The Odessa Development Corporation discussed changes to their grant applications and the process in which businesses receive assistance from ODC during Thursday’s meeting.
ODC Board member Chris Cole said during the meeting that the change to the process will help applicants who may have good business plans but lack the financial knowledge to fill out every aspect of their financial plans in the application, which may in the past have prevented people from getting ODC assistance.
He said that it would benefit small business owners if they could also get some education throughout the application process and also asked the compliance committee to develop an application process that would be more favorable for those individuals.
ODC board member Gene Collins said that, “what happens when you deny, especially in the African American community, a group based on an application, word gets back and it discourages other people in that community,” he said.
“We’re constantly trying to tell people to come up and apply for some of the benefits, but when those who have been there talk with them, they feel it’s not going to do any good,” he said adding that a lot of people applying for ODC assistance are hardworking people who are good at what they do, but don’t have a master’s in accounting or business.
Collins said that organizations like the Black Chamber of Commerce, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Odessa Chamber of Commerce could help bridge trust issues and gaps to help Odessa businesses and help address concerns of people who may not be confident in business finance and planning.
Wesley Burnett, the Economic Development Director for the Odessa Chamber of Commerce said that the OCC could definitely work with other chambers in Odessa to bridge those gaps.
ODC board member David Boutin asked if the University of Texas Permian Basin Small Business Development Center could assist in proving up business assistance applications and, also “begin working with that business owner to become more financially sophisticated from a reporting perspective,” he said.
He said that what ODC is looking at would be a pilot program to help small business owners in Odessa to be eligible for grant funds in order to create jobs and capital investment.
UTPB SBDC Business Consultant Tyler Patton said that if somebody applies for a grant and isn’t quite ready, then they could be referred to the SBDC.
“We would work with them to be able to put together those financial documents and that’s what we do every day,” he said adding that he was confident that they could sit down with most clients within a couple hours to get the pertinent information for ODC to make a decision.
Cole said that the process will have multiple facets.
“We have a lot of room where we need to make up. It won’t just be putting a billboard up…it will be some effort that I would like to see us put forth,” he said adding that they should strategically be inclusive to minority and underserved communities in Odessa.
ODC board member Melanie Hollmann said that an education process would help strengthen existing businesses.
“I believe we need to touch those businesses,” she said.
ODC members voted unanimously to ask the compliance committee to look into the application process changes, which will then be brought back so ODC can vote on it.”
Burnett also told ODC members that he, City Manager Michael Marrero and city council members would be having a meeting regarding using CARES Act funds to create an emergency pool of funds for small business assistance.
Reach Michael Merlo at 432-333-7769 or by email at email@example.com.