SW Wisconsin small businesses benefit from $5.2 million in pandemic grants

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — A Dickeyville trucking company, Cuba City insurance brokerage, Hazel Green woodworker and Platteville dry cleaner are among 1,381 small businesses in the southwest corner of Wisconsin that received state grants to help them ride out the pandemic.

Data recently released by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue indicates that business owners in Crawford, Grant, Iowa and Lafayette counties received nearly $5.2 million in federal COVID-19-related funding disbursed by the state in 2020.

“We had to be shut down for three months,” said Adam Guilette, co-owner of The Hive, a Platteville CBD retailer. “We lost a lot of sales there, while we were still paying the rent.”

He and his business partners, Luis Rivera III and Vince Selvey, applied for a “We’re All In Grant,” which provided the company with $5,000.

“It helped cover for (lost sales) for a little bit … (and) put us in a situation where we would have a little bit more money to try to expand our website and reach out to more wholesalers,” Guilette said.

The program, created by Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., disbursed dollars authorized under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act to help businesses following mandated shutdowns from March through late May.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers allocated $240 million to the program. Grants for small and medium-sized businesses ranged from $2,500 to $20,000.

Abby Haas, Lafayette County economic development director, said many business owners lacking employees turned to the state program after learning they did not qualify for the federal Paycheck Protection Program.

“It’s great support to have,” she said. “It allowed them to get by during the shutdowns, but it is not going to make up their lost revenue.”

The shutdowns were especially detrimental to businesses because they occurred during the late spring and summer, normally a time where they save money to ride out the slower post-Christmas winter season, said Cuba City Economic Development Director Bob Jones.

“Last summer, they didn’t have those kinds of numbers,” said Jones, who reached out to local businesses to encourage them to apply for state grants. “Financially and psychologically, I think it is a great help. It’s nice for the businesses to know that the government cares about them, but we also worry how the government is going to pay for this.”

Potosi Brewing Co. received $20,000, which helped cover operating expenses, said David Fritz, president of Potosi Foundation, which owns the on-site brewery, restaurant and museum.

“Our business was down significantly as a result of the pandemic, and we want to make sure we are not only able to continue to operate now but also go back to full service and full occupancy,” he said.

While many restaurants offered curbside pickup options for would-be diners during the shutdown, the strategy was less successful for the brewery because most patrons are tourists, he said. Major fundraising events also were canceled.

“The application process was very simple, very straightforward and welcomed,” Fritz said.