UM Launches Initiative to Aid Businesses Affected by COVID-19

April 09, 2020

MISSOULA – Businesses impacted by COVID-19 now have a single point of entry to assistance and expertise, thanks to the University of Montana’s new Business Emergency Assistance and Recovery (B.E.A.R.) Powered by UM initiative.

In recent weeks, UM has actively supported businesses in Missoula and across the state in navigating the impacts of COVID-19 through its Accelerate Montana portfolio of economic development programs.

The Missoula Small Business Development Center, hosted at UM, helps businesses prepare for applying for loans via the Small Business Administration or the new CARES Act. The Blackstone LaunchPad and Accelerate Montana Rural Innovation Initiative provide coaching sessions to entrepreneurs, as well as host live interviews and webinars with business owners, lawyers and other experts to share insights and expertise.

UM sectors such as Accelerate Montana, Missoula College and the College of Business also are active with the Missoula County Economic Recovery Taskforce led by the Missoula Economic Partnership. Late last week, Grant Kier, the CEO of MEP, asked UM to quickly and efficiently connect businesses to the relevant advice and expertise needed to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Many small business owners in Missoula County do not have a dedicated team to help them navigate the resources established by the CARES Act,” Kier said. “We’re asking BEAR Powered by UM to help businesses ensure they receive the guidance they need.”

UM President Seth Bodnar welcomed the opportunity for UM to use its expertise and resources to serve the business community.

“This is another tremendous example of fast, effective collaboration between UM and the city and county, all in the service of supporting the economic health of our community,” he said.

“Providing timely advice and referring businesses to other relevant programs and resources is something our Accelerate Montana programs do as a matter of course, but at this time of acute need, we are excited to play an expanded role,” said Paul Gladen, executive director of Accelerate Montana.

The BEAR Powered by UM program enables businesses to submit a simple form indicating where they need assistance. UM then will identify individuals, programs or organizations that are best placed to assist or guide the business. It may be a member of the Accelerate Montana team or an attorney who specializes in a certain topic, said Brigitta Miranda-Freer, director for the Montana World Trade Center and the Montana Technology Enterprise Center, both Accelerate Montana programs.

“Many of our programs operate across the state, so BEAR Powered by UM is not restricted to businesses in Missoula County,” Miranda-Freer said. “We also will draw upon the many collaborative relationships we have with other economic development and business support programs statewide.”

Accelerate Montana programs also employ several UM students who are gaining tremendous experiential learning from their participation at this unprecedented time.

Learn more about the BEAR Powered by UM Program on the Accelerate Montana website.

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Contact: Paul Gladen, director, Blackstone LaunchPad at UM and Accelerate Montana, 406-396-3534, paul.gladen@umontana.edu.