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Alpena-area businesses got $2M in state virus aid

ALPENA — More than 200 businesses in Northeast Michigan received a combined nearly $2 million to help them weather the financial storm caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Thursday, the state released the names of businesses that received grants from the Michigan Small Business Restart Program administered by the Michigan Economic Development Corp..

The data shows a combined roughly $2 million was given to 236 businesses in Alpena, Presque Isle, Montmorency, and Alcona counties, part of $69 million distributed around Michigan.

The money helped save 1,784 jobs in Northeast Michigan, according to the state data.

In Northeast Michigan, Target Alpena and the Otsego County Economic Alliance oversaw the disbursement of funds, with committees made up of representatives of each county deciding the grant winners.

Nearly $5 million was requested by businesses in Alpena, Presque Isle, and Alcona counties, Target Alpena Economic Development Director Mike Mahler said.

Many businesses were forced to close this spring during a government-ordered lockdown meant to slow the spread of COVID-19. Mahler said that, although many businesses are now open, many are still struggling to pay bills. He said grants as small as $2,500 and large as $20,000 were disbursed.

“Many of these business owners have taxes due and weren’t sure how they were going to pay them,” Mahler said. “I’m sure this will allow them to take a sigh of relief, because it is very meaningful money for them.”

Many Alpena County businesses received grants in the $5,000 to $10,000 range, although some received more, such as Thunder Bay Sports Medicine, which received $15,000 and the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce, which received $14,321. AZ Builder and Acres Inc. each received $12,000.

The Alcona Humane Society received $19,000, as did Allband Communications, Turek Enterprises, Alcona Canoe Rental, and Rox’s Family Diner.

GIDE Inc. and Up North 23 in Presque Isle County each received $15,000.

In total, 10 businesses received $20,000, all in Montmorency County, including Appraisal Link2, That Awesome Hair Place, dentist John Marconnit, Michigan Timber Sawmill, Next Phase Enterprises, Olree Chiropractic, Roy and Sons, the Thunder Bay Golf Course, Traub Trucking, and Village Loft Inc.

Seventy-eight businesses received between $10,000 and $19,999.

Mahler said several business owners told him they didn’t intend to apply for funding because they were holding their own.

“Some would say they were down by as much as 10%, but still had the ability to pay their bills and employees,” Mahler said. “They said they wanted to see the money go to businesses that needed it more than they did. Lots of businesses asked for a lot less than the max amount, and you could just see everyone was looking out for their neighbor.”

In a press release, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said businesses have been asked to sacrifice a lot during the lockdown, and being able to help them is only right.

“Over the past six months, small business owners who have spent their entire lives building their businesses have made incredible sacrifices to protect their communities and our brave frontline workers from COVID-19,” she said “I know it hasn’t been easy, which is why we’re working around the clock to provide support for our small business owners.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpenanews.com.

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