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Wyoming initiative helps small businesses get federal grants

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Last year, 13 companies received grants from a Wyoming initiative which they then used to apply for larger, federal grants. The Wyoming Small Business Innovation Research and Technology Transfer Program was established to help small businesses in the state get more federal grants that could be beneficial to their businesses. Each award is for up to $5,000 and can be used for any purpose that would improve a federal grant proposal.

Gene Watson is the director of the program. He says the federal grants receive applications from all over the nation and Wyoming’s applicants often need some help.   

“The states that primarily are successful in this endeavor are like California, Massachusetts, states that have very sophisticated research organizations,” Watson says. “It’s very difficult to compete against from a rural state like Wyoming with 500,000 or so population and only one center of research activity in the state, which is University of Wyoming.”

Diane Wolverton, who started a company called The Local Crowd, was one of the people who received a $5,000 award in 2013. She says it helped her.

“These federal grants are very competitive and they’re difficult to write,” says Wolverton. “I’ve been a grant writer in the public sector for 20 years, and I’ll tell you, this was the most difficult grant I’ve ever written. And without the support of this program I’m sure it wouldn’t be successful.”   

Watson says the program gives out 10 to 15 awards each year. The funding comes from the Wyoming Business Council. Watson says many companies his program supports have ended up with federal grants and successful businesses.

Irina Zhorov is a reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. She earned her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and an MFA from the University of Wyoming. In between, she worked as a photographer and writer for Philadelphia-area and national publications. Her professional interests revolve around environmental and energy reporting and she's reported on mining issues from Wyoming, Mexico, and Bolivia. She's been supported by the Dick and Lynn Cheney Grant for International Study, the Eleanor K. Kambouris Grant, and the Social Justice Research Center Research Grant for her work on Bolivian mining and Uzbek alpinism. Her work has appeared on Voice of America, National Native News, and in Indian Country Today, among other publications.
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