Transparency and inclusiveness drive Restart Grant award process

Lakeshore Advantage is unveiling a process that is designed to be transparent and inclusive in allocating $3.5 million in federal funding to businesses and nonprofits in Allegan and Ottawa counties.

The economic development organization received 887 Michigan Small Business Restart Grant applications from Allegan and Ottawa counties’ businesses and nonprofits competing for the funding. 

At least 30% of the awards will go to women-, minority-, and veteran-owned businesses. 

Equitable, inclusive process

A committee of local business and nonprofit leaders has been established to review the applications for grants of up to $20,000. The group will be led by Mike Ramirez, Partner and President of Orka Automation, who is serving as the Restart Grant Board Chair for the Lakeshore Advantage grant administration process.

Holly Johnson is the Restart Review Committee Vice Chair
“With much thought and intentionality, we’ve built an equitable and inclusive review process and recruited strong community, business, and nonprofit representatives to provide leadership on the review board,” says Ramirez. “This grant lends much opportunity to reach deep into our Lakeshore communities to provide small businesses and nonprofits access to the support they need in critical times.”

Members of the Lakeshore Advantage Review Committee Board for Allegan and Ottawa counties Restart Grant applications are local residents who represent diverse backgrounds and experiences. 

Along with Ramirez, the review team includes:
  • Holly Johnson, Vice Chair, Frey Foundation
  • Mandi Brower, Quality Car Wash
  • Esperanza Degnan, Mercantile Bank of Michigan
  • Ada Delgado, Macatawa Bank
  • Boyd Feltman, Peachwave
  • Nick Genova, Haworth
  • Robert Heath Sr., Legacy Leadership
  • Phil Koning, West Michigan Community Bank
  • Kavy Lenon, Herman Miller
  • Kris Lewis, Allegan Credit Union
  • Scott Lubbers, Fifth Third Bank
  • Joe Matthews, Gentex
  • Jennifer Owens, Lakeshore Advantage
  • Chih-Hsuan (Sandy) Pierce, Padnos
  • Jennifer Remondino, Warner Norcross + Judd
  • Amy Sparks, Nuvar Manufacturing
  • Chris Streng, Great Lakes Financial Insurance Agency 
  • Jenny White, Velo City Cycles
Strategic partners

The Michigan Strategic Fund, through the federal CARES Act and Michigan Economic Development Corporation, has made available $100 million in grant funds to eligible small businesses and nonprofits in Michigan. 
Jennifer Owens is president of Lakeshore Advantage.
Lakeshore Advantage is administering $3.5 million of that funding for eligible businesses and nonprofits in Allegan and Ottawa counties. The money will fund at least 160 grants. A portion of the grant is set aside for administrative costs. 

As part of the process, Lakeshore Advantage is collaborating with local strategic partner organizations. All have played a crucial role in sharing information about this grant opportunity with their constituents in Allegan and Ottawa counties, as well as assisting with establishing the review process. 

The strategic partner organizations include:
  • Allegan Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Allegan County Community Foundation
  • Allendale Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Community Foundation Holland Zeeland Area
  • Coopersville Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Greater Ottawa County United Way
  • Grand Haven Area Community Foundation
  • Hudsonville Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance
  • Michigan West Coast Chamber of Commerce
  • Lakeshore Advantage // West Michigan Business Advantage
  • Otsego Plainwell Area Chamber of Commerce
  • The Chamber: Grand Haven, Spring Lake, Ferrysburg
  • Wayland Area Chamber of Commerce
  • West Michigan Blue Star Chamber of Commerce
  • Women of Color Give

Team effort

“From getting the word out to make sure all eligible businesses knew about this opportunity, to the initial review and evaluation, our strategic partners have been integral to this process,” says Jennifer Owens, Lakeshore Advantage President. “It takes a true team effort to make these funding decisions.”
Applicants applied for the grant program through one universal application administered by the MEDC. The application period was from July 15-Aug. 5. 

Application review and selection is occurring now through Aug. 24. Awardees will be notified starting Aug. 25. Disbursement of awards will begin Sept. 1, and awardees will be publicly announced by Sept. 20. 

More information is available at 
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Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.