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Gannon unveils grant program for entrepreneurs

Gannon unveils grant program for entrepreneurs

ERIE, Pa. -- A grant of $3,000 or even $9,000 won't build what could be Erie's next big homegrown employer.

But for a fledgling company at the starting gate, that sum could be the difference between success and failure, said W.L. Scheller II, dean of the college of Engineering & Business at Gannon University.

That was the inspiration behind an announcement made Wednesday, at the Erie Technology Incubator at Gannon, to offer grants of between $3,000 and $9,000 through a new program called Gannon Entrepreneuriship Microgrants for Startups, or G.E.M.S.

Money for the grants, which will be awarded between January and May 31, will come from $155,000 that was left from a $528,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.

"There's no new money, but we have restructured our existing grant," said Jeff Parnell, executive director of the incubator.

As a result, he said, there's money available for an upstart company that needs to buy a key piece of software, develop a new website or even hire a temporary employee.

There are some requirements to win a grant. Parnell said the money will be directed toward entrepreneurs with a technology-enabled business who have formed either a corporation, partnership or LLC.

Parnell said the selection committee will also be looking for applicants who demonstrate character, commitment and coachability or the ability to take guidance.

While the money will be distributed in grants -- not loans -- Parnell said the proposals submitted by applicants will be carefully vetted.

"There is going to be accountability," he said.

Grant applications are available online by clicking on the microgrants tab at Erietech.org/gems. The program is open to business owners in 14 counties of northwestern Pennsylvania served by Gannon's Small Business Development Center.

Also Wednesday, Gannon announced the continuation of its Technology Business Accelerator, which has trained representatives of 48 businesses since it started in September 2014.

The next accelerator class begins in February. Participants will compete for a $10,000 startup grant.