Burnt Hills

Drone pilot, funeral director to get microenterprise grants

Town of Ballston allocates funds to five small local businesses
Kathleen Sanvidge is shown in her office at Townley & Wheeler Funeral Home in February 2017.
Kathleen Sanvidge is shown in her office at Townley & Wheeler Funeral Home in February 2017.

BALLSTON — A new drone business and a long-running funeral home are among the latest recipients of microenterprise grants.

The town of Ballston in 2016 was approved for $200,000 in grant funding; in late March, it announced awards to five businesses:

  • KC Welding, $35,000;
  • Long Road Winegrowers, $35,000;
  • NY Drone Zone, $29,000; 
  • Terry’s Floors, $35,000;
  • Townley & Wheeler Funeral Home, $31,000.

The money comes from the federal government in the form of Community Development Block Grants. 

New York State Homes and Community Renewal administers the grant program; it chooses municipalities to receive blocks of microenterprise program funding, and local officials decide how to allocate those dollars.

The municipalities are allowed to retain up to 25 percent for administrative costs; the town of Ballston got $200,000 and distributed about 84 percent of that to the five businesses.

Other recent municipal recipients in the Capital Region have included Albany County, Bethlehem, Mechanicville and Watervliet.

HCR spokesman Freeman Klopott said on Thursday that 87 municipalities have received a total of about $17.4 million in microenterprise funds since 2011.

In Ballston, the money will be spent in a variety of ways, all with the larger goal of building businesses.

Caroline Casale, owner of NY Drone Zone, said she’ll use the grant to upgrade equipment and get herself and another pilot trained for roof inspections.

Real estate photography and photogrammetry mapping of various sites are among her company’s specialties, and she’s trying to expand her geographic reach without doing too much traveling.

“I have about 13 pilots across New York state that I have kind of recruited as subcontractors,” Casale explained.

She obtained her pilot license and started her business last year. It’s still a seasonal venture at this point, but this will be her second season in business, and she’s hoping to get NY Drone Zone certified this year as a woman-owned business, which will give her a better shot at landing New York state contracts.

Kathleen Sanvidge, owner of Townley & Wheeler, said the grant will help her install a state-of-the-art embalming facility.

The funeral home on Midline Road was built as a residence nearly a century ago and was converted to a funeral home in 1949 by the Townley family. Sanvidge bought the business in 2013 and soon expanded the visitation room and porch to add more open space. 

The grant will help her position the business for the future and maintain it as an independent operation, which was a goal of the Townleys as they reached the point of retirement.

“I’m determined to keep the Townley name alive,” Sanvidge said.

She expects to have the project complete by midsummer. She’s interviewing candidates and hopes to hire another licensed funeral director shortly. 

KC Welding will use its grant for startup expenses, including the purchase of welding equipment.

Long Road Winegrowers will use its grant for equipment and facilities, including a tasting room and outdoor crush pad.

Terry’s Floors plans to hire a full-time installer and a part-time administrative assistant.

Klopott listed some other details about the microenterprise grant program:

  • The goal is to assist very-small businesses so that they will stimulate economic growth that will improve and preserve homes and communities.
  • A microenterprise is defined as a for-profit business that has five or fewer employees, including the owner(s).
  • The owner must meet the low- to moderate-income qualifications, or the grant must be applied to create a job that matches those qualifications.
  • Grants are need-based and range from $5,000 to $35,000. 
  • A grant may not exceed 90 percent of project’s cost; owner equity contribution must equal at least 10 percent.
  • The owner must complete an approved entrepreneurial-assistance or small-business training program prior to receiving CDBG Microenterprise grant funds. 

Categories: Business, News, Schenectady County

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