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Posted on: December 13, 2022

Economic Development Partners Advocating for Startup Funds

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The Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce is committed to this cause and has partnered with organizations such as Kansas State University Innovation Partners, Spark MHK, the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Pottawatomie County Economic Development and the Black Entrepreneurs of the Flint Hills, among others, to work on creating a better ecosystem in the region for entrepreneurship.

The No. 1 challenge identified by those in the startup community is access to capital. Entrepreneurs across the board have identified the ability to get adequate financing as the biggest challenge they face in creating and growing their businesses. The Chamber has worked with our partners to develop a strategy to address these challenges and get greater returns on our investment in startups.

A proposal will be taken to the Manhattan City Commission on Dec. 20 to be part of creating a "startup investment continuum" that will address company formation at a variety of stages. Our goal as economic development organizations will be the creation of two separate funds.

One is an investment fund that is being considered by a number of different private concerns from around the region. We will continue to work on this program to develop "angel capital" to advance certain kinds of businesses.

The program we will address on Dec. 20 will be much broader and will center around a community fund that can provide loan and grant funds to particular startups. Our initial recommendation would be for these amounts to range from $3,000 to $25,000 and would allow an entrepreneur to get started and build credit to then work with financial institutions on more long-term funding.

We would like to see at a minimum, $1.5 million invested in this fund over a three year period. We have a commitment for a substantial amount from KSU-IP. These funds are contingent on securing a match of at least $500,000. We will be requesting $250,000 per year for three years from the city's economic development fund to serve as the match as well as getting us closer to our goal.

All of these funds would be used for direct financial assistance to companies with no money used for operations. Additionally, 20 percent would be set aside specifically for black and minority owned businesses as well as other designated underserved businesses. Once we receive feedback from the city we will develop the delivery model and secure the remaining funds.

Obviously, this is an aspirational plan that will require significant collaboration and planning. However, locally owned businesses are the backbone of all communities. We must do better in supporting our entrepreneurs.

We look forward to the dialog and the opportunity to present these ideas on a public stage next week.

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