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More help on the way

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Steve Strauss
Monday, July 13, 2009
Last week I reported that our own freshman senator Jeff Merkley was doing some good work in sponsoring a bill to help small business. Although there is a lot more Congress could do to help small business (we’ll tackle that one down the road) the good news is that another Oregon lawmaker is looking to pass legislation that will help small business.

Congressman David Wu is the co-sponsor of a bill sailing through Congress, the Enhancing Small Business Innovation and Research Act.

I am often asked if there really is “free money” available for small business startups. The short answer is, not surprisingly, no. But the longer answer is that there is some federal grant money available in very specific cases, due to this program, SBIR.

Specifically, if you have an idea for a product that could help some arm of government, that arm may just give you a leg up. Most often, the products entrepreneurs get funded for deal with defense issues, so it is no surprise that the Department of Defense is the largest giver of SBIR grants. But other agencies get in on the game, too.

Among other things, the new legislation would:
• Increase Phase 1 grants from $100,000 to up to $250,000
• Allow companies that get VC funding to also be eligible for SBIR grants

This is not an insignificant program. SBIR grants to the tune of $2 billion a year for small business. So bravo to the Oregon delegation for helping where it can really make a difference.

To learn more about SBIR grants, go here.

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