By Caitlin Davis, The Hopewell News
HOPEWELL — Businesses in the city will have until the end of September to apply for a piece of a $20,000 grant aimed at assisting those businesses in making improvements to the property or building.
Crafted by members of the Economic Development Authority, in partnership with the office of Neighborhood Assistance and Planning, with the direction of City Council, the Legacy Business Grant Program is a pilot program in the city. The application is available in the office of Neighborhood Assistance and Planning, Room 321 at 300 N. Main Street, and online at www.hopewellva.gov. The application deadline is Sept. 30.
Any business located in the business zones, B‑1, B‑2, B‑3, and B‑4, are eligible to apply. The businesses must have been in operation for at least a year at the time the applications are submitted. If the property is being rented, the business owner must have written approval from the property owner to be submitted with the application.
Debbie Randolph, chair person of the EDA, said this program, though in its infancy, is important to the city, noting that while it is important to bring in new business, it is equally important to take care of the businesses that are already located in the city.
“It’s also not to lose sight of the existing businesses that have made Hopewell what it is today,” she said. “From the largest industry all the way down to the smallest mom and pop. Those businesses are still very important to the city and the City Council wanted to start a program that reflected that we’re not just spending money on bringing new businesses to town but we also want to try to work with and invest in the existing business.”
The matching grant, of which requests can be made from $500 to $10,000, will be reimbursed to the business after the work has been completed. When submitting the application, the business owner must specify the work to be completed and have a plan to present as well.
“We are very much cognizant that they have a plan, that they have to current on all their city taxes, no matter what type,” Randolph said. “If they are behind on their taxes, we will not consider their application. Of course government-owned properties and non-profit organizations are not eligible.”
If the business that is applying for the grant is located in the downtown area, they must also go through the Downtown Design Review Committee to ensure approval before the grant is awarded.
Tevya Griffin, director of the department of Neighborhood Assistance and Planning, said the work must be completed within 12 months from the time the business is chosen. The applications will be reviewed by one staff member, two local business people, one Chamber of Commerce member, one EDA committee member and the city attorney.
Randolph said once all the applications have been received, the committee will begin the review process.
“We will be going through them one at a time and the only real criteria is that its got to be legitimate work as we indicated in the guidelines and then we will discuss each application for the merits of how it helps the business itself and also the city in what they want to do,” she said.
Griffin said the department will go out and inspect the property and make sure that work being done meets the specifications that were submitted with the application. She said the businesses must submit receipts and documentation detailing the work that was completed before getting reimbursed.
“There are some things the grant won’t cover and those are things that we consider to be maintenance in nature,” Griffin said. “Some maintenance things that don’t stay with the property or that would have to be done on a continuous basis.”
Randolph said the announcement of the winners of the grant will be made in November.
“The committee would base its decision on what we thought was the best usage of the funds and also for the best involvement of what gives back to the city,” she said.
Both Griffin and Randolph were pleased with the partnership between the Department of Neighborhood Assistance and Planning and the EDA, with both entities working together for a common goal.
“We’re more than happy that Tevya’s team is working with us to do this because being a volunteer from the EDA we don’t have the resources,” Randolph said. “And Tevya, her team is doing so many things this is just one more thing that they have to do but we’re happy they’re helping us do it. They’re actually leading the program. We’re the concept.”