Nonprofit seeks applications for Mohawk Trail Entrepreneur Challenge

  • People hike the Mahican-Mohawk Trail in Shelburne. The North Adams nonprofit Lever Inc. plans to award $25,000 to a business owner to advance a woodland-related regional business through its Mohawk Trail Entrepreneur Challenge. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 10/30/2020 7:50:28 PM

A North Adams-based economic development nonprofit is accepting applications for the Mohawk Trail Entrepreneur Challenge.

Lever Inc. is seeking entrepreneurs looking to build a woodland-related regional business. One business owner will receive $25,000 to advance their project.

Applications are due as soon as possible, but the Lever team hopes to close the window for applications by the end of November.

“Our team will review the applications, and they will reach back out for some interviews,” said Jade Schnauber, programs manager at Lever, adding that within a month of closing applications, she expects to reach out to candidates to let them know whether they are a finalist.

To qualify, entrepreneurs must be located in one of the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership members towns. In Franklin County, that includes Ashfield, Charlemont, Conway, Heath, Leyden, Monroe, Rowe and Shelburne.

Sixteen towns and many businesses — stretching from the New York-Massachusetts state line to Greenfield along Route 2 — are beginning to see the benefits of joining the new public-private Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership, according to a statement from Whit Sanford of the Greater Shelburne Falls Area Business Association.

“(Lever) wants to encourage recreational tourism in the region and good forest management, both of which would be helped by the company that wins the 25,000,” said Sanford, who also sits on the executive committee of the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership.

The challenge is funded by a grant from the Baker-Polito Administration, which awarded $225,000 to Lever and eight municipalities in the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership, according to a press release from Lever.

“The conservation of the commonwealth’s forests is critical to meet our ambitious target of net-zero emissions by 2050,” said Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. “We are pleased to support the work of Lever Inc. to drive local economic development and job creation as we work toward our shared mission of preserving the unique natural resources within the Mohawk Trail region for future generations.”

Some examples of qualifying businesses include woodland-related tourism, woodcraft and woodland-derived natural products. Preference will be given to business ideas that have the potential to attract outside revenue sources, such as through tourism.

According to Lever, preference will also be given to business ideas that have the potential for swift scalability and rapid job creation; individuals or business ideas that can identify potential funding sources to support rapid scaling; and business plan ideas that incorporate resilience to climate change.

Applicants are encouraged to apply early for “priority consideration.” Interested entrepreneurs can apply at Leverinc.org.

Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne


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