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EDA announces “Project Backstop,” relief funds for Cook County’s small businesses

The Cook County/Grand Marais Economic Development Authority (EDA) met electronically on Tuesday, April 14. This will be the first meeting for the EDA since Governor Tim Walz’s “Stay Home Minnesota” order and it was conducted electronically. On the agenda were the usual EDA matters—consideration of a business development fund grant, review of the Superior National at Lutsen golf course budget, and more. However, the highlight of the meeting was the announcement of a new business assistance program geared specifically for Cook County’s small businesses—“Project Backstop Relief Grant Fund.”

An anonymous “funding partner” foundation reached out to Grand Marais Mayor Jay Arrowsmith DeCoux, saying it wanted to help provide relief for small businesses in Cook County struggling with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The $80,000 fund is designed to be used for immediate needs. Mayor Arrowsmith DeCoux directed the foundation to the EDA as it seemed to be best equipped to facilitate this program. EDA Executive Director Mary Somnis happily took on that task.

Project Backstop was introduced at the April 15 EDA meeting, which was also the opening date for applications for the program. Grants are available up to $2,500 for existing small businesses with six full-time employees or less. The purpose of the fund is to prevent permanent closures of small businesses during or after the pandemic.

It is hoped that any businesses that are able to do so will repay the funds and this could be an ongoing effort to assist local businesses. However, the primary purpose is to immediately help local businesses.

There are three rounds of funding. Apply NOW for funds to be distributed April 20. The second round is April 17 for funds to be distributed April 24.
The date of a third round of funding will be announced, contingent on the availability of funds.

More information can be found on the Cook County EDA website, by calling EDA Director Mary Somnis at 218-387-3112 or emailing director@prosperitynorth.com. Pat Campanaro of the Small Business Development Center can also be of assistance at pcampanaro@gmail.com.

In other business, the EDA approved a grant of $5,000 to Betsy Bowen for repairs to the roof of the old church building that houses Betsy Bowen Studio, other artist studios, and a bakery. Bowen had requested a grant of $15,000, but the EDA felt it needed to preserve its business development funds as it is so unknown about what is ahead.

The EDA board also considered the budget for the EDA-owned Superior National at Lutsen golf course. The golf course, like so many other businesses is feeling the pinch of the COVID-19 pandemic “Stay Home MN” order.

WTIP’s Rhonda Silence talked about all of this with EDA President Howard Hedstrom. Click and listen to learn more the EDA’s work in Cook County.