Small businesses are the backbone of our nation. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), businesses with fewer than 500 employees were responsible for 64 percent of the job growth in our nation between 1998 and 2008. Since small businesses are responsible for more than half of our nation’s job growth, it only makes sense that they be an important part in our push for a clean energy economy. A new report from the Department of Energy shows that more than $5 billion in Recovery Act dollars and other government funding programs has been awarded to small businesses for clean energy projects.

The report examined grant awards from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, government contracts, tax incentives, and other loans. A total of 261 Recovery Act competitive grants have been awarded to small businesses in the following clean energy categories:

The DOE report shows that overall, 1,058 grants have been awarded. Small businesses account for nearly 25 percent of the competitive grants. Although only 25 percent of the grants were awarded directly to small businesses, the ripple effect of these grants will be felt by other small businesses in affiliated fields.

To support its statement that the Recovery Act is helping small business owners, the DOE report shares some real-world examples. Atlanta businessman Victor Gomez has been in the energy efficiency retrofitting business for more than a decade. However, the financial crisis almost caused Gomez to close the doors of his company. Although Gomez didn’t receive a Recovery Act award directly, he benefited from the $8.8 million that was awarded to a community action agency. This enabled him to keep four people previously slated for staff reduction to stay employed.

Another example given in the DOE report is that of Accu-Weld in Pennsylvania. The company laid off 70 employees in 2008, as the recession began to have far reaching effects. In addition to the layoffs, the company also had to reduce existing staff hours. Recovery Act funding has allowed Accu-Weld employees to increase their hours from 32 per week to 45 per week. Accu-Weld owners are optimistic about 2010.

In addition to the energy efficiency projects detailed here, small renewable energy businesses are also getting a piece of the Recovery Act pie. Grants for wind, solar, geothermal and other clean energy projects have topped $491 million. Small businesses have received about $145 million of these grants.

These are just a few examples of how the Recovery Act is helping keep small businesses afloat. For more specific information, please download the DOE report: Small Business Helping Drive Economy: Clean Energy, Clean Sites (PDF).

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