Albemarle council approves new downtown business grant

Published 2:35 pm Tuesday, January 4, 2022

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Albemarle Economic Development Director Keith Tunnell presented the city council Monday night with a proposed grant program to provide financial assistance to businesses within the downtown area.

Funds will be made available to qualifying businesses that submit an application to a seven-person grant committee, chaired by a member of the city council.

The money can be used for building repairs or the purchase of needed fixtures and equipment.

“I think the business community is ready to go for this,” Tunnell said, noting he’s already heard interest from several businesses who have inquired about applications.

The council had previously approved $50,000 as part of its fiscal year 2021-2022 budget to fund a proposed loan program which turned into the Catalyst Grant Program. Uwharrie Bank and the Albemarle Downtown Development Corporation have each approved $20,000 to partner with the city in the grant program.

The council voted to recuse Martha Hughes from any discussions regarding the CGP since she is an employee with Uwharrie Bank.

The ADDC’s facade and sign grant programs would still continue, but the existing architectural service grant program would be absorbed into the CGP, ADDC Director Joy Almond, who helped create the program, told council.

To be eligible for the grant, businesses must be located within the Municipal Service District. Only one grant can be awarded to a property owner or tenant each year.

“This is dedicated to monies for the downtown business community only,” Tunnell said, noting the grant document came from looking at similar ones other cities had crafted.

Any grant funding awarded will be based on the lowest of at least three qualified bids or quotes obtained and submitted by the applicant, though after comments from council, Tunnell mentioned the review committee would have discretion to waive that condition.

Grant applications will be available beginning Jan. 10. In addition to completing the application, which includes a detailed proposal of the improvement work, several other documents will be needed such as color photographs of all building walls that can be seen from the street, owner’s affidavit that has been signed and notarized, project plans and architectural renderings and the contractor bids/estimates.

“Me and my staff will work with each applicant to make sure they have all documentation that goes with the application so that the board, when it does meet and gets the packet from each applicant, they can review each one on its own merits,” Tunnell said.

Following a pre-application meeting with Tunnell, Almond and Planning Director Kevin Robinson, to make sure everything checks out, applications will be submitted to the seven-person CGP grant review committee.  The committee will review each application to determine which businesses will receive funding and how much they will get.

The committee will also meet to decide when the application period for applying for a grant will be closed and when the funding will be distributed.

The council spotted several small issues with the grant document that will need to be changed, such as correcting a few erroneous dates and getting rid of any mention of reimbursing the businesses, but it found that these edits would not significantly alter the program.

After much discussion, the council approved the grant program, provided the necessary edits with the document are made and that the review committee meets to establish clear dates for when the application process will conclude. Council also appointed Chris Whitley to serve as chairman of the committee.

The plan is to send applications to the downtown businesses and property owners to make sure they are aware of the program and what is needed as part of the application process.

“We’ll make sure that everybody gets an opportunity to apply,” Tunnell said.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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