Frequently Asked Questions
- I am having a hard time finding one source of information on business financing opportunities in Montana. I need information on state, federal, and any local economic development and business finance programs. Where can I go for this information?
- Our business has a well developed business plan and banking relationship but needs a significant amount of financing for a (start-up, expansion, retention) project. I really need help understanding the variety of financing and technical assistance resources available and how they may fit into my specific business situation. Where can I go for this assistance?
- Where can I find assistance with marketing products that are made in Montana at my business? Is assistance available for learning how to get involved with international trade?
- I need assistance with the development of a business plan and source of financing for small business. Is there a location near me?
- My business is considering locating into Montana from another state. Who should I contact and where can I find basic information on Montana and specific information on various communities that the State of Monana has certified relationships with?
- Our business is heavily involved in research and development activities. Where can we find technical assistance and possibly financing for research and develoment, such as the Small Business Innovation Research Program?
- I have a small business that needs a loan but is not fully bankable at this time. I also need some assistance with my business and training on marketing and accounting. Who can help me?
- How can I find a local development corporation in my area?
- Can I get a government grant for my business?
I am having a hard time finding one source of information on business financing opportunities in Montana. I need information on state, federal, and any local economic development and business finance programs. Where can I go for this information?
The Montana Finance Information Center website contains links to virtually all of the common state, federal, and local business finance programs and technical assistance providers and can be found at Montana Finance Online.
General Questions Our business has a well developed business plan and banking relationship but needs a significant amount of financing for a (start-up, expansion, retention) project. I really need help understanding the variety of financing and technical assistance resources available and how they may fit into my specific business situation. Where can I go for this assistance?
A good place to start would be your local Certified Regional Development Office, (CRDC). Your CRDC will also help you access local financing and technical assistance resources and work with you and the local development corporation toward the successful completion of your project. To locate the CRDC in your area, please see the following website CRDC Program.
General Questions Where can I find assistance with marketing products that are made in Montana at my business? Is assistance available for learning how to get involved with international trade?
The Made In Montana marketing assistance program can be reached at http://madeinmontanausa.com. Information and assistance with international trade can be found at International Trade and Export Montana.
There are ten Small Business Development Centers located around Montana so there is a good chance one will be located near you. Information on the SBDC center locations and contact information can be found at the SBDC website.
My business is considering locating into Montana from another state. Who should I contact and where can I find basic information on Montana and specific information on various communities that the State of Montana has certified relationships with?
The intitial contact should be made to the Governor's Office of Economic Opportunity which can be reached through the Business Montana website http://business.mt.gov/ which also provides basic information about Montana.
Our business is heavily involved in research and development activities. Where can we find technical assistance and possibly financing for research and development, such as the Small Business Innovation Research Program?
The SBIR program in the Department of Commerce http://sbir.mt.gov provides technical assistance and some funding to businesses interested in pursuing federal SBIR funding. You should also look into the Commerce Research and Commercialization program Research and Commercialization which provides funding for businesses involved in this type of activity.
The Department of Commerce MicroBusiness Finance Program MicroBusiness Finance Program has provided funding to MicroBusiness Development Corporations around the state for re-lending to small business such as yours. They also provide technical assistance to businesses in cooperation with the Small Business Development Centers mentioned above.
The Montana Economic Developers Association has a list of its members which should help at http://www.medamembers.org/.
There are very few grant programs for general business development purposes. There are some special purpose programs that may be of help to you. The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program in the Department of Commerce http://sbir.mt.gov provides technical assistance and some funding to businesses interested in pursuing federal SBIR funding. You should also look into the Commerce Research and Commercialization program Research and Commercialization, which provides funding for businesses involved in this type of activity. The Commerce Loan Fund (Community Development Block Grant & State Economic Development Administration Revolving Loan Fund) provides loans to businesses and grants for job training activities and for infrastructure related to business development. For more information about these programs call (406) 841-2747. You should also look into the Finance Information Center website for additional information.
- Where can I get a grant to start a business?
- I need help financing my business. What programs are available?
- Where can I go for a small business loan?
- How do I start a business?
- Can someone help me develop a business plan?
- Where are resources in my area to help me with my business?
- Who do I contact to register my business name?
- How do I register my business with the State?
- What kind of taxes and fees do I have to pay if I add new employees to my staff?
- Are there special programs available to help veterans and women interested in starting a business?
- Where can I register as an independent contractor?
- Does the State of Montana require a business license?
- How do I get a federal identification or tax identification number?
Currently there are no grant programs available to assist individuals to start a business that are supported by the State of Montana.
Some grant programs offered by private companies or foundations may provide financial assistance for start-ups. Check with your local library for reference materials on grant programs.
There are a variety of state and federal programs available in Montana to assist businesses. The most comprehensive directory is the Montana Finance Center's web site at Finance Information Center.
The Montana Department of Commerce's Small Business Development Center (SBDC) office and the U.S. Small Business Administration publishes a small business resources guide available at your local SBDC office or call 406-841-2747 for a copy.
There are numerous programs that offer loans to small businesses. The most overlooked is a local bank. Another program is the MicroBusiness Finance Program (MBFP) that is delivered through local non-profit organizations. The MBFP can provide loans up to $35,000. Check on their link for additional information: MicroBusiness Finance Program.
Many local economic development organizations offer additional lending programs such as revolving loan programs funded by federal financing programs such as USDA and Community Development Block Grant loan programs. This is a link to a directory of local economic development organizations Community Development Block Grant - Economic Development Program.
There is no all-encompassing answer to this question. The best answer is to contact your local Small Business Development Center office for assistance. Most entrepreneurs or individuals considering starting a business develop a business plan to assist them in assessing if their business idea is feasible.
Yes, your Small Business Development Center office service area can provide free, confidential assistance to individuals and businesses wanting to develop a business plan. To find the office nearest you see this webpage: http://sbdc.mt.gov/Includes/sbdc_Map_2009.pdf.
Many state agencies have programs to assist business. Here is a list of the most frequently used:
The Secretary of State's (SOS) office is the agency that registers business names. The SOS office also handles the registration of corporations, LLCs and other business entities. See http://sos.mt.gov/ or call 406-444-3665.
How do I register my business with the State?
If you need to register a business name, see the information above. If you need to register as a state contractor, see the information on the Montana Department of Administration web site: http://gsd.mt.gov/default.asp. If you need to register as a federal contractor, see the information in the Pro-Net web site: http://www.ccr.gov/.
If you are a disadvantaged business owner there are two programs that can provide assistance to you. First is the 8A program administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration. The program can provide business technical assistance and assistance in obtaining government contracts. Contact Robert Much at the SBA for assistance, 406-441-1081 or visit their web site at http://www.sba.gov/8abd/. The other program available is the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program administered by the Montana Department of Transportation. This program is similar to the 8A program but at the state level, and does not offer financing. See their web site for more information http://mdt.mt.gov/business/contracting.shtml or call 406-444-9229.
Most employers need to be aware of withholding taxes, unemployment insurance and workman's compensation.
The Montana Department of Revenue has an informational packet available to employers that has detailed information on withholding taxes and unemployment insurance. Their number is 406-444-6900 or visit their web site: http://mt.gov/revenue/default.asp.
Workman's compensation information can be found at the Montana State Fund web site at http://www.montanastatefund.com/wps/portal or contact them at 406-444-6500.
For local assistance, contact your local Business Advocate. http://wsd.dli.mt.gov/.
Yes, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has programs to assist veterans and women obtain financing for a business. The program is the Prequalification Program that provides approved participant proof that the SBA has pre-qualified them for a SBA loan guarantee through a local bank. http://www.sba.gov/financing/sbaloan/prequalification.html.
For other information on programs for veterans contact the Veteran's Affairs Division at 406-324-3740. http://dma.mt.gov/mvad/.
The Montana Department of Labor and Industry oversees all independent contractors registration. Information can be accessed through their web site http://erd.dli.mt.gov/wcregs/wcrhome.asp or by calling 406-444-7734 for materials.
No. The State of Montana does provide a license for certain professions and occupations. Most cities require a business license. Check with your local city / county offices to see if a business license is required in your area.
For a federal identification number individuals or businesses need to contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The IRS web site has useful information and forms for obtaining a federal identification number. http://www.irs.gov/.
- What is the SBIR Program?
- How big is the SBIR Program?
- What kind of companies participate in SBIR?
- What are the small business requirements for SBIR participation?
- Who are the federal organizations that make SBIR awards?
- When do specific programs for submitting proposals open and close?
- What about patent rights?
- Can you submit a Phase 2 proposal for feasibility work that has already been completed?
- How are awards made and how many will be given out?
- What is a SBIR funding agreement?
- Can portions of an SBIR award be subcontracted?
- What is the STTR Program?
- Why is STTR unique or different?
- Who is the prime contractor or grantee?
- Can a small business participate in both SBIR and STTR at the same time or with different agencies?
- Can a small business not receiving an award resubmit?
- How can a small business increase their chance to win SBIR & STTR awards?
- What traits does a SBIR winner possess?
It is a Federal program that requires federal agencies and departments to allocate part of their R&D budgets to small businesses. Only the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Defense had such programs before federal legislation in 1982 required other federal agencies to participate.
Public law 102-564, Small Business Research & Development Enhancement Act of 1992, extended the program through September 30, 2000. This law was passed unanimously by Congress and signed by the president. There is no reason to believe that the law will not be extended beyond 2000. For more information about SBIR/STTR visit the Small Business Administration website.
Present legislation requires every federal agency spending more than $100 million buying outside R&D to allocate a small percentage to SBIR. In 1999 approximately $1 billion was awarded to small businesses and about 1/3 of that to small businesses with 10 or fewer employees. The program will always vary in size dependent upon the amount of R&D work purchased by the government and has significantly increased over the last few years. Five of the ten SBIR agencies award about 90% of the awards. Nevertheless, a department like Agriculture still has more than $10 million available in SBIR awards.
Companies that have highly innovative ideas and the ability to compete in merit based proposal competitions do well. The company must be able to convince the awarding agency that they can complete a quality feasibility R&D study, then take that concept into development of a prototype product or service. Companies also need to convince the awarding agency that they are able to effectively plan and acquire resources. The company must verify and communicate market potential, secured capital to finance prototype development into a commercial product, and the ability to complete necessary marketing to secure the investment.
Classification as a small business requires that the entity be fewer than 500 employees (including affiliates). It can even be an individual that intends to form a business meeting the established criteria prior to the award date. The business must be American majority owned (51% or more), located in the U.S., and a for-profit business entity.
Ten federal agencies participate in the SBIR program.
Federal agencies issue solicitation bulletins at least once per year. The list contains research problem areas or topics on which they are willing to accept proposals from small businesses. SBIR Phase I Solicitation
Worldwide commercial rights to any patents normally go to the small company. The government will retain rights for its use, and if the company makes no effort to commercialize the results (usually 4 years) may gain additional rights.
Only if you won a previous Phase 1 award from the same agency for the same solicitation topic. SBIR was created for NEW innovations that meet existing federal agency R&D needs. Federal agencies fund Phase 1 feasibility studies to evaluate potential applications - then only fund reasonable prototypes, if any at all, that solve their research problem.
Awards are made in the form of grants or contracts. This represents small business R&D funding that could be termed capital. The small business suffers no equity loss, awards do not require repayment, and the small business grows the business using awards. Grants represent a project support means, and contracts represent a procurement process. Both require specific deliverables by the small business with respect to the solicitation and the original proposal. Best estimates indicate that more than four thousand awards are made each year dependent upon each agency's R&D budget, share of that budget committed to extramural resources, and agency decisions to pursue Phase 2 funding from realized Phase 1 results.
It is a contract or grant entered into between the sponsoring federal agency and a small business concern for the performance of experimental, developmental, or research work. Small businesses selected as awardees in the Phase 1 and 2 competition processes must complete negotiations for the specified work prior to actual receipt of funding. The funding agreements clarify expectations, define milestones, and allow both parties to insure optimized outcomes. Award funding is not provided or guaranteed until a funding agreement has been completed. Payments are made as deliverable milestones are met, expenses incurred, and specified by agency policy or the funding agreement.
Yes, but the small business must complete at least 2/3 of the work. They are allowed to subcontract out the remainder to consultants, other companies (small or large businesses / corporations), or various research institutions (profit or non-profit). In fact, proposals are often enhanced this way by substantially bolstering the company's credibility. The principle investigator must, however, be primarily employed by the small business submitting the proposal. Small business proposals, especially from rural states, are highly encouraged to seek out these important collaborations.
It is another Federal program created by the 1992 Small Business Research & Development Enhancement Act. STTR began as a small pilot program to encourage collaborative research between small companies and universities or Federal laboratories. The program is separate from SBIR, but closely modeled after it with the same 3 phase approach. Legislation now requires that federal agencies with extramural R&D budgets exceeding $1 billion contribute a very small percentage to a STTR program. The program provided about $20 million in the first year, and in 1999 has provided about $100 million for small business research in collaboration with eligible non-profit research institutions.
STTR targets inclusion of non-profit research institutions in an effort to "transfer technology" from government and research institutions into the marketplace boosting the nation's competitiveness. Only 40% of the work must me done by the small business, and at least 30% completed by the non-profit research facility. Either party can complete the remainder, or subcontract out to another entity(s) doing work completed in the United States. Non-profit research institution eligibility requires an U.S. location and one of the following; university or college, domestic research organization, university affiliated hospital, or a federally funded research development center. The five agencies with large enough extramural R&D budgets to support STTR are; Defense, Energy, NIH, NASA, and NSF.
The small business concern submitting the proposal. Are small non-profit organizations eligible competitors for SBIR or STTR? No, not for proposal submission as the prime contractor or grantee. The programs are solely for small businesses, which may subcontract out to small non-profit organizations that could be characterized as subawardees. Also, often individuals from small or large non-profit organizations start small businesses and compete for SBIR and STTR funding through the small businesses. Universities and incubator developments have produced numerous small businesses that have very effectively competed for these awards and produced significant commercial products, new high-quality jobs, and economic development benefiting themselves, their community, and the nation.
Yes, so long as the same essential work is not completed under more than one contract or grant in a fraudulent manner. Successful SBIR and STTR competitors often have the ability to present and complete work for multiple solicitations over a period of time that often overlap. Also, solicitation topics for one agency might be similar to solicitation topics for another agency. The small business may sometimes apply to either or both solicitations as a means to capture more awards, or increase their success percentage. Multiple award winners all had to start with a single award, learned the process while growing their companies and continued to successfully capture awards.
Yes, so long as the same essential work is not completed under more than one contract or grant in a fraudulent manner. Successful SBIR and STTR competitors often have the ability to present and complete work for multiple solicitations over a period of time that often overlap. Also, solicitation topics for one agency might be similar to solicitation topics for another agency. The small business may sometimes apply to either or both solicitations as a means to capture more awards, or increase their success percentage. Multiple award winners all had to start with a single award, learned the process while growing their companies and continuing to successfully capture awards.
Know your field, know your agency, and demonstrate your ability to service the customer (federal agency).