MISSION: The Office of Business Opportunities (OBO) is committed to supporting initiatives that benefit small, minority, veteran, and women owned businesses located in, or that want to do business with, the City of Columbia. This is accomplished by providing creative financing,  technical assistance and capacity building opportunities that contribute to the economic growth of all communities.

Financial assistance to start-up and existing businesses for growth, expansion, retention and the creation of new jobs, and assistance in the redevelopment of commercial corridors that have become significantly deteriorated within the City.

Business development assistance and courses for start-ups and existing businesses looking to grow and expand covering topics including: marketing, use of social media, business plan development, finances, legal issues, and more.

Training and support for city initiatives designed to increase local contractor’s capacity to compete for government contracts and other procurement opportunities. We are also responsible for the implementation of the City’s Disparity Study Goals and Objectives.
Programs include: Sub-Contractor Outreach; Mentor Protégé; Local Business Enterprise; Columbia Disadvantage Business Enterprise; and Construction Management Training.



City of Columbia's Office of Business Opportunities Newsletter
Click here to join our email list and for current subscribers, please share our newsletter on your social media!


City of Columbia's Resilient Columbia CARES Act Revolving Loan Fund
The Office of Business Opportunities is now accepting applications for the Resilient Columbia CARES Act Revolving Loan Fund!  For more information, click on the Commercial Loans link at the top of the page!

City of Columbia Receives $2.9 Million EDA CARES Act Recovery Assistance Grant
The City of Columbia has received $2.9 million from the EDA CARES Act Recovery Assistance Grant to assist small businesses that have been economically impacted due to COVID-19.  To read more on this annoucement, click on the link below!
City of Columbia Receives $2.9 million from EDA CARES Act Recovery Assistance Grant

SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce Wants To Hear From You!
The SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce wants to hear from small business owners who have experienced mail delivery delays.  If you would like to share your story on how your small business is experiencing mail delivery delays, please send an email to [email protected]. Also, here's an article from The Post and Courier which provides examples of the negative impact on some small businesses.  To read more on this story, click on the link below.
Post and Courier: Some SC Businesses Say They Are Experiencing Delays Because of U.S. Postal Changes

City of Columbia's MaskUpColumbiaSC Challenge!
The City of Columbia and its community partners are excited to announce the #MaskUpColumbiaSC Challenge!!  This challenge is a photo and video contest that everyone can join in on to show off their own mask, demonstrate mask-making how to's, or even share fun and creative tik-toks!  To view the Mayor's announcement on the #MaskUpColumbiaSC Challenge click here!
MaskUpColumbiaSC Website

Calling All Businesses!!  Take The Resilient Columbia Pledge!!
The City of Columbia wants to recognize area businesses that are committed to following COVID-19 protocol, by creating a clean and safe business environment for both their employees and customers.  By taking The Resilient Columbia Pledge, businesses can demonstrate their commitment to following DHEC and CDC guidelines and encourage consumer confidence as our economy reopens.  Businesses participate in The Resilient Columbia Pledge will have the opportunity to display Resilient Columbia materials in their establishments to illustrate their partnership with the City of Columbia and dedication to the preventing the spread of COVID-19.  
Click here to take The Resilient Columbia Pledge

City of Columbia Develops Microsite and Communications Tools to Assist Small Businesses During COVID-19 Pandemic
The City of Columbia has created the Resilient Columbia microsite to provide information that may be helpful to small businesses as they reopen due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Features of this microsite include information about business resources for City departments, Resilient Columbia Economic Recovery Task Force meetings and presentations, COVID-19 mobile testing clinics and the Sustainability Plan.  This website will serve as the online hub for economic recovery information, business resources, and COVID-19 safety guidelines.  To view this new microsite, click here
Restart Columbia / Business FAQ's

SC Community Loan Fund Accepting Applications for the Local Entrepreneur Acceleration (LEAP) and Feeding Innovation Programs
The SC Community Loan Fund is currently accepting applications for the Local Entrepreneur Acceleration (LEAP) and Feeding Innovation pitch competitions that will be running in the fall!  The winners of each of these competitions will receive a $20,000 capital investment in their respective businesses!!  To apply for these programs and for more additional information, click on the link to the SC Community Loan Fund website!
SC Community Loan Fund Local Entrepreneur Acceleration Program (LEAP)
SC Community Loan Fund Feeding Innovation Program 

Artist Relief To Distribute $5,000 to Artists Due to COVID-19
Artist Relief will distribute $5,000 to artists facing dire financial emergencies due to COVID-19.  For more information and to apply, click on the link below.
Artist Relief FAQ and Application Website


South Carolina Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Training Events Calendar 


Making Your Plan to Disinfect
ReOpening America Guidance
Coronavirus.GOV Fact Sheet for Reopening America:  REOPENING WORKPLACES DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
CDC.GOV Fact Sheet:  What you should know about COVID-19 to protect yourself and others 
OSHA ALERT:  COVID-19 Guidance for Retail Workers (e.g., pharmacies, supermarkets, and big box stores)
Monster.com: Small Business COVID-19 Reopening Strategy
America's SBDC Small Business Resiliency Guide 
America's SBDC Small Business Resiliency Plan Template 
Innovation in a crisis: Why is it more critical than ever 
OSHA Guidance on Returning to Work 

Black Enterprise Women of Power Tech Virtual Summit
Black Enterprise will be having a Women of Power Tech Virtual Summit on September 23-24, 2020!  This inaugural virtual conference will provide a rich, unduplicated platform with sessions and coaching to help you identify new trends and opportunities and gain the digital upskilling necessary to advance across an array of tech-driven industries!  For more information and to register, click on the link below!
Registration for Black Enterprise Women of Power Tech Virtual Summit

Facebook Small Business Grants Program for Black Owned Businesses
Facebook has created a small business grants program for Black owned businesses!!  The purpose of this program is due to the company's commitment to invest in the African American community.  For more information and to apply for this grants program, click on the link below.
Facebook Small Business Grants Program for Black Owned Businesses

City Planning & Development Services Center:  Outdoor Dining Encroachments Policy
As you prepare to reopen your business, please use the link below to ensure your dining area will meet the Outdoor Dining Policy.  The City of Columbia supports and encourages the public use and enjoyment of sidewalks, tree zones, and other right-of-way areas for outdoor dining in all entertainment districts; however, use of sidewalks and other public areas must be ADA compliant, safe for pedestrian and vehicular traffic, and meet established design guidelines.  
Contained in one, fillable document:
Rules & Regulations;
Dining Encroachment Permit Application Checklist;
Acknowledgement of Permittee to Request for an Outdoor Dining Encroachment Permit; and
Outdoor Dining Encroachment Application 


Information from the Internal Revenue Service
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has provided great information to assist you and your small business in recovering financially due to #COVID-19.  Click on one of the following links to learn more!
IRS Annual "Dirty Dozen" List
IRS Video on Economic Impact Payments
IRS Newsletter - August 2020

SBA:  New Eligibility for Economic Injury Disaster Loan and Advance -- AGRICULTURE BUSINESSES ONLY!
At this time, only agricultural business applications are being accepted due to limitations in funding availability and the unprecedented submission of applications already received. Applicants who have already submitted their applications will continue to be processed on a first-come, first-served basis. For agricultural businesses that submitted an EIDL application through the streamlined application portal prior to the legislative change, SBA will process these applications without the need for re-applying.
SBA Disaster Loan Applications

SBA Express Bridge Loan Program Now Available! 
Express Bridge Loan Program Now Available:  The Express Bridge loan program allows SBA Express lenders to provide expedited financing to small businesses located in declared disaster areas. Express Bridge loans are intended to be interim loans. Businesses use these funds for disaster-related purposes while they apply for and await long-term financing.
SBA Express Bridge Loan Program Guide 

SBA:  Small Business Disaster Assistance for COVID-19 Low-Interest Working Capital Loan
SBA:  Economic Injury Disaster Advance Loan (EIDL) 
SBA:  FACT SHEET - Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL)

The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering designated states and territories low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
SBA:  Low-Interest Working Capital Loans - Eligibility Areas 

SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Advance Loans:  NEW, STREAMLINED APPLICATION (3/31/2020)
If you wish to apply for the Advance on your EIDL, please visit www.SBA.gov/Disaster as soon as possible to fill out a new, streamlined application. In order to qualify for the Advance, you need to submit this new application even if you previously submitted an EIDL application. Applying for the Advance will not impact the status or slow your existing application.

EIDL is offering up to $2 million in assistance.  Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) - ADVANCE LOANS of UP TO $10,000:  Working capital loans to help small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives , small business engaged in aquaculture, and most private , non-profit organizations of all sizes meet their ordinary and necessary financial obligations that cannot be met as a direct result of the disaster.  These loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact.  The deadline to apply is December 21, 2020. 

View SBA Slide Presentation:  EIDL Apply Online Details
SBA:  Economic Injury Disaster Advance Loan (EIDL) 

Traditional SBA Lenders CANNOT process SBA Disaster Loans. Once your state and area obtain the Local Disaster Declaration, your company can apply directly to the SBA Disaster Office for long term loans with reasonable interest rates.
Apply Directly:  SBA Disaster Office

US Department of Labor:  Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA): Questions and Answers (4/28/2020)
As provided under the legislation, the U.S. Department of Labor will be issuing & implementing regulations. Additionally, as warranted, the Department will continue to provide compliance assistance to employers and employees on their responsibilities and rights under the FFCRA.
88 Questions and Answers Sorted by Category (Definitions, Eligibility, Coverage, Application, Enforcement)

WASHINGTON, DC – Last week, the U.S. Department of Labor took a range of actions to aid American workers and employers as our nation combats the coronavirus pandemic.
DOL Acts to Help American Workers & Employers During the Coronavirus Pandemic 

U.S. Department of Labor: Quick BENEFITS TIPS from DOL
In general, applies to you if you are an employee of either a private employer with fewer than 500 employees or a covered public sector employer.
Quick BENEFITS TIPS "How much paid leave can employees take?" 

U.S. Department of Labor 
The U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) is committed to helping employers understand and comply with federal wage and hour laws.  Toolkits contain interactive step-by-step tools to walk employers through a variety of scenarios, in-depth guides to help employers navigate the requirements of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and fact sheets that detail how the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) applies to many specific types of employment.
Compliance Assistance Toolkits

SC Department of Commerce:  Share COVID-19 Resources:  GoFundMe and SalesForce Small Business GRANTS (4/28/2020)
The GoFundMe Small Business Relief Initiative is intended to support our local businesses facing financial loss. Make a difference today by donating or starting a fundraiser.
GoFundMe: Small Business Relief 
Must be For-Profit with annual revenue of $250K - 2M and 2-50 employees -- more....
Salesforce Small Business Grants (EAST)

A Resilient Columbia: Economic Sustainability Plan - Small Business Stabilization Forgivable (SBSF) Loan Program Update
The City of Columbia recognizes the tremendous needs of our small business community during this unprecedented crisis.  On March 20th, City leadership approved $1,000,000 for the establishment of the Small Business Stabilization Forgivable Loan Program (SBSF) in an effort to provide immediate financial assistance to our small business community in response to COVID-19.  To date, this funding has been awarded to 220 small businesses located within the corporate limits of the City of Columbia.

       - For a list of loan recipients, click here.
       - For more information on how the funds were distributed click 
here for the SBSF report made to Columbia City Council on May 19th.

On April 21st, Columbia City Council approved an additional $400,000 to be awarded to completed approved applications that have already been submitted but were not funded during the initial phase of the program due to limited funding.  These funds will be awarded between April 23rd and May 1st.

New applications are not currently being accepted for the SBSF program.  If additional funding is received for the SBSF program, the application process will be re-opened.

SC Chamber of Commerce and SC Department of Commerce 
In order to provide the Governor's accelerateSC Task Force with the most urgent needs of industries, SC Chamber of Commerce and SC Department of Commerce have developed a survey to assess the needs of businesses in our state.  To participate in this survey, please click here.
SC Department of Commerce COVID-19 Resources

SC Department of Employment and Workforce
Self-employed and gig workers are eligible for unemployment benefits under the CARES Act.  To read this information, click here to read the press release from SC DEW.
Unemployment Benefits Flyer
SC DEW Website
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance FAQ's

A Resilient Columbia - Economic Stabilization Non Profit Program - NOW TAKING APPLICATIONS
Columbia City Council has approved funds to launch A Resilient Columbia Economic Stabilization Plan for Non Profit organizations to provide local relief, recovery and rebuilding in response to impacts of COVID-19. Through participation in the Midlands Community Response Fund, the City will help continue the work of serving those impacted by disasters that hit our community. 

The project period is for 6 months and organizations may request up to $10,000.
NON PROFIT PROGRAM GUIDELINES (Read and follow guidelines before submitting application) & NON PROFIT PROGRAM APPLICATION

Resilient Columbia - Business Reopen Survey
Survey Results

Survey Results 
OBO's "QUICK LIST" of available COVID-19 Relief Funds and Efforts
COVID-19 Relief Funds and Efforts 

The deadline for Business License renewal has been extended from April 15, 2020 to May 15, 2020.  Hospitality Tax and Tourism Development penalties have been waived until June 2020.

Business License Office Website
Important Information from the City of Columbia Business License Division 

Contact Information:
Phone: 803-545-3345 | Fax: 803-988-8025
Office Hours: Mon-Fri - 8:30 a.m.- 5:00 p.m.


Wateree Community Actions, Inc. 
Wateree Community Actions, Inc. is offering assistance to individuals or families who are at risk of losing housing, live in unsafe or unaffordable housing or who are homeless due to COVID-19.  To read more click here to go to their website or click on the link below for additional information and application.
Wateree Community Actions Application

The Tory Burch Foundation: Embracing Women Entrepreneurs
The Tory Burch Foundation has a website dedicated to providing resources and information for female entrepreneurs.  To view this website, click here.

SPANX and The SPANX by Sara Blakely Foundation & GlobalGiving: The Red Backpack Fund
SPANX and The SPANX by Sara Blakely Foundation teamed up with GlobalGiving to create The Red Backpack Fund to assist female entrepreneurs in the United States to help alleviate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.  
The Red Backpack Fund Website

Richland County COVID-19 Pandemic Relief Program
Richland County Government will make $1,000,000 in financial support available to small businesses and nonprofits through a grant program. The COVID-19 Pandemic Relief Grant Program will allocate $500,000 for small businesses affected by the economic downturn and $500,000 for nonprofits addressing community needs, such as food insecurity amongst LMI populations, rent and utility assistance.  For more information, please click here to go to the Richland County Government website.
Richland County COVID-19 Pandemic Relief Program Press Release
Richland County COVID-19 Pandemic Relief Program Flyer

Artists Relief
Artist Relief will distribute $5,000 grants to artists facing dire financial emergencies due to COVID-19; serve as an ongoing informational resource; and co-launch the COVID-19 Impact Survey for Artists and Creative Workers, designed by Americans for the Arts, to better identify and address the needs of artists.  To support artists during the COVID-19 crisis, a coalition of national arts grant-makers have come together to create this emergency initiative to offer financial and informational resources to artists across the United States.  
Artist Relief Grant Application (APPLICATION)
COVID-19 Impact Survey for Artists and Creative Workers (SURVEY)
Americans for the Arts (About)
Artist Relief (About) 

Goldman Sachs Commits $300 Million to Support Communities and Small Business
Goldman Sachs has committed to delivering $300 million across two separate initiatives to help small businesses and communities around the world: Global Small Business Stimulus Package: A $275 million commitment to provide funding and lending to small businesses during this time of stress. $250 million to provide emergency loans to small businesses & $25 million in grants to Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and other mission-driven lenders; and Goldman Sachs COVID-19 Relief Fund: A $25 million commitment through Goldman Sachs Gives to support healthcare organizations, frontline responders, and the hardest-hit communities. To further encourage giving toward relief efforts, we’ve also established a special matching gift program for our people, up to a total of $5 million.
Goldman Sachs: Small Business Stimulus & COVID-19 Relief Fund 

National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): The NIH is deeply concerned for the health and safety of people involved in NIH research, and about the effects on the biomedical enterprise in the areas affected by the HHS declared public health emergency for COVID-19.  Due to the potential exceptional impact, we want to assure our recipient community that NIH will be doing our part to help you continue your research.
Information for NIH Applicants and Recipients of NIH Funding 

Richland County Public Library (RCPL) 
Small and local businesses are working through COVID19 with creativity. There are ways you can help, and your RCPL has put together a list of assistance and resources available for small business owners.
Support for Small Businesses 

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation:  A guide to helping small businesses navigate and recover from the COVID-19 crisis
April 2, 2020:  The Small Business Administration’s disaster relief program is the vanguard of government assistance for businesses during this crisis. Here are some resources in response to common questions entrepreneurs will be asking about the process.
Guide to Helping Small Businesses Navigate and recover from the COVID-19 Crisis

SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce:  Applications for Small Business PPP Loans Start Friday, April 3rd
April 1, 2020:  Late yesterday afternoon the U.S. Department of Treasury released instructions for loans under the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) in the CARES Act that went into effect this past Friday.  “Starting April 3, 2020, small businesses and sole proprietorships can apply. Starting April 10, 2020, independent contractors and self-employed individuals can apply. We encourage you to apply as quickly as you can because there is a funding cap,” as indicated in the instructions.
Application Information for Small Business PPP Starting Friday, April 3

Small Business Owner’s Guide to the CARES Act:  Updated 3/31/20
U.S. Chamber of Commerce has issued this new guide to help small businesses and self-employed individuals prepare to file for a loan.
Small Business Guide and Checklist

New resources available for small businesses, as well as certain nonprofits and other employers. The Small Business Owner’s Guide to the CARES Act link below provides information about the major programs and initiatives available from the Small Business Administration (SBA) to address these needs, as well as some additional tax provisions that are outside the scope of SBA.
Small Business Owner's Guide to the CARES Act

Seven Companies Offering COVID-19 Relief Funds for Diverse Business Owners
Article: Forbes Magazine - Janice Gassam, Senior Contributor
Seven Companies Offering COVID-19 Relief Funds for Diverse Business Owners

Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) Information for Women-Owned Businesses
Resources for Women-Owned Businesses in Response to COVID-19

City of Columbia, SC: Stay-At-Home Ordinance - - Effective 12:01 am Sunday, 3/29/2020

Columbia City Council passed a stay-at-home ordinance Thursday afternoon, 3/26/20, in an attempt to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. It means all non-essential businesses in Columbia are ordered to close for two weeks, and residents have to stay at home unless they are walking outside, or going to work or shop at an essential business.
Stay-At-Home Ordinance
Stay-At-Home Ordinance FAQs

ROTH LAW FIRM:  DETAILED SUMMARY Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the “Act”); 3/28/20 
The Act includes loans and other disbursements for individuals and small businesses, support for health care providers, and measures to stabilize severely distressed sectors of the economy.
Detailed Summary:  Coronavirus Aid, Relief, & Economic Security Act 

U.S. Department of the Treasury, IRS and the U.S. Department of Labor Announce Plan to Implement Coronavirus-Related Paid Leave for Workers and Tax Credits for Small and Midsize Businesses to Swiftly Recover the Cost of Providing Coronavirus-Related Leave 
News Release:  Coronavirus-Related Paid Leave for Workers and Tax Credits for Small & Midsize Businesses

The Wage and Hour Division provides information on common issues employers and employees face when responding to COVID-19, and its effects on wages and hours worked under the Fair Labor Standards Act and job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
COVID-19 and the Workplace

"U.S. Department of Labor Announces Availability of Up to $100 Million In National Health Emergency Dislocated Worker Grants in "Response to COVID-19 Outbreak"
National Health Emergency Dislocated Worker Grants

This Act, signed into law on March 18, 2020, contains the following:
>  Emergency Paid Sick Leave & Emergency Family Medical Leave (What this Bill Does - Fact Sheet)
>  Coverage for COVID-19 Testing 
>  Expansion of Unemployment Benefits 


Center for Disease Control
COVID-19 Cases in US:  Statistics, News & Updates (4/6/2020)
Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers 

Information Provided by the City of Columbia
Preventative Measures for Coronavirus & Flu

SC Department of Commerce
Covid-19 Business Resource Center

SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce
Covid-19 Impact on Small Business: UPDATE and INFORMATION

Richland County Public Library:  Support for Small Business
Covid-19:  Resources for Small Businesses 


OBO - Ready to discover your next opportunity?

Need an Opportunity to Start or Grow your Small Business

Small businesses drive the U.S. economy by providing jobs for over half of the nation’s private workforce.  Yet small businesses also face many obstacles that stall or prevent their growth and development, including access to capital, effective marketing strategies, adequate accounting systems, and comprehensive business plans.

An opportunity is a chance for advancement and progress.  The Office of Business “Opportunities” uses several economic development tools to provide creative business opportunities to address many of the obstacles that face small businesses.  

How We Do It…

The Office of Business Opportunities has three divisions that are designed to help meet the needs of small, minority and women owned businesses in the City of Columbia: (1) commercial lending; (2) technical assistance, education and advocacy; and (3) contractor and supplier diversity.

Commercial Lending:

The City invests dollars to do economic development in disadvantaged areas and corridors that are not generally thriving through normal operations of private market activity.  Our commercial lending program is designed to promote new investment in business growth and job creation.

In addition to traditional commercial loans, the City has a Commercial Retention & Redevelopment Program (CRR).  The purpose of this program is to help merchants improve the look of their individual buildings, while improving the overall aesthetic quality of our commercial corridors and business districts.

Technical Assistance, Education & Advocacy:

OBO, both directly and through its partner network, offers a broad range of programs and services to help businesses maintain their competitive edge. These programs and services include:

•    Creating Your Business Plan
•    Development of Marketing Strategies
•    Website Development
•    Market Research
•    Expansion Strategies
•    Social Media Training

Contractor and Supplier Diversity:

It is the policy of the City of Columbia to promote and encourage contracting and supplier opportunities for small, minority and women owned business enterprises (SMWBEs), which have traditionally been underutilized in City Contracts.  The City of Columbia has developed a Mentor Protégé Program, Local Business Enterprise Preference and Subcontractor Outreach Program to provide meaningful project opportunities for these businesses.

The OBO is charged with recruiting SMWBEs and building their capacity so that they competitively bid on city opportunities.

OBO Brochure

Contractors, Small & Minority-owned Business Opportunities

Contractors!  Apply NOW for 
Columbia Disadvantaged 
Business Enterprise (CDBE) Status!

Is your business:
1)  Located within the Columbia-Orangeburg-Newberry Combined Statistical Area (CSA)
2)  A Certified Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE)

That's all it takes to qualify for CDBE Status - it's that simple!

Contact:  [email protected] 
or call:  803.545.3049 or 803.545.4185

Columbia Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Utilization Policy
Commercial Non-Discrimination and Columbia Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (CDBE) Utilization Policy

Columbia Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (CDBE) Program Guidelines

CDBE Application Form and Current CDBE & DBE Directories:

CDBE Application Form
CDBE Directory - Registered Columbia Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (Columbia ONLY)
DBE Directory - Registered Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (Outside of Columbia ONLY)

OBO is waiting to hear from you:  803.545.3950 or [email protected]