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State Awards More Than $70K Each To Two Wilmington Firms

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Feb 3, 2021
Two Wilmington companies have received more than $70,000 each in state grants.

The awards were funded by a portion of North Carolina's share of the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

Bear Fiber Inc. received more than $70,800 and OpiAID LLC received nearly $74,500 as part of the state's latest round of One N.C. Small Business program grants to aid in job creation and help innovative businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a news release. 

The two local companies were part of a group of 29 businesses across the state to receive the latest grants through the program, which has awarded a total of $1.5 million to selected tech firms. 

The grant to Bear Fiber will help the company develop a new method for processing clothing-grade hemp fibers that uses less water and energy, stated the release. The production could also be used to make face masks and shoe coverings to combat COVID-19. This is a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) project that is sponsored by the N.C. Department of Agriculture.

The funds to OpiAID will help it develop "an advanced wearable device to aid in treatment for opioid abuse by detecting biological indicators of overdose, withdrawal and relapse, allowing for more effective prevention and treatment," stated the release. This is also an SBIR project, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The One North Carolina Small Business Program provides state grants to match federal funds awarded through the SBIR and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, which help small companies develop new and innovative technologies that have a high potential for commercialization, stated the release.

Since 2006, the program has helped more than 270 companies in 45 cities across the state, "resulting in nearly 1,000 North Carolina jobs and bringing to market hundreds of high-tech products in a wide variety of sectors, including life sciences, chemicals, agriculture, computers, communications, military/defense, pharmaceuticals, energy, materials, among others," stated the release.

The program is overseen by the N.C. Board of Science, Technology & Innovation, officials said.

“As a champion and promoter of job creation and technological innovations in our state, the board implemented this year’s program to provide strong support to as many businesses as possible,” said Michael Cunningham, chair of the N.C. Board of Science, Technology & Innovation.

“As a result, one third of our grants went to companies directly working to solve the coronavirus pandemic, another third were indirectly working to address the issue, and the remaining third of the grants went to companies that experienced significant costs of employment or experienced consequential business or technological interruptions," he said. "The need is great, and we hope to be able to support additional companies with additional funding for the program.”
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