The Newnan-Coweta Chamber recently announced plans for two new significant economic development programs.
One program aims to help local small businesses negatively impacted by the pandemic improve digital outreach and e-commerce capabilities; another will offer soft skills and technical training to adult workers who are either unemployed or underemployed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic effects.
Both programs received funding through the County's receipt of over $28 million in Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds.
"We are excited about these programs and appreciate the funding to implement them. As always, the Chamber is looking for ways to enable local businesses and Coweta citizens to thrive," said Candace Boothby, president and CEO of the Newnan Coweta Chamber.
The Small Business Microgrant program will offer grants ranging from $2,400 to $18,000 to Coweta businesses with less than 25 full-time employees. Funds will be used for website development, search engine optimization, subscription fees, e-commerce platforms and social media marketing.
Implemented through a partnership between the Chamber and the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center, the application process is expected to begin in March 2023, running through December or when the funds are exhausted.
"This is a game-changer for digitally underrepresented businesses. Many couldn't weather the financial hardships caused by the pandemic, experiencing lost revenue and economic insecurity. It was staggering to learn how many of them had little to no online presence. Working with the SBDC, we aim to get as many businesses online as possible … and plan to make it as easy as possible," said Susan Kraut, Chamber vice-president and program architect.
The Career Readiness training program represents a partnership between the Chamber, West Georgia Technical College and the Georgia Tech Innovation Institute.
The soft and technical skills training will include 40 hours of instruction, with 24 hours of soft skills education, eight hours of customized interactive simulations in lean manufacturing, logistics and health care, and additional hours in basic math refreshers, measurements, best practices in workplace safety, business acumen and forklift operator safety training.
"This one is a heavy lift, with many moving parts. We're prepared, though; we've been planning this program for at least a year. The only missing element was the funding. To say that we're grateful for the consideration is an understatement, as the projected impact on the eligible Coweta workforce is immeasurable," said Kraut.
The Chamber aims to have a pilot program in place in the spring of 2023, with full implementation in the fall.
The American Rescue Plan Act features wide-ranging legislation addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent economic crises. While people are more familiar with aspects of the plan that provided COVID-19 vaccines, sent checks to individuals and offered rent assistance, ARPA also included provisions to strengthen businesses, particularly small businesses.
"We established a committee to review the applications," County Administrator Michael Fouts said at the Sept. 20 meeting of the Coweta County Board of Commissioners.
The review committee recommended six projects – totaling $1.539 million, including programs proposed by the Chamber, Meals on Wheels of Coweta, Pathways Center, the Coweta Community Foundation and One Roof Ecumenical Outreach.
The county commissioners unanimously approved the ARPA subawards at the meeting. Commissioner Tim Lassetter, who motioned to approve the grants, said of the organizations, "I'd like to thank them for what they do in our community."