York County EDA to Offer Google Grant Program to Businesses

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The York County Economic Development Authority is offering grants for businesses to participate in Google Virtual Tour to enhance exposure on the leading search engine. (Image courtesy of York County and Google)
The York County Economic Development Authority is offering grants for businesses to participate in Google Virtual Tour to enhance exposure on the leading search engine. (Image courtesy of York County and Google)

A Google program is coming to York County to help businesses gain more exposure online.

The York County Economic Development Authority is partnering with the York County Office of Economic Development and the region’s Google Trusted Photographers to offer the Google Street View for Business Grant Program.

The program is designed to help businesses receive enhanced exposure on Google by posting a virtual tour of the interior of their commercial space.

According to a study conducted by Google in 2015, virtual tours help double the interest in business listings.

“One of the main goals of our office is to strongly promote and support our existing businesses,” said Melissa Davidson, assistant director of the York County Office of Economic Development.

Davidson said marketing continues to come up every year from annual surveys to help small businesses in the county, which takes the majority of the business population.

The grant program was brought before the EDA in February by a Google Trusted Photographer, and the board subsequently appropriated $20,000 in matching grant funds for the program.

“Immediately, we said we’ve got to get more businesses to know about this,” Davidson said.

The EDAs for the City of Williamsburg and James City County are both considering the program and will likely hear proposals soon.

The only requirement for posting a business’ virtual tour on Google is the photography must be done by a Google Trusted Photographer, and several can be found in Hampton Roads, including two on the Peninsula with the others on the Southside.

The photographers charge the business a nominal fee to do the interior panoramic photography. Utilizing the Google software platform, the photographer then develops the virtual tour from the still photographs and posts it online to the business’ Google listing.

Grants from the EDA are 50 percent of the total photography costs with the maximum grant award being $500 per business. Grants will only be awarded for work performed after approval of the application.

All projects must be completed within six months of approval. Only one application is allowed per commercial location.

In addition to increased online exposure, the business retains the photos and virtual tour for additional promotional uses. The Office of Economic Development is also given use of the images to promote economic development initiatives.

Application requirements and qualification criteria are available on the EDA website. For more information about the grant program, call the Office of Economic Development at 757-890-3317.