An onlooker may prematurely conclude that the heart of Alberta’s economy revolves around Edmonton and Calgary and beats to the drum of oil and gas but many Albertan entrepreneurs are forging new paths with their startups. The backbone of the Prairie economy is small business, built by risk-taking entrepreneurs.
Alberta’s small business owners looking to land their first (or second, or even tenth) grant, look no further. Whether you’re familiar or not with grants, ReInvestWealth will give you some more insights on how to apply and qualify for a bunch of small business grants across Alberta.
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What Are Grants?
Grants are financial awards given by governments, companies, and foundations to individuals or small businesses in order to help them succeed. In most situations, grant money does not have to be returned. Depending on the type of grant, there are waiting periods or criteria that must be met prior to the funding being sent. The most common grants that can be found are government grants, but there are also many third-party grants available to Albertans today, too. Grants can be distributed at the municipal, provincial, or federal level. Let’s take a look at some grants for Albertans in all three levels of government.
Alberta Provincial Grants
The Self-employment Program offers eligible Albertans who are looking to develop and start a new business with formal training, business plan development, one-to-one business counselling, coaching and guidance.
The Government of Alberta is working in partnership with the Government of Canada to provide employment support programs and services.
It’s actually free services to help someone self-employed create their own business
The Alberta Jobs Now program provides private and non-profit businesses with job supports to get thousands of Albertans back to work. Employers can apply for Jobs Now funding to offset the cost of hiring and training Albertans in new or vacant positions.
Alberta Jobs Now supports our province’s recovery, helping businesses re-open or grow their workforce and giving Albertans an opportunity to gain the skills they need in today’s job market.
Workforce Partnership grants vary in the amount of aid offered, and provide funding to organizations to support the labour market adjustment strategies and workforce development.
Support is open to researchers, innovators, small and medium-sized enterprises, large companies and others who are seeking funding, expertise and/or sector leadership to advance technology development.
The Clean Resources Continuous Intake Process is used to assess projects for funding eligibility. Details of eligibility criteria and application processes are available on the Clean Resources Continuous Intake Process webpage. If the project aligns with the eligibility criteria, please contact the Project Advisor before submitting an Expression of Interest (EOI).
Vouchers help Alberta’s high potential, high growth, technology and knowledge-based small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with technologies in the mid-to-late developmental stages but may include some early developmental stages. (See Technology Readiness Levels).
Eligible applicants can apply for funding up to $100,000 to help cover the costs of up to three service providers for the purpose of business and technology development related to the following activities:
New product research and development;
Leading-edge design, engineering and prototype development;
Advanced product testing and refinement;
Advanced market assessments; and/or
Other technology development activities may be considered on a case by case basis.
The Micro Voucher Program is designed to decrease the risk of adopting novel technological solutions. It provides qualified high-potential, high-growth technology or knowledge-based Alberta small and medium enterprises (SMEs) up to $10,000 in funding, combined with coaching, to accelerate the pathway to commercialization and scaling up.
The Alberta Export Expansion Program provides funding support to Alberta small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), municipalities, industry associations, Indigenous communities and economic development organizations promoting Alberta exports through:
outbound international business travel
bringing international buyers to Alberta
For-profit or municipal applicants may be reimbursed up to 50%, and non-profit applicants up to 75%, on eligible costs such as:
inter-city ground travel
registration for tradeshows or events
translation or interpretive services for marketing materials
conference room space
Eligible employers are required to contribute a minimum of one-third of the total training costs for existing employees. Government contributes two-thirds of the cost to a maximum of $10,000 per trainee per fiscal year. If hiring and training an unemployed Albertan, up to 100% of training costs could be covered, up to $15,000 per trainee.
Individual employers will have a cap of $300,000 for the amount of grant funding they can receive per fiscal year. This ensures that funding is available for as many Alberta employers as possible.
The grant assists Alberta producers to develop Alberta content. It also helps them attract and maintain skilled labour by providing employment opportunities for emerging talent and established industry professionals.
Recognizing that small-budget productions have different funding needs than large-budget productions, the grant provides funding to help productions manage their immediate cash flow needs via interim payments.
The grant supports smaller productions as an integral piece of the overall industry ecosystem in Alberta by:
promoting investment in the creation of smaller-budget productions by Alberta producers
supporting Alberta creatives by providing specialized support for emerging and established producers working on smaller-budget productions
providing cultural benefits to the province by supporting the creation of Alberta content and stories by Alberta companies
The Product Demonstration Program is designed to de-risk the commercialization process by providing funds and coaching to high potential, high growth technology Alberta small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to commercialize their products and achieve an optimal market position to increase revenue and potentially expand into global markets.
Piloting or demonstrating new products with a “strategic partner” who could be the first buyer or influential client(s) is critical in the commercialization and scale-up pathway.
Qualified SMEs may be eligible for up to $150,000 in funding over a maximum one-year term.
The Innovation Employment Grant encourages economic growth by supporting small and medium-sized businesses that invest in research and development (R&D) with a grant worth up to 20% of qualifying expenditures.
The program promotes investment and diversification by rewarding all R&D spending in Alberta, regardless of the industry, and complementing the Job Creation Tax Cut by focusing on small and medium-sized firms in the earlier stages of operation, when they might not yet be profitable.
MEAP & SEAP are non-repayable grants that are available to help mitigate borrowing from a financial institution. It can provide up to 30% of your project total to a maximum of $99,999. To apply for the grant you must meet all eligibility requirements.
Alberta Municipal Grants
Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund (Calgary, AB)
OCIF was created by the City of Calgary in 2018 as a catalyst to attract investment, drive innovation, and spur transformative economic development in the city.
The Fund is a powerful financial tool to position Calgary as a location of choice for business investment, develop our tech-skilled workforce, and accelerate the implementation of the community-built economic strategy Calgary in the New Economy.
Projects that receive OCIF backing are driving innovation and growing the ecosystems in key sectors that position Calgary to lead digital transformation in Canada’s industrial sectors.
Economic Action Plan Grant (Edmonton, AB)
This program provides matching reimbursement grants of up to $25,000 for projects that support the outcomes of the Edmonton Economic Action Plan. Projects funded by this program should target longer-term diversification, investment attraction, and job creation outcomes.
Business Area Improvement Grants (Edmonton, AB)
A matching reimbursement grant for large, impactful exterior renovations, up to 50% of project costs. Mid-block buildings may be eligible for up to $25,000. Corner buildings may be eligible for up to $50,000. Projects which have begun construction prior to being approved and entering into a Reimbursement Agreement are not eligible for grant funding.
Corner Store Grants (Edmonton, AB)
Eligible businesses located within a participating property may be eligible for a reimbursement grant of up to 50% of eligible costs for initiatives that will improve the capacity, efficiency, productivity and/or competitiveness of the business, to a maximum amount of $1,000 per business.
Streetscape Beautification Grant (Edson, AB)
The Streetscape Beautification Grant has been instituted by Edson Town Council as an incentive to work together with property owners, encouraging a positive, memorable image to attract visitors, business and residents alike. In an effort to reinforce this image, Town Council has set aside funds to assist property owners along 2nd and 4th Avenues, along Main (50th) Street between 1st and 7th Avenues and along 3rd Avenue between 48th Street and 52nd Street to beautify their property by providing 50% of the cost of their beautification project to a maximum grant amount of $5,000.00 to successful applicants.
Fort Saskatchewan Business Development Initiatives (Fort Saskatchewan, AB)
MarketingThe City of Fort Saskatchewan Business Development Program offers six unique incentives that were developed, in partnership with local business, to help accelerate the growth and development of small businesses and assist commercial property owners improve their property.
Heart of our City Activity Grant (Lethbridge, AB)
The Heart of Our City Activity Grant was created to provide City of Lethbridge funds, up to $10,000 annually, to assist Lethbridge organizations host events that attract audiences and bring excitement and vibrancy to the Downtown and Civic Common.
Façade Grant (Lethbridge, AB)
Property and/or business owners are eligible to receive an up to $15,000 matching grant for an approved restoration/rehabilitation project. This is based on a 25 ft. frontage. It is up to the discretion of the Urban Revitalization Manager to provide additional funding for larger projects.
In order to find more municipal grants in Alberta, be sure to check out the webpage of your local township or the town(s) in which your small business operate(s).
Federal Grants for Albertans
The Career Launcher Internship Programs includes a grant funded by the Government of Canada as part of their Youth Employment and Skills Strategy helping young Canadians develop the skills and gain the experience they need to successfully transition into the labour market that grants up to $32,000 to hire and train an intern. Eligible applicants include those in the Clean Tech, Digital Tech, Natural Resources, and impact industries.
CREATE is a federal government program that supports the training and mentoring of highly qualified and postdoctoral fellows. This program is eligible at NSERC-eligible Canadian universities, and the applicant must hold an eligible position at the university. This grant offers $150,000 in the first year and double that for the next 5 years, for a maximum of $1.65 over 6 years.
The National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association (NACCA) manages the program and distributes the funding through a network of 59 Aboriginal Financial Institutions (AFIs) across Canada. The AFIs can offer capital and other business support services to Indigenous businesses.
The amount of funding available for a business proposal depends on its scope and its estimated budget. Individual Indigenous entrepreneurs may receive up to $99,999 in funding assistance.
Since 2018, the Climate Action Fund has awarded up to $3 million per year to support innovative ideas. The objective of projects funded under the program is to raise awareness of climate change and to build capacity in order to increase climate actions that contribute to Canada’s clean growth and climate change plan (the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change).
The Tourism Relief Fund, administered by Canada’s regional development agencies and Innovation Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), helps tourism businesses and organizations adapt their operations to meet public health requirements while investing in products and services to facilitate their future growth. With a budget of $500 million over 2 years (ending March 31, 2023), including $50 million specifically dedicated to Indigenous tourism initiatives and $15 million for national initiatives, this fund will position Canada to be a destination of choice when domestic and international travel is once again safe.
Grow Your Business Online is a grant that will help up to 90,000 small businesses take advantage of e-commerce opportunities. Eligible businesses will receive a micro-grant of up to $2,400 to help with the costs related to adopting digital technologies. Grants will be available through local and regional service providers across Canada. The service providers will also support a network of e-commerce advisors who will advise and help small businesses adopt e-commerce.
Boost Your Business Technology is a grant offers support to Canadian-owned small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) who want to adopt new digital technologies. Eligible businesses will have access to a marketplace of digital adoption experts to help them develop a digital adoption plan tailored to their needs. The grant covers up to 90% of the eligible cost of retaining the services of a digital advisor, up to a maximum grant value of $15,000 per SME, to develop a digital adoption plan. Businesses also have the opportunity to secure a 0% interest loan from the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) to facilitate the acquisition of new technology. In addition, applicants can leverage the help of talented post-secondary students and recent graduates through subsidized work placements.
The Green and Inclusive Community Buildings (GICB) program supports retrofits, repairs or upgrades of existing publicly-accessible community buildings and the construction of new publicly-accessible community buildings that serve underserved and high-needs communities across Canada.
Up to $860 million is available for retrofit projects across Canada. More than $430 million is available for the construction of new buildings across Canada.
Considerations to Obtain a Small Business Grant in Alberta
There are a few steps that are crucial for every small business grant application. If you pay attention to the four key steps below, you’re bound to have success in the grant process.
Like assignments you may have done during your schooling days, it is always better to complete your application before the deadline. This way, you will have time to edit and perfect your application and minimize the risk of unexpected circumstances that may lead you to miss out on the grant. Some grants also have criteria that include the business not having received any other grants. To avoid complications, ensure that you do your research beforehand. You also want to make sure you don’t get a smaller grant that could make you ineligible for a bigger one you might also qualify for. Some grant applications also approve on a rolling basis; therefore, it is always best to be apply early!
Make sure that you fit all the requirements for eligibility for the grant. Some grants may also have optional or preferred eligibility. If you set your sights on a particular grant early enough, you can start initiatives or create a business plan that caters to any preferred eligibility criteria that would increase your chance of getting approved for the grant.
Information Required for Your Application
Now that you know that you can apply, you must fill out the actual application. Most grants will ask for your legal business name, operating business name, Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) business number, a short description of your business, banking and financial information regarding your business. If you do not have a CRA business number, you may register for one on the CRA’s online Business Registration portal. Grant applications will usually ask for your account holder name, account number, name of financial institution, and your branch or transit number, as well as your most recent financial statements. Note that for many grants, they will only accept business bank accounts, so make sure to open one if you have not already done so!
What Happens After Your Application
Now that you’ve submitted your application, it’s time to wait! The grantor will reach out to you after they have made their decisions or if they need more information.
What about repeat applications? It never hurts to re-apply to grants that are offered periodically. This way, you can save time by simply re-using and updating your previous applications. For this reason, you will often want to prioritize grants that are offered repeatedly.
If the application is completely online, you will need to provide the other party with information on why you need the grant and how you will use the money granted to your business. Hence, grantors will almost always ask for your company’s financial information such as financial statements and tax returns. If you are unable to do so while juggling all your other company responsibilities, you can always choose to use an online accounting software like ours at ReInvestWealth. You can also book a free appointment with one of our accountants for professional guidance on how to expand your business.