Fed money to support grants for small businesses in Torrington

TORRINGTON — For its latest distribution of American Rescue Plan Act funding, city officials have awarded $500,000 to a business development group to administer money to small local businesses in need.

The $500,000 comes from the city’s $10.07 million allocation from the federal government it received in 2021. The City Council appointed an ARPA Committee to review spending of the funds for Community Impact Grants and Facade and Improvements Grants.

The Women’s Business Development Council will use the money to provide Technical Assistance and Direct Business Grants to Torrington small businesses.  

“These funds will be used to leverage another $100,000.00 of investment from the WBDC that will benefit our local economies. The measures of success will be demonstrated through job creation, revenue growth and profitability,” said Mayor Elinor Carbone. “The WBDC will establish dedicated staff to support Torrington businesses through entrepreneurial services, classes for startups, accounting and finance education, sales and marketing strategies, operations and access to capital. The WBDC will be responsible for the solicitation, review and approval of grant applications for both startup businesses and for emerging businesses that are positioned for growth.”

Fran Pastore, CEO of the WBDC, called her organization “a product of a silver lining of COVID-19.”

“We were asked by the state to help small businesses who were not able to take advantage of other (types of funding),” she said. 

Carbone said this latest grant keeps with the city’s goal of helping businesses recover from the effects of the pandemic. 

“Using the ARPA money, it has been our goal and commitment to stay true to the intent of the federal legislation. These funds, together with our Community Impact Grants and façade improvement grants will provide our small businesses, local non-profits and youth organizations a leg-up to assist in their economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Carbone said.

“As a municipal government, we are not built to solicit applicants, administer grant applications and collect the data that will demonstrate the successful application of these funds. Women’s Business Development Council has the expertise and access to a network of business resources; we are looking forward to working with them on getting these funds out to our business men and women,” she said. 

Brenda Thickett, senior vice president of Programs & People at the WBDC, said the funds from Torrington will provide launchpad grants for startups, or businesses open for fewer than two years. “These will include classes or clinics on getting started, creating a business plan, a marketing plan, and finding other types of funding,” she said. 

“For businesses open for two or more years, they can apply for up to $10,000 each. This money isn’t for things like improvements or salaries, but for training, investments in marketing; the idea is investing in the actual business to help it grow.”

The WBDC plans to hold informational sessions for businesses on how to apply for a grant. “We’ll have individual appointments to meet with owners, help them create a plan, with orientation and classes,” Thickett said. “We’ll also follow up after the grants are awarded, to help them address any challenges.”

The WBDC was founded as a technical assistance organization, Pastore said, providing mentoring, coaching, training and classroom education, as well as information on how to launch a business and write a business plan. “It’s really all we do,” she said. “The grants are a new project and natural progression for us, to create a new opportunity for women and minority-owned businesses.”

All businesses are eligible to apply. “We help all businesses who come to us,” Thickett said.

To date, Pastore said, the WBDC has provided grants to 167 businesses. “More than 60 percent say they’ve increased their revenues, and more than 100 jobs have been created,” she said.

 Information on the ARPA funding can be found at torringtonct.org. 


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