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Friday, May 10, 2019

Grant Initiative Will Help Businesses "Grow"

Fort Thomas Economic Development Director Debbie Buckley shares details on the new Grow grant program.

By Robin Gee, City Council Beat Editor  

Details are unfolding about a new grant match-funding program, known as Grow, that will make money available to businesses throughout Fort Thomas in a need of a little help to improve their facades, signage and other building features.

Building on the success and popularity of a similar grant program in 2006, the new program will be available to brick and mortar businesses in Fort Thomas, said Renaissance Manager and Economic Development Director Debbie Buckley. The former program was only available to those in designated business districts.

Grow provides a 25 percent reimbursement for improvements made on commercial or mixed use properties. With the new initiative, businesses can "Grow a Little" with matching funding up to $10,000 or "Grow a Lot" with matching funds up to $20,000.

To support and attract small businesses

"We are hoping this will make a big difference. We hope this will make businesses more ADA [American Disabilities Act] compliant, more energy efficient or make them prettier, and it will be funded with money from the cell phone tower," explained Buckley.

The city leases usage of its cell phone tower (located behind the city building) to telecommunications companies and nets the city about $60,000 per year. That money has now been earmarked to fund the Grow program. Previously the money would be allocated into the general fund.

Targeted goals are to improve facades, signage, windows, doors and other front-facing building improvements that will help attract and retain small businesses. The businesses would apply for the 25 percent grant upon completion of the work.

Fort Thomas Business Association President, Drew Schwegman, said the association has been advocating for grants for businesses as part of their priorities.

He addressed council last month.

"We're happy to see this program move forward. Our brick and mortar businesses are in need of programs like this, to give an us an edge," he said. "We'd like to see this continue and carry over for all types of business here as well."

Details coming soon

The city council approved the program at its April board meeting. Buckley and the Renaissance Board are making some minor refinements in the program guidelines document, but the next steps in the process will be to post the information and application on the Fort Thomas Renaissance page of the city website and to start sharing the information with local businesses. Watch for details coming soon.

Buckley took the opportunity at the board meeting to thank the members of the Renaissance Board and city staff for their help in developing the program.

"I’m extremely proud of the Facade Grant program...It will help many of our small businesses as they improve the look and function of their buildings," she said.

The Renaissance Board works on economic development projects and meets on the fourth Monday of each month at 5:30 p.m., place TBD. Members, who are appointed by the mayor, include Kim Rechtin, chair; Brian Sand; Hilary Blau; Holli Patterson; Tracy Davis; Heidi Neltner; Michelle Knight; Cathy Sonnett and Mike McDonough. Buckley oversees the group.


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