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Q: What kind of government aid can I get to start a business in a low-income area? --F.G., Atlanta

A: There are plenty of programs, but there's no free lunch. All take considerable time and paperwork, so check the criteria before diving in. At the federal level, the Small Business Administration gives qualified companies preferred-contractor status (, and the Housing & Urban Development Dept. offers employee-wage tax credits to companies in empowerment zones (

Most programs, though, are administered at the state or local level. The best place to start is with your local government's business or economic development department. In Atlanta, contact the Atlanta Empowerment Zone Corp. ( By Karen E. Klein

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