The city of Kenai has rolled out another way to boost businesses through the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s now taking applications for grants to help with online marketing and e-commerce.
“As they look to recover, marketing is going to be a key element to bringing folks into the door or growing their business, so we felt that this was something that folks probably were going to need and this was, we felt, an innovative way to get money out into the community for that specific purpose, said City Manager Paul Ostrander.
The marketing grants are $1,000 for businesses located in the city that have experienced a loss of sales or changes in their operations due to the pandemic.
The money can be spent to build or redesign websites, develop systems for online sales, expand social media marketing, improve search engine optimization or anything along those lines.
The money can’t be spent just anywhere, though. Businesses must work with Divining Point, LLC, which provides website and online marketing services in Alaska and Texas. Divining Point had a contract to update the city’s logo and marketing. Ostrander said the city issued a request for proposals for a company to do the marketing work for the grant program and Divining Point was the only proposal received.
Businesses can develop their own scope of work with Divining Point. Once the $1,000 grant is spent, they can choose to pay for additional work, or not. Applications are due Nov. 6 and the money must be spent by the end of the year.
The city is also offering CARES Act grants to smaller businesses. Its first round of direct assistance grants was for businesses and nonprofits in Kenai with gross revenues above $50,000. Through Aug. 31, the city is accepting applications for businesses and nonprofits with less annual revenue.
“After we went through that first grant program it became evident that there was a segment of the business sector out there that had gross revenues between $25,000 and $50,000m” Ostrander said. “We felt it was appropriate to extend a smaller grant program to those smaller businesses, as well.”
Kenai commercial fishermen are also eligible for assistance from the city. Commercial fishermen with at least $10,000 in landings in 2019 are eligible for $1,000 grants. It doesn’t matter where they fish but Kenai has to be home.
“We based all of our grants on where the business is located,” Ostrander said. “And in the case of a commercial fisherman, we consider where their residence is the location of their business. Typically, commercial fishermen don’t have a storefront. All of their business mail and anything related to their commercial fishing business is conducted out of their residence. So we took that as the location of the business, in this case, regardless of where that fishing activity occurred.”
Those applications are due Aug. 31, as well.
Ostrander said Kenai has a couple more ideas to get CARES assistance out to the community. The city got $7.7 million from the original CARES Act disbursement through the state and another $2.67 million through the borough. He said there’s about $4.2 million left to spend by the end of the year and the city administration will present its plan to the city council on Sept. 2.
“Which will essentially create different buckets of money and generate a plan going forward to spend that money for the remainder of the year. A large portion of that, I believe, will likely go toward more business grants. That’s going to be a large element of it. There’s a bunch of other things that we’re working on internally here, different programs that we think would be helpful. Individual assistance is one of them,” Ostrander said.
For more information and to apply for Kenai CARES grants, visit Kenai.city and click the link to Relief and Recover grants.