A Guide to Small Business Grants in North Carolina

Sometimes the last thing standing in our way to greatness is funding. We can have air-tight business plans, loyal customers who demand our products, and the best team of employees on the planet, but without positive cashflow, success can still seem out of reach.

When you get to that point, you’ve got to get creative.

Did you know that government at all levels have programs designed for small businesses? Generally speaking, start-ups don’t usually qualify for grants and many programs are extremely specific on what qualifies as an eligible business, but it’s still worth a look.

Below, we’ve compiled a list of small business grants in NC that could be the bump you need to hit your next target.


Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG)

The JDIG is a performance-based, discretionary incentive program that gives cash straight to a company. This is a program for companies that create jobs and invest in the state. Grants are only given when a company is in a competitive, recruitment, or retention phase. 

Payments are made annually for terms up to 12 years. The Departments of Commerce and Revenue conduct yearly performance reviews in order to determine whether or not a company is still eligible for the grants.

As long as the company remains in compliance, a percentage of the newly generated taxes from the new jobs will be reimbursed to that company.

Awards are based on:

  • Location
  • County Tier (Currituck is a 3)
  • Number of new jobs
  • Wages of employees (as compared to other companies in the area)
  • Level of investment
  • Company’s industry as it aligns with the State’s targeted industries

Key Criteria:

  • Must be a business
  • Must have no citations from OSHA in the past 3 years
  • Must have created the minimum number of eligible job positions (50 is minimum in Currituck County)
  • May not be a retail facility
  • May not be a warehouse that is part of a retail facility and only serves that retail facility
  • May not be a professional or semi-professional sports team (excluding a professional motorsports team)
  • All Full Time employees must be given health insurance
  • More eligibility information

One North Carolina Fund (OneNC)

OneNC can be granted at the discretion of the governor in rapid response to competitive job creation projects.

Awards are based on:

  • Project location
  • Economic impact
  • Level of investment
  • Number of jobs created
  • Importance of the project to the area

Key Criteria:

  • Wages and health insurance for employees must be in compliance with federal and state laws
  • Must not be in default of any loan or grant previously received
  • Must be up-to-date on taxes
  • Must create new jobs, not transfer them from one place to another
  • New jobs must be maintained at least 2 years after the final disbursement of funds
  • More eligibility information

One North Carolina Small Business Program

Under the same umbrella as the previous entry, this program specifically targets small businesses in two areas: Matching Funds and Incentive Funds.

General Requirements:

  • Must be a for-profit small business located in North Carolina
  • At least 51% of business must be done in North Carolina
  • Must meet all employment requirements mandated by federal law

For a full list of requirements click HERE.


Federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)

CDBG funds are given to contractors who revitalize low to moderate income housing developments. The goal is to enhance the vitality of communities by providing decent housing and suitable living environments and expanding economic opportunities.

Local governments receive funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban development, then disburse the grants to companies fulfilling infrastructure needs in their municipalities. 

Some eligible projects:

  • Acquisition of real property
  • Relocation and demolition
  • Rehabilitation of residential and non-residential structures
  • Construction of public facilities and improvements, such as water and sewer facilities, streets, neighborhood centers, and the conversion of school buildings for eligible purposes
  • Public services, within certain limits
  • Activities relating to energy conservation and renewable energy resources
  • Provision of assistance to nonprofit and profit-motivated businesses to carry out economic development and job creation/retention activities

To find your closest grantee and apply, click HERE.

GoldenLEAF Economic Catalyst Infrastructure Grant

This grant program is for government entities and 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. GoldenLEAF Infrastructure grants are for agencies whose projects are at risk if they do not receive funding. 

Other determining factors:

  • Evidence of a funding gap creating an urgent need for financial assistance in order to create jobs.
  • Previous funds received and where they came from 
  • Other applications for other funding
  • Location in a tobacco-dependent or economically distressed area
  • Identification of specific charitable, educational, or scientific use of GoldenLEAF funds.

For help writing your proposal, contact:

Click HERE to start your application.


Rail Industrial Access Program

This program uses state funds for the refurbishment and modernization of railroads. New or expanding companies may apply. An award can only be made after confirmation of a private or local sources’ commitment to match funds. 

Grant recipients are presented a maximum of 50% of the project’s total cost, with a $200,000 limit. 

Eligible projects:

  • Design and engineering
  • Grading, drainage, and other site preparation
  • Track construction
  • Switches
  • Grade crossings and signals

Ineligible projects include, but are not limited to:

  • Unloading facilities
  • Relocation of utilities
  • Acquisition of right-of-way

Building Reuse Program

This program encourages the repurposing of older, vacant buildings. There are 3 eligible categories:

  • Vacant Building

Building must be vacant for at least 3 months prior to the application deadline.

  • Existing Building

Designed for the renovation and expansion of existing buildings where a business has been located for at least 12 months. The company must also meet the weekly wage standard, provide at least 50% benefits to employees, and be represented on the Priority Industry Table

  • Rural Health

Support for the renovation, expansion, or construction of health care sites. Priority is given to Tier 1 or 2 counties, or a rural census tract in Tier 3. 

A map for Tier 3 rural census tracts can be found HERE.

For contact information or to start the application process, click HERE.

Demolition Grant Program

Designed to support the demolition of vacant buildings for the purposes of site rehabilitation and economic development. 

Applicants must be located in a Tier 1 or 2 county or a rural census tract in Tier 3. 

  • Other eligibility requirements:
  • Building must be vacant for at least 3 years prior to application
  • A unit of local government must own the property
  • After demolition, the property cannot be used for government/public use, parking, recreation, or housing for a period of no less than 3 years
  • Local government must pledge to match up to 25% of granted funds
  • Must be a reasonable expectation of private sector job creation and investment
  • Site must not be zoned residential

For a complete list of requirements or to start your application, click HERE.


Agriculture and Gas Products Fund

This fund is for project owners who bring new or expanded natural gas or propane services, or expanded agricultural production or processing capabilities to North Carolina. Funds are disbursed for excess infrastructure costs or effective alternatives. New and existing projects are treated the same.

Eligibility considerations:

  • Must not be in default on any loan
  • The location, scope and description of the project
  • The impact the Project has on reducing costs, reducing energy consumption, and/or increasing energy efficiency
  • The overall cost of the project and project carrying costs
  • The cost of the grant and project relative to the overall economic impact of the proposed project
  • The likelihood and opportunity for additional economic development as a result of the project
  • The availability of less-costly or other viable alternatives
  • The estimated or projected number of jobs likely to be created or retained by the project
  • The nature of business activity associated with the project
  • Types, amounts, and timing of the owner’s, or other business or industry’s financial investment in the project

For full guidelines and procedures, click HERE.


On-the-Job Training Program (OJT)

Through OJT, a wage reimbursement incentive may be provided to a business to help offset the cost of training a new employee with limited skills. Wage reimbursement ranges from 50 to 75 percent, depending upon the size of the business, with the higher percentage for businesses with up to 250 employees.

OJT funds are only provided for up to 6 months. Prior to hiring, a professional development plan will be created by the employer to keep track of the new employee’s achievements. 

Applications may be submitted through your local Workforce Development Board Business Services Representative.

Incumbent Worker Training Program

This program is to help offset the cost of continuing workplace education for employees who have been at a company for at least 6 months. Training should lead to an increased skill level, so that employees can be promoted and the employer can backfill opportunities for less skilled or experienced employees. The business must participate in the cost of the training, through cash payments or in-kind contributions, based upon the size of the company.

Applications may be submitted through your local Workforce Development Board Business Services Representative.

Federal Bonding for High-Risk Employees

Federal Bonding provides FREE individual fidelity bonds to employers when they hire “at risk” individuals, who traditionally have had difficulty finding meaningful employment. Employers receive $5,000 in coverage for the first six months of employment. The coverage protects the employer from acts of dishonesty such as theft, larceny or embezzlement.

High-Risk Employees include people who have:

  • A history of arrest and conviction
  • Substance abuse problems
  • Poor credit or have declared bankruptcy
  • A dishonorable discharge from the military
  • A lack of sufficient work history

Other requirements:

  • Employee must be receiving a W2 at the end of the year
  • Bond must be established prior to the first day of work
  • Employer must deduct all federal and state taxes from paycheck
  • Self-employed individuals are NOT eligible for the Federal Bonding Program.

More information can be found on the Federal Bonding website.

Main Street Solutions Fund

The Main Street Solutions Fund is a reimbursable matching grant program. The North Carolina Department of Commerce and the NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center are authorized to award grants from the Main Street Solutions Fund totaling not more than $200,000 to each eligible local government. 

Funds from local governments, Main Street organizations, downtown organizations, downtown economic development organizations, private businesses, and sources other than the state or federal government must be committed to match the amount of any grant from the Main Street Solutions Fund on a basis of a minimum of two non-state dollars for every one dollar provided by the State. 

Key Eligibility Requirements:

  • Projects must spur private investment.
  • Projects must provide direct benefit to small business retention, expansion or recruitment.
  • Projects must retain or create jobs in association with small business.
  • Projects must provide community education that builds a local entrepreneurial environment.
  • Projects must foster long-term property improvements and/or provide operating capital with direct benefit to small businesses.
  • Projects must demonstrate business commitment to use funds at the time of application.
  • Managing entities must have extensive experience and must demonstrate and document previous success with a revolving loan program.

For a complete list of requirements and to start your application, click HERE.


Film and Entertainment Grant Program

NC offers rebates to film industry projects, up to 25% on qualified expenses.

To qualify:

  • A television series must average an in-state spend of at least $1 million per episode;
  • A feature-length film must spend at least $3 million;
  • Made-for-television movies must spend at least $1 million;
  • A commercial production must have a minimum spend of at least $250,000.

Grant limits:

  • For a television series, grant awards shall not exceed $12 million per season;
  • For a feature-length film (including made-for-television movies), awards cannot exceed $7 million;
  • For a commercial, awards cannot exceed $250,000.

Visit the North Carolina Film Office website for more information.

To get expert advice on how to write your grant application (and possibly find other programs available to you), visit grants.gov.

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