Authority grant program helps small businesses

Sunday Times Newspapers

WYANDOTTE – To bring in new businesses to the area, the city’s Downtown Development Authority is offering them a helping hand.

The authority has awarded nearly $25,000 in grants to local businesses since the grant program began in June. Nearly $50,000 will be awarded in total, DDA Director Brandon Wescott said.

The $5,000 grants are meant to assist businesses coming into, moving within or expanding in the downtown district, Wescott said.

“There were businesses that had expressed interest in the downtown, but they were running into problems with the cost of moving,” Wescott said. “After hearing that sentiment carry over a few times, the board decided to make these grants available to provide as an economic tool to assist these businesses.”

So far, Angelina’s Mexican Restaurant, Cheesecake Magic, Riverside Yarn Gallery, The Gallery Building LLC. and Total Health Foods have each received grant money from the program.

Wescott said the program’s biggest success is its ability to help recipients “kick-start” their businesses and improve the downtown area.

“Five thousand dollars doesn’t sound like a lot of money,” Wescott said, “but when you look at the investment with a $5,000 kick-start, it’s a great leverage tool to attract and keep great businesses here.”

The grants were based on similar ones given by organizations in Paw Paw and Kalamazoo.

Maximum grant funding for a business cannot exceed $5,000 per year or $15,000 over three years. Some improvements, including routine maintenance and rehabilitation of dwelling space are not eligible. Sidewalk cafes may not currently receive funds under the program, but Wescott said the DDA intends to re-evaulate that at their next meeting.

Covered upgrades include work done to the building’s facade, among other costs.

“A lot of the costs we’re looking at covering are rehab and relocation,” Wescott said, “things that actually make a business locate here.”

DDA Chairwoman Patricia Slack said the grants are meant to nurture unique businesses.

“(Wyandotte) is filled with the entrepreneurial spirit and even the smallest, most unique shops survive in these trying times. We hope we find more of us … who have great ideas and the drive to make them happen. That is what this grant is all about.”