The Encouraging Development, Growth & Expansion (EDGE) grants will match investments by qualified small businesses with three state dollars to every one spent by the business.
The new program through the Division of Small Business is open to businesses less than five years old, with fewer than 10 employees and under $500,000 in net assets. The grants can be spent on real estate, essential equipment, website design and marketing, or prototyping a new product.
Paul O’Connor owns a custom fabrication company in Newark that employs 23 people and no longer qualifies for the grant program.
“You know, if you’re a company starting up and you need to buy new equipment or new inventory or increase your inventory because you want to grow, it’s difficult to do unless you have a lot of operating capital behind you,” he said. “This program would have been a godsend for us.”
According to officials, over half of Delaware’s workforce is at businesses with 100 or fewer employees.
“The vast majority of job development in the economy of our country and certainly in the state of Delaware is going to come from small business formation and development— and not necessarily from the larger corporations that are so important and a cornerstone of the economy in our state,” said Gov. John Carney.
Director of the Delaware Division of Small Business Damian DeStefano says the EDGE program is unique among the state’s existing grants for small businesses.
“There’s some specific targeted grant programs,” he said. "We have a great Downtown Development District grant program that’s geographically focused, we have some programs to help people enhance their energy efficiency capabilities, but there’s not really been a broad grant program just to help with business operations.”
DeStefano says the EDGE program is designed to be flexible and allow applicants to determine what helps their business most.
The program is accepting its first round of applications until June 14 and expects to award a second round of grants later this year. The program will award up to 10 grants per round. Awards are capped at $100,000 for STEM businesses and $50,000 for all others.