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Consumers Energy Foundation Continues Small Business Support in Northern MI

Since 2016, the Consumers Energy Foundation has supported small businesses in Northwest Michigan through Venture North Funding & Development, a community financial development institution and CMF member.

Open sign hanging on small business window

Since 2016, the Consumers Energy Foundation has supported small businesses in Northwest Michigan through programs at Venture North Funding & Development, a community financial development institution (CDFI) and a CMF member.

The foundation has seeded  $690,000 to help businesses survive the pandemic, built capital for loans and subsidized professional services needed for business operation and growth. And now, a new grant will further support Venture North’s ability to help businesses grow and thrive.

According to Venture North data, the foundation’s $690,000 has helped leverage nearly $1.4 million in additional contributions to the organization, for a total impact of more than $2 million.

“In 2020, the organization stepped up quickly to address the needs of so many small businesses across Northern Michigan that were negatively impacted by the pandemic. Led by a terrific leader in Laura Galbraith, the organization was immediately responsive to the needs of small businesses, especially those owned by underrepresented populations. This critical focus led us to make an initial significant investment in their work in 2020,” Carolyn Bloodworth, secretary/treasurer of Consumers Energy Foundation told CMF.

Venture North shared that over 2020 and 2021, Consumers Energy Foundation contributed a total of $450,000 to the Regional Resiliency Program (RRP), $350,000 of which went to supporting small businesses and $100,000 to administration, including free business consulting on pivot strategies and federal/state resources, and contractors to operate the grant program and manage grant review teams across 10 counties.

The RRP is supported by nine CMF members and other funders, administered by Venture North, and is a collaborative effort that has provided over $1 million in funding to businesses with nine or fewer employees impacted by COVID. The program covers a 10-county region in northwest Michigan.

Now, the foundation is supporting Phase 2 of the RRP.

Through a $100,000 grant to help provide mini-grants to pay for professional services and technical assistance like free business coaching, grant-writing support, marketing plans and access to online videos and content focused on money, management and marketing.

Phase 2 will emphasize support to people of color and individuals who earn lower wages and who own businesses or businesses located in low-income communities.

CMF member Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation is also supporting this process through funding an analyst to define areas of Emmet County that are economically challenged and identify target businesses that may not have access to financial capital. 

“We are excited to see this next phase become successful, and we are optimistic other foundations will join us once again to make a positive impact on both businesses and communities in Northern Michigan,” Bloodworth said.

As CMF reported, the RRP began with a $200,000 grant from Consumers Energy Foundation and since its launch several other CMF members have supported the program including DTE Energy Foundation, Frey Foundation, Leelanau Township Community Foundation, Manistee Community Foundation, Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation, Hagerty, ITC and Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation.

The RRP provided more than 300 grants of up to $5,000 to support businesses’ urgent and unique needs such as: Cash flow; business shifts in new directions; online ordering systems; general payroll as well as higher wages to retain employees; inventory, supplies and equipment; rent and utilities; and basic survival.

Want more?

Read the full Venture North press release.

Learn more about the Regional Resiliency Program.

Join the Consumers Energy Foundation, Venture North, Leelanau Township Community Foundation and Manistee Industrial Development Corporation in conversation at CMF's 50th Annual Conference! Together they will share more on connecting philanthropy and government resources to provide help to small businesses in areas of economic distress. Learn more.