Where to Find Small Business Grants and Loans

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Small-business owners often view angel investors, banks and venture capitalists as their only funding sources. But other options exist, even in a weak economy.

Government agencies provide money for companies to upgrade equipment, buy land and develop new products. While there are few programs for consultants, merchants or restaurateurs, there are many that can help manufacturing and technology companies survive the recession. Here's a list of funding sources:

Small Business Innovation Research:

These grants are available through 10 government agencies. Funding comes in three phases: $500,000, $750,000 and $1 million.

The program, which is up for renewal on March 20, is at the center of a debate between the House of Representatives and the Senate over the eligibility of venture-backed companies. Congressional sources assured me that this valuable source of funding will be extended.

Ben Franklin Technology Partners:

Pennsylvania is home to one of the top funding sources for technology companies in the U.S., providing $50,000 to $500,000 to companies along with expert advice. This program has been around since the early 1980s and has helped biotechnology companies Cephalon ( CEPH) and Centocor, a unit of Johnson & Johnson ( JNJ).

Opportunity zones:

The federal government works with states to provide funding to areas that have been hit hard by the recession and the decline of manufacturing. These zones, located across the U.S., provide money to hire employees, and buy equipment and land. Check with your state's economic development office to find out more.

The Small Business Administration:

This government agency offers loans to help companies buy, build and upgrade equipment and facilities. They cover the costs to hire any architects, lawyers and engineers needed for the project. They can also be used to acquire land and cover the interest of interim financing.

Funding is also available through the agency's Small Business Investment Companies Program, which provides venture capital to small funds looking to invest in new businesses. So-called SBICs are privately owned and manage investment funds that are regulated by the Small Business Administration.

Rural business loans:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers loans through its Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program. Similar to the Small Business Administration, the USDA guarantees up to 80% of loans made by commercial lenders. The proceeds can be put toward operating expenses, machinery, property costs and certain types of debt refinancing.

Business.gov offers more information about these programs. I expect these opportunities to grow as the economy flounders.
Marc Kramer, a serial entrepreneur, is the author of five books and is an instructor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton's Global Consulting Practicum, where he serves as Country Manager for Chile.

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