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Top Small Business Grants in NC

Small Business Grants in NC
Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman
Sulaiman Abdur-RahmanUpdated November 1, 2023
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Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
North Carolina has about 990,000 small business owners who can apply for small business grants. Submitting an application and competing for N.C. small business grants can help you grow your small or medium-sized enterprise in the Tar Heel State.North Carolina’s economy has a gross domestic product of $730.1 billion as of 2022. That’s the 10th largest GDP in the United States out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Small businesses contribute to the nation’s economy.Small and medium-sized firms exported about $7.1 billion worth of goods from North Carolina in 2021, which ranks 15th in the nation out of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau export data.Below we highlight some of the top small business grants in N.C. that you can explore.

Grants for Small Businesses in NC

If you’re looking for small business grants in North Carolina, here are some potential options to consider:

Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG)

  • Program description: The JDIG program provides cash grants to companies that create new jobs filled by full-time employees who work on a project in North Carolina.
  • Incentive: Receive annual grant payments for up to 12 years based on performance factors. Grant awards will generally represent a fixed percentage of withholdings from the wages of employees in eligible positions.
  • General requirements: Here are some of the general requirements for this grant:
    • Be a business that creates a minimum number of eligible positions in North Carolina ranging from 10 to 50 new employees depending on your development tier area
    • Develop an eligible project (projects that consist solely of retail facilities are not eligible)
    • Provide health insurance for all of the applicable full-time employees of the project
    • Have no citations under the Occupational Safety and Health Act that have become a final order within the past three years for willful serious violations or failing to abate serious violations
  • How to apply: Contact the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina Inc. if you are interested in applying for the Job Development Investment Grant.

One North Carolina Small Business Program Fund

  • Program description: This One North Carolina Fund provides grant funding to businesses that stimulate economic activity in the Tar Heel State, including small business owners who develop and commercialize new technologies.
  • Incentive: Receive up to $200K in state matching funds for receiving a federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) or Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) award. Small businesses can also receive up to $12K in reimbursement for costs incurred in preparing a federal SBIR/STTR proposal.
  • General requirements: Here are some of the requirements if you’re seeking state funds toward a federal SBIR/STTR project:
    • Be an N.C.-based small business
    • Submit a qualified SBIR or STTR Phase I proposal to a participating federal agency
    • Meet all federal SBIR/STTR program eligibility requirements
    • At least 51% of the SBIR/STTR proposal development and operations must take place in North Carolina
  • How to apply: You can apply for One North Carolina Small Business Program funds online when the application opens.

On-The-Job Training (OJT) Program

  • Program description: The OJT program can provide partial reimbursement to employers who hire and train new employees who work in skilled positions.
  • Incentive: Participating employers can receive reimbursements ranging from 50% to 75% of a trainee’s wages.
  • General requirements: Here are some of the general requirements for this grant:
    • Be registered or licensed to do business in North Carolina
    • Have a bona fide job vacancy or workforce expansion plan
    • Be in compliance with all applicable licensing, taxation, and insurance requirements and not in violation of any local, state, or federal labor laws
    • Have no history of frequent layoffs and no current labor disputes
    • Agree to retain your OJT trainees who complete individualized training plans
  • How to apply: Anyone interested in the OJT program can contact the NCWorks Career Center, state Division of Workforce Solutions (DWS), or a local N.C. Workforce Development Board (WDB).

Incumbent Worker Training (IWT) Grant Program

  • Program description: IWT is a competitive training grant program that provides eligible employers with monetary awards for upgrading the skills and knowledge of their existing workers.
  • Incentive: Businesses can receive up to $25K per program year ($100K lifetime maximum) for training existing staff to learn new skills.
  • General requirements: Here are some of the general requirements for this grant:
    • Be an N.C. business in operation for at least one year
    • Have an employer-employee relationship with your trainees
    • Have at least five employees
    • Provide training to eligible incumbent workers with at least six months of employment history at your company
    • Be current on all federal and state obligations
    • Be financially viable
    • Employers in the health care, information technology, construction, and advanced manufacturing industries can receive special consideration for a grant award
  • How to apply: Contact your local WDB to apply for the IWT grant.

North Carolina Passport to Export Grant Program

  • Program description: N.C. Passport to Export is North Carolina’s State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) that can help you export your goods and services from the Tar Heel State to foreign markets.
  • Incentive: Receive up to $16K in reimbursements for eligible business expenses, including international marketing and booth costs of exhibiting at a qualifying trade show.
  • General requirements: Here are some of the general requirements for this grant:
    • Be registered to do business in North Carolina
    • Have 500 or fewer employees
    • Have at least one year of business experience
    • Be an export-ready U.S. company 
    • Have a product or service consisting of at least 51% U.S. content
    • Be in good standing with the federal government (have not been debarred)
    • Ability to bear the costs associated with trade
    • Operating profitably as a U.S. business
  • How to apply: Contact the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina Inc. if you wish to apply for N.C. Passport to Export STEP grant funding.

Who Provides Small Business Grants in North Carolina?

The N.C. Department of Commerce and Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina offer a variety of small business grants in North Carolina.You can compare small business grants in North Carolina with similar programs in other states, such as:

Do You Have to Pay Back a Small Business Grant?

A small business grant typically comes with terms and conditions, and you may be responsible for paying back the grant if you violate those terms. In general, small and midsized business owners are not required to pay back an SMB grant absent any violations.You typically have to sign a funding agreement to accept a small business grant. As mentioned above, the grant may come with certain conditions. Using the grant for an illegitimate purpose may violate the agreement and require business owners to pay back the grant.Small business grants may require you to spend the money by a certain date. You may also have to provide proof of payment and a written statement detailing how you’ve spent the grant.Recommended: How To Get a Small Business Grant

Who Is Eligible for Small Business Grants in North Carolina?

Local business owners or operators of an enterprise with fewer than 500 employees may be eligible for small business grants in North Carolina.The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy generally defines a small business as an independent business having fewer than 500 employees. A small business, including individuals with freelancing business ideas, may be eligible for small business grants.

What Industries Does NC Support With Grants?

North Carolina offers a variety of grants supporting the following industries:
  • Advanced manufacturing
  • Aerospace
  • Biotechnology
  • Construction
  • Health care
  • Hospitality
  • Information technology

NC Resources for SMB Owners Looking for Funding

Here are some resources for small and medium-sized businesses looking for funding in the Tar Heel State:

NC Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC)

The North Carolina SBTDC is a statewide program affiliated with the University of North Carolina System that provides N.C. small business owners with the following services:
  • Educational events
  • Export-related guidance
  • General business counseling
  • Market research
  • Online training
  • Technology development and commercialization assistance

SBA District Office in North Carolina

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is a federal agency that provides resources and support to small business owners. The SBA North Carolina District Office serves the entire Tar Heel State with a main office in Charlotte, satellite office in Raleigh, plus virtual offices in Asheville and Wilmington.

Alternative Funding Sources for Small Businesses in NC

Here are some alternative funding sources for small businesses in North Carolina:

North Carolina State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI)

North Carolina’s SSBCI is a federally funded program for small business owners in the Tar Heel State. Federal law — the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 — allocates about $201.9 million to North Carolina’s State Small Business Credit Initiative program.Here’s how North Carolina plans to use the SSBCI funding:
  • NC Loan Participation Program — $160 million. This program uses SSBCI funds alongside private funds to support loans to eligible borrowers, including socially or economically disadvantaged individuals who own small businesses in North Carolina.
  • NC Venture Capital Program — $31.9 million. This program can help eligible startups access venture capital.
  • NC Capital Access Program — $10 million. This program uses SSBCI matching funds to support portfolio insurance on small business loans.

NC Microloan Lenders

Community-based nonprofits may offer microloans of up to $50,000 to small business owners in North Carolina, including microloans for women-owned small businesses. In general, microloans can range from $500 to $50K and may be available to startups.

North Carolina SMB Loans from Private Lenders

Banks, credit unions, and private lenders may offer different types of small business loans to N.C. business owners.Here are some of the funding products you may consider depending on your needs:

Find Small Business Financing With Lantern

If you need funding to grow your business, Lantern by SoFi can help. Just fill out a simple form and find the right financing for your business.Lantern can help you find fast funding for your small or medium-sized enterprise.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you get a small business grant in North Carolina?
How hard is it to get a business loan in North Carolina?
What is the easiest SBA loan to get approved for?
Photo credit: iStock/JLco - Julia Amaral
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About the Author

Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman

Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman

Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman writes about personal loans, auto loans, student loans, and other personal finance topics for Lantern. He’s the recipient of more than 10 journalism awards and served as a New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists board member. An alumnus of the Philadelphia-based Temple University, Abdur-Rahman is a strong advocate of the First Amendment and freedom of speech.
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