Hub City officials explain importance of grants
HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) -The City of Hattiesburg has received over $100 million in federal, state and non-profit grant money over the past six years.
In the city’s 140-year history, it has seen a lot of changes—most of those made possible by grants.
“We go after a lot of stuff and we’re very aggressive when it comes to pursuing federal, state, non-profit funding,” said Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker. “That can be sometimes direct grant programs, direct allocation from the legislature but we’re usually working on a new application at least once or twice every month.”
Timelines for grants can vary—nothing happens overnight, and it can take months of planning, preparation, research and collaboration to prepare for one grant.
“So, a lot of the work I do is collaborative,” said City Grants Coordinator Adam Moore. “So, that’s working with other department heads to work on compiling grant application materials and working with 3rd party outside people who are also helping us with the more complicated grants.”
Grants can be awarded in several different areas—from infrastructure and parks and rec to transportation. They also have to align with the city’s current needs.
Large grants, at a high level, are pursued years in advance. Sometimes, it takes multiple tries before successfully winning one because your organization isn’t the only one vying for the award.
For example, the BUILD Grant for the Hall Avenue West Overpass was awarded in the fall of 2020, after applying for two years without an award. That award was announced in October of 2020. The construction of the project began in 2023.
Additional factors that have helped the city successfully seek and win grant funding include:
- Responsible budgeting leads to allocated funding that can be leveraged as the local match.
- Working closely with the Pine Belt’s legislative and congressional delegation.
- Building a network of partners to learn more about new grants and establishing relationships with agency staff who make funding decisions.
- Well-written proposals
- Having the capacity to implement good staffing and record keeping.
Barker said more grant programs have been created in the past few years because of new programs.
“Particularly in the last few years, there are more grants available now that you have the American Rescue Plan, you have CARES, you have the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, you have Inflation Reduction Act,” Barker said. “All of these new programs are out there but it takes effort to go after them and get them.”
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