Matching grants are available to greatly reduce costs
By Isaac Peterson
Last week we introduced MSR readers to environmental disparities affecting communities of color and how the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and the Minnesota Technical Assistance Program (or MnTAP, a program at the University of Minnesota) have teamed up to offer small businesses owned by people of color the means to become part of the solution rather than part of the problem. Because the cost of complying with new regulations to reduce volatile organic compounds (VOCs) could be prohibitive for many such businesses, a new grant program has been developed to assist them.
To help businesses meet those skyrocketing costs and keep the companies in compliance with the expected upcoming regulations, the MPCA is offering matching grant funds up to $100,000. Reducing your VOCs can help your business save money because it reduces the amount of hazardous waste you need to dispose of and be permitted for, helps you use less chemicals in your operations, and gives you the ability to promote your green business to the local community.
It also means less exposure and better health for workers and helps keep us within federal ozone standards. The MPCA/MnTAP partnership also offers free technical assistance to determine the most effective ways your individual facility or business can reduce VOC emissions.
The grants will help small businesses in Minnesota such as auto body shops, print shops and dry cleaners take steps to help reduce VOCs. “The challenges we face with air quality today are mainly from the smaller but numerous sources all around us,” said MPCA Commissioner John Linc Stine. “Voluntary actions are an important part of the solution. Most small-business owners know how to cut down on their harmful air emissions. We’re glad to be able to offer some support to help get things rolling.”
In addition to lowering your effect on the environment, reducing the VOCs you use can directly benefit your business by helping you:
• Save money — you’ll have less to buy and dispose of by implementing modern technologies and more efficient methods
• Provide a healthier work environment, which can increase worker retention and reduce absenteeism
• Improve worker health and productivity
• Use less personal protective equipment (PPE)
• Reduce regulatory obligations
• Reduce fire risk
How does the program work?
Grants can be up to $100,000. You are only required to match 10 percent of it, so a $10,000 upgrade might only cost you $1,000. And your match can be an in-kind donation, such as staff time.
The MPCA and MnTAP are available to help you figure out the best ways to reduce VOCs in your shop. MnTAP provides free industry-tailored technical assistance. Your jobbers and suppliers are great sources of ideas, too.
The grants can be used to pay for equipment and product changes, but those are just the tip of the iceberg. Because VOCs are present in so many products and processes throughout so many businesses, a wide variety of project costs will qualify for grants.
To get you started, here are some projects to think about undertaking to reduce VOC emissions:
• Switching to waterborne solvents and paint
• Switching to low-VOC reducers or thinners
• Installing solvent recovery stills
•Upgrading/replacing process equipment that uses less chemicals or perhaps does the job without VOC chemicals or purchasing energy-efficient equipment.
MnTAP can give you additional suggestions and assistance. If you have never applied for a grant or need help with the application process, staff at MnTAP can help you put together your application.
To discuss your ideas or work on your grant application, contact Karl DeWahl at MnTAP at 612-624-4645 or email@example.com.
Act soon — grant applications are due by August 13, 2014.
Next week: How some businesses have already taken advantage of MPCA/MnTAP grant opportunities.
Isaac Peterson welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.