Here's a Leader on Wall Street Giving Grants to Spark Growth and Jobs on Main Street

JP Morgan Chase may have done its part to blow up the U.S. economy a few years back thanks to irresponsible lending practices, but lately the company and its foundation have been giving big to foster economic growth and improve jobs skills. 

While the biggest money is going toward a major push on job training, a good chunk of change is also going to strengthen small businesses. Indeed, some of this money is going directly to such businesses through the bank's Mission Main Street Grants program.

For the third year, Chase is offering grants to 20 small business innovators. The payout this year comes to $3 million, with each grantee getting $150,000. And because Google is the lead outside sponsor of this program, grantees will also get a trip to Google headquarters and a bunch of Google gadgets, tools, and freebies. Again, these grants are for small businesses, not nonprofits.

“Small businesses are invaluable to the growth of our economy and represent the lifeblood of the neighborhoods and communities they serve,” said Jennifer Piepszak, Head of Sales and Strategy for Chase Business Banking.  

Oh, and one other thing about those small businesses: They're great customers for Chase! We should know here at IP, since a Chase business loan is helping finance our expansion. 

Chase also has a dog in the workforce training fight, by the way, as a major employer in urban areas where finding career-ready young people can be a challenge. Which is to say that Chase, like so many corporate funders, keeps its philanthropy close to homeaddressing important challenges in U.S. society, yes, but with a focus on those that affect the bottom line. 

The deadline for entry in this year's Mission Main Street Grants has passed, but the voting period for the grants is open until October 17th. Here, the public is invited to vote for the businesses that they believe show the most promise. Businesses that qualify by garnering enough public support (all you need is 250 votes!) will be judged by a diverse panel of leaders.

So who wins these grants and why? Good question. A look at past recipients reveals that grantees span a range of sectors, but one correlation is that many address a social problem or are committed to sustainability in addition to making a profit. That's not surprising, since the panel of judges includes many leaders from business organizations with social missions. 

There is no way to know exactly how many businesses are competing since Chase does not keep a list for public view, but its voting page has a search function that can help you get a sense of the landscape of competition.