Local Entity competitive mitigation program grants help grow businesses, create jobs

Gustavo Reza
Local Entity coordinator Gustavo Reza explains the grant process to local business owners and not-for-profit organization ceo’s.

 IMPERIAL, Calif. – Before the Great Recession of 2009, Imperial industrial park tenant JCS Construction, Inc., was a thriving business for 30 years, steadily employing 17-18 people and as many as 27 at one point.

In fact, the general contractor, just two years before the economy bottomed out, had worked to expand the business, attempting to provide another revenue stream by adding a full-fledged cabinetry shop.

Unfortunately, the downturn in the economy forced the company to cut its crew to just three employees—all of whom had to take a 15 percent pay cut—and the payment for the newly-acquired equipment became a financial strain.

“Because of the economic downturn people weren’t spending money on construction in the valley,” explained JCS’s president, “so we had to downsize drastically. We lost sales and employees and we had this monster lease which was draining the business.”

Hearing about the possible chance to acquire funds through Imperial Irrigation District’s Local Entity competitive mitigation grant program to help grow businesses and create jobs, JCS submitted an application to the Local Entity for 2010 funds. JCS was awarded a $272,000 grant, which not only stabilized the for-profit business, but dramatically helped turn it around. It was one of the first for-profit companies to apply for Local Entity funding.

The company’s success turned out to be considerably more than what its owners and the Local Entity expected.

In its proposal, JCS committed to adding between 2-3 employees, but the company has actually been able to increase its staff to 10 full-time positions and one part-time position. It did this by using the Local Entity grant to pay off the equipment lease, purchase new equipment to compliment the work the company was already doing so they could be more resistant to further downturns in the economy, renovate its facility and train staff.

“We made a commitment to do what we could to salvage and stabilize our business,” the company president said, “but what we’ve been able to accomplish was really was more than we expected.”

Local Entity coordinator Gustavo Reza agrees.

“In the first paragraph of their application,” recalls Reza, “they really explained their situation very well. In fact, if it wasn’t for the grant, they may have gone out of business, so this is truly a success story and we’re very proud of what they’ve been able to do.”

Reza clarifies that the Local Entity competitive mitigation funding program not only looks for projects that benefit individual businesses, but projects that can benefit the community by creating jobs, generating tax revenue, creating higher-paying jobs and employee benefits and spur an increase in the circulation of money.

Applicants can apply for competitive grants of up to $400,000. The deadline to apply for the 2012 Local Entity competitive mitigation program is Aug. 30, 2013. To date, the IID has conducted three informational workshops on the Local Entity competitive mitigation program; a fourth workshop is scheduled for Thursday, July 18 from 10 a.m. to noon in the William R. Condit Auditorium, 1285 Broadway, El Centro.

When preparing the application for Local Entity competitive mitigation funds, although he thought he had put a good plan together, JCS’s president said he had no idea his company would be selected. “I knew what we could do if we were fortunate enough to get the grant. But we’re proof that if you apply and put a good plan together and you utilize the funds properly, it can work.”