MISSION: The Office of Business Opportunities (OBO) is committed to supporting initiatives that benefit small, minority, veteran, and women owned businesses located in, or that want to do business with, the City of Columbia. This is accomplished by providing creative financing,  technical assistance and capacity building opportunities that contribute to the economic growth of all communities.

COMMERCIAL LENDING:  
Financial assistance to start-up and existing businesses for growth, expansion, retention and the creation of new jobs, and assistance in the redevelopment of commercial corridors that have become significantly deteriorated within the City.

TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE, EDUCATION & ADVOCACY: 
Business development assistance and courses for start-ups and existing businesses looking to grow and expand covering topics including: marketing, use of social media, business plan development, finances, legal issues, and more.

CONTRACTOR & SUPPLIER DIVERSITY: 
Training and support for city initiatives designed to increase local contractor’s capacity to compete for government contracts and other procurement opportunities. We are also responsible for the implementation of the City’s Disparity Study Goals and Objectives.
Programs include: Sub-Contractor Outreach; Mentor Protégé; Local Business Enterprise; Columbia Disadvantage Business Enterprise; and Construction Management Training.

STAY CONNECTED BY FOLLOWING US!

@columbiaobo

Results of 2021 Impact of COVID-19 on Small Business Survey
Small business community, how is COVID-19 impacting your business?
The City of Columbia understands that our business community continues to be significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and our local leaders want to hear from you as we prepare our priorities in response to funding to be received through the American Rescue Plan.  The City of Columbia's Office of Business Opportunities has created a survey to determine the ongoing needs of our local businesses as we recover from the economic impact of COVID-19.  The information gathered from this survey will be used to establish funding priorities based on the needs of our small business community.  Columbia is a strong and resilient community and we will recover from the economic impact of this pandemic together.  

Notice to the Public of Rights under Title VI and Title VI Public Participation Plan
Click here to read the Public of Rights under Title VI and Title VI Public Participation Plan.

City of Columbia's Office of Business Opportunities Newsletter
Click here to join our email list and for current subscribers, please share our newsletter on your social media!

City of Columbia's Minority Business Opportunities Directory
The Office of Business Opportunities is pleased to announce the City of Columbia's Minority Business Opportunities Directory for small, minority, and women-owned businesses!  This directory consists of purchasing points of contact and listings of goods/services purchased by City departments and our community partners.  The directory also includes a listing of technical assistance providers for existing and new small businesses that are in need of assistance in strengthening, growing or pivoting their businesses!  To review the Directory, click on the following link, City of Columbia's Minority Business Opportunities Directory.

City of Columbia's Resilient Columbia CARES Act Revolving Loan Fund
Does your business need financial assistance due to COVID-19? The Resilient Columbia CARES Act Revolving Loan is available for City of Columbia businesses. The current financial environment due to COVID-19 has placed a burden on local entrepreneurs who are trying to keep their businesses open in today’s turbulent economy.  To “prevent, prepare for, and respond” to the economic injury attributed to the coronavirus (COVID-19), these funds will be used to finance small businesses located within the corporate limits of the City of Columbia that have been impacted by the pandemic.  To read more on the Resilient Columbia CARES Act Revolving Loan Fund, click here.  For additional information and to apply, click on the Commercial Loans link at the top of the page. 

NxLevel Micro Entrepreneur and FastTrac Growth Venture Courses
Are you interested in starting a small business? Are you currently a small business owner and looking for ways to expand your business?  For more information, click on one of the course links to go to that course's webpage!
FastTrac Growth Venture
NxLevel Micro Entrepreneur

If you would like to do business with the City or would like to learn more about upcoming opportunities, please register your business on eBid, by clicking on the following link, City of Columbia, SC eBid.

CORONAVIRUS:  INFORMATION AND RESOURCES

Amazon Business Presents the Small Business Academy Pathways Series
Amazon Business will begin a Small Business Academy Pathways series starting on March 3rd!  This series is targeting small business retail owners looking to expand their potential customer base with a larger online presence or for business mentors and advisors who want to coach retail clients in an online sales environment.  For more information and to register, click here to go to the Amazon webpage!

U.S. Small Business Administration Announces Changes to Coronavirus Relief Programs
Beginning February 24th, the U.S. Small Business Administration will establish a 14-day, exclusive Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan application period for businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 20 employees.  This application period will give lenders and community partners more time to work with the smallest businesses to submit their applications, while ensuring larger PPP-eligible businesses will still have time to apply for and receive support before the March 31, 2021 deadline.  To read more, click here to go to SBA's Coronavirus website!

U.S. Small Business Administration - Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Program
The U.S. Small Business Administration has created the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program to assist hard-hit small businesses, nonprofits, and venues.  This program includes over $16 billion in grants to shuttered venues!  For more information and to apply, click here to go to SBA's Shuttered Venue Operators Grant website!

Summary of H.R. 133 - Coronavirus Relief Provisions
If you would like to read more information on the Coronavirus Relief Provisions, click on the link below to read more on how much money will be available for those who would like to apply for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) or the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)!  To read more on H.R. 133, click on the link below!
H.R. 133 - Summary of COVID-19 Relief Provisions

The deadline to apply for the first round of the Paycheck Protection Program is March 31, 2021 and the deadline to apply for the second round of the Paycheck Protection Program is December 31, 2021.  If you have any questions, please contact the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Guidance on Accessing Capital for Minority, Underserved, Veteran, and Women-Owned Businesses
Rules and Guidance for First-Time PPP Borrowers
Rules and Guidance for Second-Time PPP Borrowers

Recently Passed $900 Billion COVID-19 Aid Includes $325 Billion For Businesses
U.S. Small Business Administration: U.S. Congress recently passed a $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill.  This will include $325 billion for businesses.  To read more on this relief bill, click here for more!

U.S. Small Business Administration Small Business Owner's Guide to the CARES Act
New resources available for small businesses, as well as certain nonprofits and other employers. The Small Business Owner’s Guide to the CARES Act link below provides information about the major programs and initiatives available from the Small Business Administration (SBA) to address these needs, as well as some additional tax provisions that are outside the scope of SBA.
Small Business Owner's Guide to the CARES Act


UPCOMING COVID-19 WEBINARS AND EVENTS

South Carolina Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Training Events Calendar 

INFORMATION FOR BUSINESSES REOPENING

Making Your Plan to Disinfect
ReOpening America Guidance
Coronavirus.GOV Fact Sheet for Reopening America:  REOPENING WORKPLACES DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
GUIDANCE FOR CLEANING AND DISINFECTING PUBLIC SPACES, WORKPLACES, BUSINESSES, SCHOOLS, AND HOMES
CDC.GOV Fact Sheet:  What you should know about COVID-19 to protect yourself and others 
OSHA ALERT:  COVID-19 Guidance for Retail Workers (e.g., pharmacies, supermarkets, and big box stores)
Monster.com: Small Business COVID-19 Reopening Strategy
America's SBDC Small Business Resiliency Guide 
America's SBDC Small Business Resiliency Plan Template 
Innovation in a crisis: Why is it more critical than ever 
OSHA Guidance on Returning to Work 


City Planning & Development Services Center:  Outdoor Dining Encroachments Policy
As you prepare to reopen your business, please use the link below to ensure your dining area will meet the Outdoor Dining Policy.  The City of Columbia supports and encourages the public use and enjoyment of sidewalks, tree zones, and other right-of-way areas for outdoor dining in all entertainment districts; however, use of sidewalks and other public areas must be ADA compliant, safe for pedestrian and vehicular traffic, and meet established design guidelines.  
Contained in one, fillable document:
Rules & Regulations;
Dining Encroachment Permit Application Checklist;
Acknowledgement of Permittee to Request for an Outdoor Dining Encroachment Permit; and
Outdoor Dining Encroachment Application 

YOU AND YOUR SMALL BUSINESS

US Department of Labor:  Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA): Questions and Answers (4/28/2020)
As provided under the legislation, the U.S. Department of Labor will be issuing & implementing regulations. Additionally, as warranted, the Department will continue to provide compliance assistance to employers and employees on their responsibilities and rights under the FFCRA.
88 Questions and Answers Sorted by Category (Definitions, Eligibility, Coverage, Application, Enforcement)

News Release:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR ACTS TO HELP AMERICAN WORKERS & EMPLOYERS DURING THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC
WASHINGTON, DC – Last week, the U.S. Department of Labor took a range of actions to aid American workers and employers as our nation combats the coronavirus pandemic.
DOL Acts to Help American Workers & Employers During the Coronavirus Pandemic 

U.S. Department of Labor: Quick BENEFITS TIPS from DOL
In general, applies to you if you are an employee of either a private employer with fewer than 500 employees or a covered public sector employer.
Quick BENEFITS TIPS "How much paid leave can employees take?" 

U.S. Department of Labor 
The U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) is committed to helping employers understand and comply with federal wage and hour laws.  Toolkits contain interactive step-by-step tools to walk employers through a variety of scenarios, in-depth guides to help employers navigate the requirements of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and fact sheets that detail how the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) applies to many specific types of employment.
Compliance Assistance Toolkits

A Resilient Columbia: Economic Sustainability Plan - Small Business Stabilization Forgivable (SBSF) Loan Program Update
The City of Columbia recognizes the tremendous needs of our small business community during this unprecedented crisis.  On March 20th, City leadership approved $1,000,000 for the establishment of the Small Business Stabilization Forgivable Loan Program (SBSF) in an effort to provide immediate financial assistance to our small business community in response to COVID-19.  To date, this funding has been awarded to 322 small businesses located within the corporate limits of the City of Columbia.

       - For a list of loan recipients, click here.

On April 21st, Columbia City Council approved an additional $400,000 to be awarded to completed approved applications that have already been submitted but were not funded during the initial phase of the program due to limited funding.  These funds will be awarded between April 23rd and May 1st.

New applications are not currently being accepted for the SBSF program.  If additional funding is received for the SBSF program, the application process will be re-opened.

SC Chamber of Commerce and SC Department of Commerce 
The SC
SC Department of Commerce COVID-19 Resources

SC Department of Employment and Workforce
Self-employed and gig workers are eligible for unemployment benefits under the CARES Act.  To read this information, click here to read the press release from SC DEW.
Unemployment Benefits Flyer
SC DEW Website
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance FAQ's

CITY OF COLUMBIA BUSINESS LICENSE OFFICE
The City of Columbia's Business License office is accepting phone calls for those who are looking to apply for a business license or have questions related to any business license issues.  For more information, click on the link to the Business License Office or you can contact them at the number below!
Business License Office Website
Phone: 803-545-3345 | Fax: 803-988-8025
Office Hours: Mon-Fri - 8:30 a.m.- 5:00 p.m.

ADDITIONAL FINANCIAL RESOURCES

SPANX and The SPANX by Sara Blakely Foundation & GlobalGiving: The Red Backpack Fund
SPANX and The SPANX by Sara Blakely Foundation teamed up with GlobalGiving to create The Red Backpack Fund to assist female entrepreneurs in the United States to help alleviate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.  
The Red Backpack Fund Website

Richland County Emergency Rental Assistance Program
The U.S. Department of Treasury has awarded Richland County Government $12.5 million to help local households that are unable to pay rent and utilities as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  For more information, click on the link to go to Richland County Government's website or contact Richland County Government at (855)216-9198.  If you need assistance in completing the application, Richland Library is offering assistance to Richland County residents!  If you would like to contact Richland Library, please call (803)509-8371 or email to [email protected]!
Richland County Emergency Rental Assistance Program

Goldman Sachs Commits $300 Million to Support Communities and Small Business
Goldman Sachs has committed to delivering $300 million across two separate initiatives to help small businesses and communities around the world: Global Small Business Stimulus Package: A $275 million commitment to provide funding and lending to small businesses during this time of stress. $250 million to provide emergency loans to small businesses & $25 million in grants to Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and other mission-driven lenders; and Goldman Sachs COVID-19 Relief Fund: A $25 million commitment through Goldman Sachs Gives to support healthcare organizations, frontline responders, and the hardest-hit communities. To further encourage giving toward relief efforts, we’ve also established a special matching gift program for our people, up to a total of $5 million.
Goldman Sachs: Small Business Stimulus & COVID-19 Relief Fund 

National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): The NIH is deeply concerned for the health and safety of people involved in NIH research, and about the effects on the biomedical enterprise in the areas affected by the HHS declared public health emergency for COVID-19.  Due to the potential exceptional impact, we want to assure our recipient community that NIH will be doing our part to help you continue your research.
Information for NIH Applicants and Recipients of NIH Funding 

Richland County Public Library (RCPL) 
Small and local businesses are working through COVID19 with creativity. There are ways you can help, and your RCPL has put together a list of assistance and resources available for small business owners.
Support for Small Businesses 

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation:  A guide to helping small businesses navigate and recover from the COVID-19 crisis
April 2, 2020:  The Small Business Administration’s disaster relief program is the vanguard of government assistance for businesses during this crisis. Here are some resources in response to common questions entrepreneurs will be asking about the process.
Guide to Helping Small Businesses Navigate and recover from the COVID-19 Crisis

US CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: CORONAVIRUS EMERGENCY LOANS
Small Business Owner’s Guide to the CARES Act:  Updated 3/31/20
U.S. Chamber of Commerce has issued this new guide to help small businesses and self-employed individuals prepare to file for a loan.
Small Business Guide and Checklist

Forbes Magazine: Seven Companies Offering COVID-19 Relief Funds for Diverse Business Owners
Seven Companies Offering COVID-19 Relief Funds for Diverse Business Owners

Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) Information for Women-Owned Businesses
Resources for Women-Owned Businesses in Response to COVID-19

City of Columbia, SC: Mask Ordinance Extended

Mayor Steve Benjamin and Columbia City Council unanimously approved an emergency ordinance extending face mask coverings.  This ordinance will be in effect until Sunday, May 16, 2021.  For more information on the City's Mask Ordinance extension, click on the link to the City of Columbia's Front Page News webpage or to read the ordinance.
Face Mask Ordinance Extended
Ordinance 2021-012 : Extending and Amending Certain Emergency Ordinances Related to COVID-19

U.S. Department of Labor
U.S. Department of the Treasury, IRS and the U.S. Department of Labor announce plan to implement Coronavirus-related paid leave for workers and tax credits for small and midsize businesses to swiftly recover the cost of providing Coronavirus-related leave.  To read more, click on the link below! 
Coronavirus-Related Paid Leave for Workers and Tax Credits for Small & Midsize Businesses

The U.S. Department of Labor - Wage and Hour Division provides information on common issues employers and employees face when responding to COVID-19, and its effects on wages and hours worked under the Fair Labor Standards Act and job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
COVID-19 and the Workplace

U.S. Department of Labor Announces Availability of Up to $100 Million In National Health Emergency Dislocated Worker Grants in "Response to COVID-19 Outbreak"
National Health Emergency Dislocated Worker Grants

US CONGRESS:  FAMILIES FIRST CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE ACT
This Act, signed into law on March 18, 2020, contains the following:
>  Emergency Paid Sick Leave & Emergency Family Medical Leave (What this Bill Does - Fact Sheet)
>  Coverage for COVID-19 Testing 
>  Expansion of Unemployment Benefits 
H.R. 6201, FAMILIES FIRST CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE ACT 

RESPONDING TO THE CORONAVIRUS

Center for Disease Control
COVID-19 Data Tracker
CDC Guidance for Workplaces and Businesses (Updated 4/22/2021)

SC Department of Commerce
COVID-19 Business Resources

MORE INFORMATION AS AVAILABLE, PLEASE CHECK BACK.


OBO - Ready to discover your next opportunity?

Need an Opportunity to Start or Grow your Small Business

Small businesses drive the U.S. economy by providing jobs for over half of the nation’s private workforce.  Yet small businesses also face many obstacles that stall or prevent their growth and development, including access to capital, effective marketing strategies, adequate accounting systems, and comprehensive business plans.

An opportunity is a chance for advancement and progress.  The Office of Business “Opportunities” uses several economic development tools to provide creative business opportunities to address many of the obstacles that face small businesses.  

How We Do It…

The Office of Business Opportunities has three divisions that are designed to help meet the needs of small, minority and women owned businesses in the City of Columbia: (1) commercial lending; (2) technical assistance, education and advocacy; and (3) contractor and supplier diversity.

Commercial Lending:

The City invests dollars to do economic development in disadvantaged areas and corridors that are not generally thriving through normal operations of private market activity.  Our commercial lending program is designed to promote new investment in business growth and job creation.

In addition to traditional commercial loans, the City has a Commercial Retention & Redevelopment Program (CRR).  The purpose of this program is to help merchants improve the look of their individual buildings, while improving the overall aesthetic quality of our commercial corridors and business districts.

Technical Assistance, Education & Advocacy:

OBO, both directly and through its partner network, offers a broad range of programs and services to help businesses maintain their competitive edge. These programs and services include:

•    Creating Your Business Plan
•    Development of Marketing Strategies
•    Website Development
•    Market Research
•    Expansion Strategies
•    Social Media Training

Contractor and Supplier Diversity:

It is the policy of the City of Columbia to promote and encourage contracting and supplier opportunities for small, minority and women owned business enterprises (SMWBEs), which have traditionally been underutilized in City Contracts.  The City of Columbia has developed a Mentor Protégé Program, Local Business Enterprise Preference and Subcontractor Outreach Program to provide meaningful project opportunities for these businesses.

The OBO is charged with recruiting SMWBEs and building their capacity so that they competitively bid on city opportunities.

OBO Brochure

Contractors, Small & Minority-owned Business Opportunities


CDBE Application Form and Current CDBE & DBE Directories:

To review the CDBE & DBE directories and to obtain a CDBE application form, click here to be directed to OBO's CDBE page!

OBO is waiting to hear from you:  803.545.3950 or [email protected]