Financial Committee Postpones Brunswick Business Grant Application | The Economy Digest

Financial Committee Postpones Brunswick Business Grant Application

Financial Committee Postpones Brunswick Business Grant Application

Brunswick’s finance committee deferred voting on a proposal to reallocate American Rescue Plan Act funds into a new business startup grant. A good chunk of ARPA money went into a revolving loan program, which proved not to be as popular at the local level as the city’s Downtown Development Authority expected, said Dylan Lukitsch, DDA’s manager of business development and economic strategy.

Instead, he recommended diverting the money set aside for that program into the Commercial Property Enhancement Grant. It would be available to businesses citywide. The News reported in Monday’s edition that it would be limited to the DDA’s boundaries.

A business owner could be awarded $7,500 to $25,000, but the grant, as proposed, could only pay up to half of the project cost and the project must be completed within six months.

Several businesses already approached him about projects they have in mind that are just waiting on the funds to complete them.

“It is a comprehensive, big-budget item grant,” Lukitsch said. “… We want this to be a big impact on the downtown area.”

The city has many buildings waiting for new tenants, but obstacles like new grease traps, sprinkler systems, and meeting the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act can be enough of a burden to dissuade potential entrepreneurs, he explained.

“Grease traps alone can make or break a project,” Lukitsch said.

Properties must be commercial and in a visually prominent area, according to the proposal. Buildings at the city’s gateways and on Norwich street would be stressed.

Other factors included the quality of the proposal and adherence to the city’s comprehensive plan and the DDA’s strategic plan and availability of funds. Industrial, automotive, and nonprofit businesses would not be eligible.

Local companies that received money from the Back to Business Brunswick program would also be ineligible, Lukitsch said.

City Manager Regina McDuffie said she was in favor but wanted to reevaluate the amount allocated to the grant. Brunswick Mayor Cosby Johnson asked for the members of the DDA to work with McDuffie on the total amount allocated to the program and present it again at the finance committee’s next meeting.

Johnson and Mayor Pro Tem Felicia Harris make up the city’s finance committee. It does not make final decisions on financial matters, but recommendations to the five-member city commission.

Johnson was also concerned the limited timespan would scare off smaller businesses that may not have the resources to put into substantial advanced planning. He suggested that instead of a timeline, the city require certain documents in advance as evidence that some advance planning had taken place.

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