Williamston small businesses apply for LEAP relief

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Small businesses in Williamston apply for emergency relief grants from the Lansing Economic Area Partnership. More than 500 businesses vie for financial support. Photo by: Ian Gilmour.

Several small businesses in Williamston applied for emergency financial relief from the Lansing Economic Area Partnership after the Michigan Economic Development Corporation awarded it $600,000 to grant to 60 small businesses in Clinton, Eaton and Ingham counties.

“I think the fact this money is available just for the tri-county area is super important,” said Williamston Mayor Tammy Gilroy. “I wish it was more money, but I understand why it can’t be.”

Application process 

Andrew Gauthier, the owner of Groovy Donuts in Williamston and East Lansing said the LEAP application was pretty straight forward.

“They are trying to figure out the financial impact that COVID-19 has had on the business,” said Gauthier. “They want to know how economically integral you are to the community, and how you interact with it.” 

Lisa Robitaille, who owns the Sun Theatre in Williamston with her husband Dave also said, “The process was fairly easy. It asked about your revenue in 2018 and 2019, and what makes your business more unique.”


COVID-19 hit many small businesses hard.

Groovy Donuts sent out a plea to the community for its support during the COVID-19 pandemic. Via @DavidHarns/Twitter

Gauthier said Groovy Donuts sales dipped as it relies on schools being open and people going to work.

“We lost about 40% of our sales right away and continued down to being a little bit over 50% of our business compared to normal,” said Gauthier. 

Loss of revenue impacts more people than just Gauthier.

“We’ve had to reduce the number of shifts and hours available for our staff,” said Gauthier. “We had to lay off one of our bakers. We’re kind of running on a skeleton crew.”

The Sun Theatre faces an issue that comes at an inopportune time. 

“We have to have our roof replaced,” said Robitaille. “We have kept putting it off because it’s almost a $50,000 replacement.”

Robitaille said they had planned on undertaking the project this year.

“We were hoping this spring to get that process started by applying for a loan,” said Robitaille. “But now that’s going to be a huge problem for us without incoming money.” 

Selection process

The deadline for submitting an application to LEAP for relief funds was Tuesday night.

Williamston City Manager Corey Schmidt said the next step is a two-stage review process.

Schmidt said the first stage consists of an eight-person scoring panel comprised of staff from LEAP, the Small Business Development Center and Capital Area Michigan Works. 

“They will score each business based on a scale that was outlined as part of the scoring criteria,” said Schmidt. 

Schmidt says getting to the second stage requires a recommendation from the first panel of scorers. The second stage consists of a five-person panel comprised of staff from the same entities as the first panel. 

“Then they will deliberate,” said Schmidt. “And essentially award the funds to the top 60.”

Schmidt said as of Friday, almost 500 applications had been submitted. He said he is still optimistic about the chances of Williamston businesses.

“I think we’ve got as good a chance as anybody,” said Schmidt. “It’s really going to come down to how well they make their case compared to the rest of the applications.” 

LEAP plans to have a quick turnaround in awarding grants. 

According to its website, LEAP plans on contacting awardees by April 6 and distributing grants by or around April 8.

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