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What Business Councils are Doing to Unlock IRA Funding for Black Businesses

By: Maliyah Womack, Girl Plus Environment

If you've been following our exploration of the benefits of going green for small businesses in our previous article, "IRA IRL," you're likely aware of the substantial advantages awaiting those who are taking the step toward a clean energy future. The SME Climate Hub has been an excellent starting point for small businesses to gain access to information revolving around the realm of green funding. This article will explore additional initiatives aimed at assisting small businesses in leveraging IRA

Photo Credits: Into Act!on Content Library

funding opportunities, particularly the role of business councils. 

But first, what is a business council? At its core, it’s an organization of business leaders united to address the specific needs of their local business communities. These councils vary across states and counties, each tailored to the unique challenges and opportunities of their respective regions. In this article, we'll shine a spotlight on the North Carolina Business Council, illustrating how such entities play a pivotal role in facilitating access to IRA funding.

Led by their Executive Director, Vicki Lee Parker-High, the North Carolina Business Council stands as a statewide coalition of businesses and partners committed to fostering purpose-driven businesses. What do they mean by a “purpose-driven business”? Simply put, they want to assist businesses in utilizing their power to influence business policies, ensure long-term profitability, protect the environment, and sustain their communities. 

A notable aspect of the North Carolina Business Council is its hands-on engagement with small enterprises. Recognizing the challenges faced, especially by minority-owned enterprises, the council provides hands-on support to navigate the intricate landscape of green IRA funding. By offering guidance and resources, they empower businesses to make informed decisions, ensuring they can seize opportunities for financial growth through avenues like IRA funding.

For many, it can be difficult to grasp the political language used in the process of obtaining money from the IRA. When it comes to small businesses, particularly those owned by underrepresented communities, collaborative efforts are crucial. The North Carolina Business Council exemplifies the importance of unity in supporting and uplifting each other. They act as a bridge, connecting businesses with essential resources. Navigating through political intricacies, they demystify the process, making it more accessible for small businesses, including those owned by Black entrepreneurs.

Photo Credits: Into Act!on Content Library

Resources similar to small business councils can truly have a driving impact on the access small business owners have to the funding they need to sustain their communities. Let’s take a deeper look into the various ways small business owners can take the initiative to delve into IRA funding.

Many communities across the nation can benefit from IRA funding; this we know. However, there are specific programs that have been created to provide direct funding to rural communities; this is where it gets good for small business owners. Take the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), for example, which has been created to assist small businesses specifically in rural areas with “guaranteed loan financing and grant funding” for “renewable energy systems or to make energy efficiency improvements.” But what are renewable energy systems or energy-efficient improvements? Simply put, these involve making adjustments to the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, transitioning from a diesel to an electric irrigation motor, improving insulation, lighting, and more. Small transitions like this can not only benefit our environment but also benefit the pockets of the hardest workers in our communities.

This is clear: the role of business councils in facilitating IRA funding for small business owners and the community is indispensable. However, so is our support in amplifying what IRA funding can achieve. Our backing extends beyond mere advocacy, involving active assistance to small business owners, exposing them to the programs and funding available to them. Navigating the complexities of funding opportunities requires a group effort—it's time to share, repost, retweet, all of that to ensure those in the most affected communities have the knowledge they need to take advantage of the benefits at hand. As we progress toward a greener, cleaner future, these councils and programs drive positive change within communities and empower businesses to embrace environmentally conscious practices.


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