with customers in new and innovate ways. It was evident that those businesses that were able to pivot during the pandemic, in terms of offering services in a different way, were able to not only survive, but in some instances thrive. Helping businesses to evolve and expand their marketing reach became the driving force behind this program – ways to help businesses increase foot and on-line traffic in order to boost their sales.  Along with the grant funds, each recipient was provided with a list of marketing companies in our area to encourage a double impact by spending the funds locally.

In 2021, the CCIDA, SBDC, and CCCC partnered to develop a program that would offer grant funding to small businesses of 50 employees or less to help them with their marketing efforts. Some of the companies assisted with funding in Round 1 included: Carlberg Farm – for prominent signage on the barn at their roadside stand; Group Ther-Happy – for website upgrades and equipment/software for photo booth to take and share branded photos across social media platforms; Portage Pie – to upgrade signage and purchase label printing equipment for pie boxes; and Chautauqua County Humane Society to develop a new/modern logo and other rebranding efforts.

“We were victims of our own success, at least in terms of our program outreach,” said Mark Geise, Deputy County Executive for Economic Development and CCIDA CEO. “Through our program marketing efforts undertaken by the CCIDA, SBDC, and CCCC, we ended up having far more applicants than we had funding to serve the need; however, this motivated us to secure more funding to help those we placed on a waiting list. Based on testimony from the first-round grant recipients, the funding we provided was invaluable to their bottom line. We will keep looking for funding until we serve everyone on the waiting list, and will always strive to help businesses through whatever means we have at our disposal.”

Testimony received from some of the grant recipients includes the following:

Bemus Point Association:  “Thank you so much for accepting our grant application, you have helped us greatly to advance our goal of promoting Bemus Point and all of our local businesses!”

Chautauqua Marina:  “Please extend our sincere THANK YOU, to CCIDA staff and Board of Directors for the opportunity to participate in this marketing grant.  This program has opened many doors for us and has enabled family and staff of many different generations the opportunity to participate in streaming and digital marketing.  Thank you for giving us this opportunity to work with multiple generations and the funds to do so.”

One World Catering:  “Thank you very much for making these funds available to small businesses in the county.  It has been a struggle starting a small business during the time of the Covid pandemic, and having these funds to support our marketing efforts has been greatly appreciated.”

Merritt Winery:  “I would like to express my appreciation for the $9,000 grant that we received last year for promotion for our products.  While we more than exhausted the funds in our promotion efforts, the funds were definitely helpful in meeting our promotion goals.  Again, thank you for approving our participation in this program.”

When faced with hardships, small businesses often focus resources on what they need to do to remain in operation for the short term. Even though marketing is an essential operating expense, in many cases it is one of the first things to be reduced before such essential expenses as insurance, payroll, rent, and taxes. For that reason, this funding is essential.

“I was pleased that the Ralph Wilson Jr. Foundation (RWJF) was receptive to providing Round 2 funding to help us serve more businesses that we couldn’t through the County’s ARPA funding,” Courtney L. Curatolo, Ph.D., Director, SBDC at JCC stated. “While I thought it was a long-shot, I called them anyway, and was very pleased that they loved the concept and were on-board with providing a grant to assist our County’s businesses. This has been a great partnership between the CCIDA, SBDC, and CCCC.”

RWJF provided $258,000 to the CCIDA in early 2023 after recognizing the need for additional resources, and realizing there was a pipeline of applicants eager to take advantage of the program. This new funding will help approximately 30 more businesses that are currently on the waiting list, with eligible expenses to include: branding; copy right/trade marketing; printed or digital signage; social media; print, TV, and social media advertising; website development; e-commerce; printed brochures and flyers; marketing software expenses; and other marketing-related activities.

“When the initial applications quickly outpaced the available funding, we made it a priority of seeking additional funds to cover more applications, rather than conclude the program as a whole,” said Daniel Heitzenrater, CCCC President & CEO. “We appreciate the strong support of the Ralph Wilson Jr. Foundation which enables us to complete another group of funding awards. We have definitely seen a renewed focus on shopping and supporting local businesses over the last few years, and these grants are helping small local businesses market their products while connecting them with support organizations like the Chamber, SBDC, and CCIDA. In addition to supporting many traditional marketing and advertising projects, it has also been exciting to see our local businesses thinking outside of the box to propose and implement new ideas.”