Grant programs touted at port meeting

By: JEAN L. KAESS

MORGAN CITY — Port officials here learned Monday of two associated grant programs designed to aid businesses harmed by either the Gulf of Mexico oil spill or foreign imports.

Both are sponsored by the Institute for Economic Development at the University of Texas at San Antonio. The first, Gulf Oil Spill Disaster Adjustment Assistance Center, or GOSDAA for short, is a matching consultant grant for small businesses affected directly or indirectly by the BP oil spill.

Retailers, distributors, wholesalers, manufacturers and service companies must have lost at least 5 percent of sales or employment from either the spill, moratorium or economic conditions in general. The company, however, must have been in business since January 2008.

The program uses six months of company records to qualify. Any company that has previously qualified for benefits through BP funds already has all necessary paperwork and still may qualify. However, fishermen, who program administrator Ruperto Chavarri admits suffered the most in the spill, can’t qualify for this grant because it does not pay for wages, hardware, equipment, raw materials, fixed assets, trade shows, prototypes or patent searches.

It will pay for consultants, who must come from within a specified geographic area in order to keep the money in the community, to aid with marketing, quality systems, software customizations, supply chain solutions, engineering of products, training and similar efforts.

The maximum that can be applied for is $60,000 with a 50-percent cost share; the minimum is $20,000. GOSDAA may suggest consultants or the company may apply to have its own approved for the grant. Projects may require multiple consultants. The company itself receives no funds through the program. All money is paid to consultants who render services to the company.

The entire application process takes three to four weeks.

GOSDAA is paid for through a three-year, $1.5 million federal grant from the Economic Development Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce. It is housed at the South Central Planning and Development Commission in Houma. The center has offered similar support to American companies hurt by foreign competition since 1988.

“We deal with bleeding companies. We don’t bleed with dead on arrivals,” Ernesto Villalobos, who administrates the Southwest Trade Adjustment Assistance Center, said of both programs.

SWTAAC assists U.S. manufacturing firms that are hurt by foreign competition to regain profitable growth. By providing management consulting and strategic business planning services to manufacturers, SWTAAC helps businesses compete in a global marketplace. It identifies a firm’s needs and assists in securing consulting services.

SWTAAC serves companies in Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma where imports of directly competitive products have contributed significantly to a decline in sales or production and a decline or impending decline in employment levels.

The program provides between $30,000 and $150,0000 in matching grants to assist in areas including product engineering, manufacturing process, sales and marketing, finance, administration and management structure. In doing so, the program seeks to aid by meeting competitors’ prices, reducing direct product costs, reducing overhead costs, improving product quality and improving after-sales service.

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For more information on these programs, visit www.gosdaa.org or www.swtaac.org. Contact Chavarri regarding GOSDAA at 985-851-2900, ext. 4010 or Villalobos regarding SWTAAC at 210-458-2490.

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