May 6, 2020

Downtown Digital Group, an advertising and marketing solutions company, and Johnson Newspaper Corp. are launching “A Hand Up Marketing Grant” program to give area businesses help in promoting — and reintroducing — their business to the community following weeks of closures or limited operations due to the COVID-19 crisis.

“Everyone who owns a business is eager to get things rolling again and we want to help local businesses recapture the attention of local consumers,” said Michael Messerly, vice president of advertising and digital revenue for the Downtown Digital Group and the Johnson Newspaper Corp.

“Soon, people are going to be out and about and we want to help business owners reintroduce themselves and the products and services best offered by local businesses,” Messerly said.

With many businesses forced to close because of government mandates, many consumers have shifted their spending to online only businesses.

“It is time to bring those local dollars back into local businesses,” Messerly said.

The “A Hand Up Marketing Grant” will serve as a booster to business marketing plans. Grants of up to $5,000 per business may be used to assist businesses marketing through Johnson Newspaper Corp. publications and digital platforms, including the Register-Star, The Daily Mail and

“When receiving the grants, local businesses will be able to do more with advertising budgets that have been compromised by the pandemic,” Messerly said.

Businesses in Columbia and Greene counties are eligible for the program as are businesses in Albany, Dutchess, Ulster, Berkshire, Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence, Oswego, Oneida, Onondaga, Franklin, Clinton, Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming counties.

Other participating media include the Watertown Daily Times, Courier Observer, (Lowville) Journal and Republican, Oswego County News, The Oswego Shopper, (St. Lawrence County) Advances News, the website, The Malone Telegram and, The (Batavia) Daily Mail and the

The advertising management of the Downtown Digital Group will review all applications and forward them on to the respective publications, which will reach out and design a marketing plan with each grant recipient to maximize the grant value to its fullest extent.

A representative from Downtown Digital Group will follow up with each business that applies for “A Hand Up Grant.”

“We will be working with each ‘A Hand Up Grant’ winner to design a marketing plan that reaches the right audience at the right time with the right message,” Messerly said. “Online only businesses have created a new foothold in local consumers’ wallets and checkbooks. We will work with our local businesses to remind local consumers that it’s actually more enjoyable to be out of the house and out shopping again.”

Applications are available online only due to COVID-19 concerns. The application process begins immediately, and the marketing will be used throughout May to get a stronger jump start on the summer to get business as close to normal again as possible.

“We don’t have a limit on the number of grants awarded, we want to be there for as many local businesses as possible,” Messerly said.

Applications may be found online at